19 July 2011
The Diamondbacks have shuffled their roster over the last week, trying to address the team's weaknesses at First Base, the back of the Starting Rotation, and Middle Relief. Gone are Juan Miranda, who was not able to hold onto the First Base position, Wily Mo Pena, who showed great power but not enough contact, and Aaron Heilman, who was not able to keep a position in the Starting Rotation during Spring Training or in the Bullpen during the regular season. Joining the team are 1B Brandon Allen, IF Geoff Blum, and SP Barry Enright, whose arrival will move Zach Duke to the bullpen. What can the Diamondbacks expect from the newcomers?
1B Brandon Allen - AAA: .306/.427/.579, 18 HR, 66 RBI, 64 BB, 90K
Juan Miranda was only given 174 AB to prove himself, and most of those appearances were in a time-share with Xavier Nady or Russell Branyan. Miranda hit very well in May (.915 OPS), but after a terrible June (.151/.211/.283) followed by a slow start in July (.176/.300/.294), the team felt they had to make a change. Some felt that Allen deserved to start on Opening Day, but Allen only hit .261 for Reno last year, and the Diamondbacks probably felt that was just too low for that hitter-friendly environment. So Allen went back to Reno, and showed some solid improvement, boosting his batting average by 45 points, and increasing his OPS by 73 points, all the way up to 1.006. Strikeouts are still a concern with Allen, as he had 90 in just 377 PA in Reno (23.9%) In his first start for Arizona, Allen slugged a 3-Run Homer off Hiroki Kuroda, leading to a 3-1 Arizona win. For now, Allen appears to be in a strict platoon with Nady at 1B, since Nady has received the start against lefthanders Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf. As with Miranda, Allen will probably not have a very long leash, since many fans are clamoring for minor league phenom Paul Goldschmidt. But my guess is that Allen will hit for sufficient power to keep the job for the rest of the year. I predict something like .250/.335/.450, with around 7-10 Home Runs.
Note: In his first game for AAA Reno on Monday, Juan Miranda had a Double and a Walk, with 2 Runs Scored and an RBI.
IF Geoff Blum
Geoff Blum was another one of GM Kevin Towers' questionable signings. Blum has a career batting mark of .251/.311/.386, and has had an OPS of less than .705 for each of the last eight seasons. But Blum does have the ability to play all over the diamond, and has shown some skill in clutch situations. In High Leverage situations, Blum's numbers are significantly better - .287/.345/.430, over 728 AB. As a pinch-hitter in 2010 with the Astros, Blum had hit 14 for 42 (.333), and this was an area where the Diamondbacks really struggled last year. It's not clear how many ABs Blum will get with the Diamondbacks for the rest of the season. The team has two left-handed hitting middle infielders, Stephen Drew and Kelly Johnson, who have struggled against left-handed pitching. Recently, Manager Kirk Gibson has been playing Willie Bloomquist and Ryan Roberts in their place against LHP, with Blum playing 3B. This probably won't last, however, as Drew and Johnson will probably start hitting well enough to play almost everyday. I think Blum will probably get around 2 starts per week, and will serve as one of the team's main pinch-hitters. When Blum does start, it would be preferable for him to play against RHB, where his OPS is about 40 points higher. Of course, since the team elected to keep Sean Burroughs instead of Wily Mo Pena, the team no longer has much power available on the bench, but does have a lot of positional flexibility.
SP Barry Enright
The Diamondbacks were having issues with LHP Zach Duke (5.49 ERA, only 3 QS in 9 Starts) and Aaron Heilman (6.88 ERA, 5.06 FIP, 8 HR in 35.1 IP). Meanwhile Barry Enright had started the year in the rotation, but had been demoted to AAA after compiling a 6.49 ERA with 19K/15BB and 7 HR in 34.2 IP. But Enright had shown some improvement while in the Minors, mainly in the area of strikeouts, where he improved his K-rate to 6.8K/9, including strikeout totals of 8,9, and 7 in his starts from June 21 to July 7. There was also some improvement in the area of the Home Run ball, where Enright gave up only 8 HR in 60.1 IP in the thin air of the PCL. Whether this will carry over to the Majors remains to be seen, but at this point, the team has not much to lose by giving Enright another chance and trying Zach Duke in the bullpen. Josh Collmenter, whose rotation spot looked in jeopardy just ten days ago, has come back with two outstanding outings, so his hold on the #4 Slot seems secure at the moment. The top three of Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, and Joe Saunders should be locks to stay in the rotation for the rest of the season.