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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Arizona Diamondbacks

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For two years running, the Diamondbacks have sat on the fence with a .500 record. This offseason, they made an attempt to address two problem areas, but is it enough to lift them up from mediocrity?

The Snakes tied the Mets for the 25th-most home runs last season, clubbing just 130 of them, so Mark Trumbo and his 30-homer bat are welcome newcomers to the lineup. In addition to bringing some thump, Trumbo will provide some protection for Paul Goldschmidt, who emerged last year as the National League's most potent hitting first baseman. The former Angel will also add some stability to an outfield that included only one player -- Gerardo Parra -- who started more than 110 games as an outfielder in 2013.

The bullpen was another area that lacked stability, but general manager Kevin Towers acquired Addison Reed from the White Sox to handle the closing duties. Owners won't have to worry about whether J.J. Putz can stay healthy or if Brad Ziegler, David Hernandez or Heath Bell can handle the closer's role. Bell was dispatched to Tampa Bay, while Putz, Ziegler and Hernandez will set up Reed and be rendered as Fantasy afterthoughts outside of leagues that use non-closers in relief spots.

2014 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

In order to get Trumbo and Reed, the Diamondbacks had to part with three potential up-and-coming stars, Adam Eaton, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Davidson, so the team is clearly in win-now mode. They are counting on Aaron Hill to bounce back from last season's broken hand, Miguel Montero to snap out of a two-year power decline and Martin Prado to continue to provide steady production. Hill and Prado join Trumbo as solid middle-round Fantasy options, while Montero is better saved for two-catcher mixed leagues.

The starting rotation appears to be set, and Patrick Corbin will likely serve as the ace rather than as the No. 5 starter that he was on opening day a year ago. Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy look like locks to retains their spots, and free agent signee Bronson Arroyo will round out the rotation. Reinforcements are available, as Randall Delgado and prospect Archie Bradley could serve in starting roles. Daniel Hudson also lurks as a possible mid-season rotation addition, should he recover from his second Tommy John surgery in time to contribute in 2014.

Goldschmidt may be the Diamondbacks' only member of the Fantasy elite, but especially with the addition of Trumbo, Reed and Arroyo, they have a healthy contingent of players who can help owners in standard mixed leagues. It's probably not enough to make them competitive with the Dodgers in the National League West, but their core group could help to keep both the Diamondbacks and your Fantasy squad in contention this season.

Head-to-Head hero ... Martin Prado, second base/third base/outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Gerardo Parra CF
2. Martin Prado 3B
3. Paul Goldschmidt 1B
4. Mark Trumbo LF
5. Aaron Hill 2B
6. Miguel Montero C
7. Cody Ross RF
8. Chris Owings SS
Bench Eric Chavez 3B
Bench A.J. Pollock OF

Prado has never hit more than 15 home runs and only once has he stolen more than five bases or driven in over 70 runs, yet he is far more valuable in points leagues than those numbers would suggest. Eligible at second base, third base and outfield, Prado's versatility serves him well in any Fantasy format, but his aversion to strikeouts and penchant for doubles make him especially useful in standard Head-to-Head formats. Those qualities may go underappreciated in Rotisserie leagues, especially given his lack of a speed-power combination. Don't allow his lack of Roto cred to influence where you would take Prado in your non-category leagues, as he will probably fall just short of the elite ranks at second and third base in those.

Underappreciated ... Patrick Corbin, starting pitcher

Corbin's sensational sophomore season could easily be forgotten by some owners, as he limped to the finish line with a terrible seven-start stretch. Through his first 25 starts, Corbin got swings- and-misses on 11 percent of his pitches (per Baseball-Reference.com) and walked just 42 batters in 172 1/3 innings, contributing to a 2.45 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Over the final five weeks, Corbin's whiffs dried up, and while he had previously benefitted from a generous .261 BABIP, his luck more than evened out by allowing a .387 batting average on balls in play. Maybe fatigue set in, as Corbin did lose some velocity over those late-season starts, but regardless of the reason, he showed over a large portion of the season that he can be trusted as a must-start in virtually all formats. Though he may have left a bad impression by ending with a slump, it's still reasonable to expect Corbin to repeat as a top 30 starting pitcher in 2014.

Impact prospect ... Archie Bradley, starting pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Patrick Corbin LHP
2. Wade Miley LHP
3. Bronson Arroyo RHP
4. Trevor Cahill RHP
5. Brandon McCarthy RHP
ALT Randall Delgado RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Addison Reed RHP
2. J.J. Putz RHP
3. Brad Ziegler RHP
4. David Hernandez RHP
5. Joe Thatcher LHP

You know how we will sometimes say of a prospect, "he has nothing left to prove in the minors"? Despite a 1.97 ERA in 21 starts at Double-A Mobile, that's not the case with Bradley. He walked 59 hitters in 123 1/3 innings, so at the very least, Bradley may need some time in Triple-A to work out his control issues. Earlier this offseason, it appeared that Bradley had an outside chance to make the team out of camp, but with the acquisition of Arroyo, the Diamondbacks can take their time to promote the 21-year-old. In the unlikely event he gets rushed to the majors, Bradley could evoke unpleasant memories of Trevor Bauer, but as Tony Cingrani showed last season, a lot of progress can be made in just a little time in Triple-A. If you don't grab Bradley as a reserve-round flyer, he could be worth eyeing as a mid-season waiver claim.

Prospects Report

Though Bradley almost certainly won't make the opening day roster, he could be in line for a midseason callup. If the opportunity for a promotion arises and Bradley isn't ready, Zeke Spruill, Charles Brewer or Chase Anderson could get a shot at the rotation, though all turned in disappointing seasons in Triple-A last year. ... Chris Owings could break camp with the big league club, and he could get the nod as the regular shortstop over Didi Gregorius. Further down the depth chart, 24-year-old Nick Ahmed could eventually overtake both shortstops, and he could be a stolen base threat. ... Davidson is gone, but the organization still has quality third base prospects in Jake Lamb and Brandon Drury. Both are probably at least a couple of years away. ... Braden Shipley, Aaron Blair and Jose Martinez have yet to advance beyond Class A, but all three are pitching prospects worthy of targeting in deeper dynasty leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Rockies' Charlie Blackmon hoping for more consistency
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is hoping for more consistency in 2015, according to the Denver Post

Blackmon had a breakout season in 2014, but admits it's hard to be on every single game. "Last year, I swung the bat really well at certain times," he said. "But you go through a lot of ups and downs over 162 games, and that was a learning experience. I think that's going to help me this year."

Blackmon said his strong start made him a target for other teams, and that may have contributed to a slight slump during the season. Blackmon added that he's hoping to hit the ball to all fields this season.

Manager Walt Weiss is hoping Blackmon can deliver more of the same. "I don't know if he necessarily has to have an encore. I'm thinking more of the same," Weiss said. "I think Charlie would say that he wants to be more consistent."

The 28-year-old Blackmon hit .288/.335/.440 over 593 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Gibson feels 'a little more comfortable' with curveball
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) Twins pitcher Kyle Gibson surrendered one run on two hits and one walk in two innings while striking out two in his spring debut Thursday, using the outing to work on his curveball, the Associated Press reports.

"I felt really good," Gibson said. "I'm working on some stuff, and some stuff worked out that I was working on. I threw more curveballs than normal. That's what spring training's for. It's just fun to be able to work on a particular pitch. I feel a little more comfortable."

Gibson, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011, completed his first full major-league deal in 2014, going 13-12 with a 4.47 ERA and 107:57 K:BB ratio in 179 1/3 innings.


Blue Jays' Barton hoping his glove wins him a spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Blue Jays first baseman Daric Barton is hoping his glove can win him a spot on the 25-man roster, according to the Toronto Sun.

Barton isn't much of a power hitter, but gets strong marks for his defense at first. Manager John Gibbons is well aware of Barton's skills. "One thing that put Daric on the map was that he was such a disciplined hitter and a great defender," Gibbons said. He added that the first baseman is involved in a large chunk of plays, so defense at the position is probably more important than people realize.

With that said, Barton may need a trade to make the opening day roster. As currently constructed, the Blue Jays may carry three catchers. If the team retains Dioner Navarro, Barton could find himself in the minors.

The 29-year-old Barton hit .158 over 57 at-bats last year.


Pirates' Pedro Alvarez feeling comfortable at first
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:21 am ET) Pirates infielder Pedro Alvarez is feeling comfortable at first base, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

After playing third the past couple of seasons, Alvarez will transition to first base full-time in 2015. The 28-year-old is still getting used to the position, but he seems comfortable with the change.

"It’s just a matter of getting used to seeing the field from that point of view, get the reps in so that the responsibilities that come with playing the position become second nature," he said. "That’s just with time and repetitions."

Alvarez hit .231/.312/.405 over 398 at-bats last season. 


Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman gets strong marks at first
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:17 am ET) Nationals infielder Ryan Zimmerman received strong reviews after playing his first game at first base this spring, according to MLB.com.

"He is still in the stages of having to think about it out there, because it's not natural yet," manager Matt Williams said. "He looked fine. He has fantastic hands." Zimmerman was tested during the start, and had to make two scoops in order to prevent possible throwing errors. 

He's been taking extra practice at the position this spring, and was fairly happy with how his first game turned out. "You can do so many drills, exercises and things like that until you have to go out there and play," Zimmerman said. "So it's nice to have a few chances. The more I play over there, the more comfortable I will get. I feel fine."

Zimmerman, 30, hit .280/.342/.449 over 214 at-bats last year. 


Orioles' Brian Matusz tosses scoreless inning in return
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:09 am ET) Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz tossed a scoreless inning in his return to the mound.

Matusz came into camp dealing with a shoulder issue, but said he was pretty close to 100 percent. He allowed one hit during his one inning of work, and struck out one batter. Matusz is expected to open the season in the team's bullpen. 

The 28-year-old posted a 3.48 ERA over 51 2/3 innings last year.


Red Sox's Rusney Castillo wouldn't alter plan if sent down
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo won't be upset if he winds up being sent down to the minors, according to the WEEI.

That's not a likely outcome, but with his recent oblique injury, there's a chance Castillo could fall behind the other outfielders on the roster. "To me it wouldn’t be anything that would alter my plan, or my attitude, or my perspective," he said. "If that’s what it’s got to be, that’s what it’s got to be. I’m just worrying playing and continuing to get reps and reps wherever they may come."

Castillo did note that he's feeling a lot better, and is expected to return in about a week. Castillo hit .333 over 36 at-bats in the majors last year. 


Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr. showing off new swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is showing off his new swing this spring, according to the Boston Herald

Bradley started working out at the team's facility in November, and started hitting in January. He worked with assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez for a good portion of the offseason. "Jackie was dedicated," Rodriguez said. "He listened, too. He was open to what we talked about."

Manager John Farrell has noticed the change in Bradley's approach. "In BP, to me, it seems like there’s more of a willingness to stay in the middle of the field and not look to lift a ball too much," Farrell said. "I think it’s more of his natural swing, which he was drafted with."

Bradley said his swing has been a "work in progress." While it doesn't appear Bradley has a starting role, his defense should make him a useful major-league asset.

The 24-year-old hit .198/.265/.266 over 384 at-bats last year. 

 


Molitor: Eduardo Escobar 'will be' important part of Twins in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Twins manager Paul Molitor marked infielder Eduardo Escobar as "an important part" of the team in 2014 and believes he will be the same this season, the Star Tribune reports.

"He was an important part of our team last year," Molitor said. "He will be this year, too."

Escobar delivered the best performance of his career in 2014, hitting .275/.315/.406 with six home runs and 37 RBI in 433 at-bats. However, he arrived at camp to learn he was in a competition for the shortstop role with last year's center fielder, Danny Santana. Breaking the news to Escobar was a delicate conversation for the manager.

"Obviously," Molitor said. "You’ve got a guy who came in and played every day for you last year, and then you’re thinking about doing something different. I’ve tried to explain it to him the best I could. His answers, at least for now, are, 'No problem. I understand.'"


Blue Jays' Daniel Norris performs well in first start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/5/2015) Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris tossed a strong start in his first spring appearance on Thursday.

Norris is competing for the fifth spot in the team's rotation, and got off to a nice start. Norris allowed one hit and one walk over 1 2/3 innings. He struck out two during the outing. 

Norris said he was glad to be taking on a strong lineup his first time out, according to the Toronto Sun. "I liked the fact I was facing a good lineup. You have to bring your 'A' game" Norris said. While it wasn't a perfect outing, Norris was pleased with his stuff.

"I struggled a little with it (staying closed) in the first, but was much better in the second inning," said Norris. "Years back in spring training, I can remember my stuff not doing much."

The 21-year-old posted a 5.40 ERA over 6 2/3 innings in the majors last year. 


 
 
 
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