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Predictions for the Diamondbacks' Opening Day Roster | March

WIth about two weeks left until the start of the 2011 MLB season, the opening day roster for the Arizona Diamondbacks still has a lot of question marks.  Position battles are still going on for both starting and bench positions at 1B, LF, the back end of the rotation, and most of the bullpen spots.  Here is a look at how the opening day 25-man roster might end up.

Locks for the Opening Day Roster (11):
SP - Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders
RP - J.J. Putz, David Hernandez
C - Miguel Montero, Henry Blanco
IF - Stephen Drew, Kelly Johnson
OF - Justin Upton, Chris Young

These eleven players should be guaranteed a spot on the opening day roster. Joe Saunders has not pitched well at all in Spring Training, but as the only veteran in the rotation, he should be safe. Henry Blanco seems to be entrenched as the backup catcher - he's good defensively, bats right-handed to pair with the lefty Montero, and has a good reputation for mentoring young pitchers and catchers.

Likely to Make the Opening Day Roster (4):
SP - Armando Galarraga
RP - Sam Demel
IF - Juan Miranda, Geoff Blum 

The Diamondbacks could save a million or two by releasing Galarraga at the end of Spring Training, but with Zach Duke out for 6-8 weeks, they really need depth in the rotation. Demel and Hernandez have been the two most impressive pitchers in the bullpen. Miranda has played well defensively at 1B and has shown better than expected patience at the plate. Blum was signed for his defensive versatility and his experience as a pinch hitter, and should make the team.

Good Chance to Make the Opening Day Roster (5):
SP - Barry Enright
RP - Aaron Heilman
IF - Melvin Mora, Russell Branyan
OF - Gerardo Parra
Enright has had a good spring training, and the injury to Duke should give him an edge over Aaron Heilman for the #5 slot, although Heilman's versatility in the bullpen should get him on the team.  Mora has slipped from "Likely" to "Good Chance" because of an injury from a car accident. He should be healthy and back on the field this week. Branyan has been very impressive with the bat in spring training, and should be the top hitter off the bench if not the starting 1B. Parra has had a decent spring, and is still the best option to play CF when Chris Young is getting a day off.

Battling for a Spot on the Opening Day Roster (13 for 5 spots):
RP -  Joe Paterson, Juan Gutierrez, Kam Mickolio, Micah OwingsMike Hampton, Jordan Norberto, Esmerling Vasquez
IF - Ryan Roberts, Willie BloomquistTony Abreu
OF - Brandon Allen, Xavier Nady, Wily Mo Pena
Edit to add: Tony Abreu and Juan Gutierrez are out of options.

Rule 5 Selection Joe Paterson (6 IP, 6K, 2BB) may have the lead among the left-handers battling for a spot in the bullpen. The other lefties - Mike Hampton (6.2 IP, 16 baserunners, 8.10 ERA), Jordan Norberto (3 BB in 4.2 IP), and Micah Owings (8 baserunners in 4.1 IP, but with 7 Ks) have been hit hard and struggled with control. Juan Gutierrez has not pitched well, but may get some slack from his strong finish to the 2010 season.  Neither Mickolio nor Vasquez has impressed in Spring Training, but Mickolio does have 6 strikeouts in 5.2 IP.

Roberts (.536/.658/.607) and Bloomquist (.424/.457/.515) have been the team's best hitters through the first few weeks of Spring Training, and have impressed team management. Roberts has been playing 2B, 3B, and LF, but does not have experience at SS. Bloomquist can play SS, as well as almost every other position. Abreu has recovered from a slow start to get to .303/.314/.455, but still has only 1 BB in 33 AB. There have been rumors of Abreu being traded for a relief pitcher to a team looking for a utility infielde who can play SS (Padres?).

Allen has hit well (.364/.371/.576), but with 10 strikeouts and some shaky defense in LF. Nady was expected to be the front-runner for the LF position, but has struggled both offensively and defensively. Apparently his elbow is still bothering him from Tommy John surgery a couple of years ago. Pena has been a pleasant surprise, slugging 3 HR already, and could join Branyan to give the Diamondbacks powerful options on the bench from both sides of the plate.

Probably Heading Back to AAA:
SP - Kevin Mulvey
RP - Rafael Rodriguez,  Carlos Rosa, Zach Kroenke, Brian Sweeney, Daniel Stange
C - John Hester
IF - Cody Ransom, Andy Tracy, Mark Hallberg
OF - Cole Gillespie, Collin Cowgill, David Winfree, Evan Frey
None of these players was expected to make the opening-day roster, although Mulvey and Rodriguez have had solid springs.  Edit to add: Carlos Rosa is out of options.

Need More Time in the Minors:
SP - Jarrod Parker, Wade Miley, Joshua Collmenter, Patrick Corbin, Charles Brewer
RP - Leyton Septimo, Yonata Ortega
C - Konrad Schmidt
IF - Paul Goldschmidt, Bobby Borchering, Matthew Davidson, Chris Owings, David Nick
OF -  A.J. Pollock, Marc Krauss, Keon Broxton

This group includes most of the Diamondbacks' top prospects. But since none of them have succeeded at the AAA level yet, they really aren't ready for playing time in the Majors.

Predicted 25-Man Opening Day Roster:
SP (5) - Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe SaundersArmando GalarragaBarry Enright
RP (7) - J.J. Putz, David HernandezSam DemelAaron HeilmanJoe Paterson, Juan Gutierrez, Kam Mickolio
C (2) - Miguel Montero, Henry Blanco
IF (6) - Stephen Drew, Kelly JohnsonJuan Miranda, Geoff Blum, Melvin Mora, Russell Branyan 
OF (5) - Justin Upton, Chris YoungGerardo ParraBrandon AllenRyan Roberts
DL (2) - Zach Duke, Xavier Nady

If Nady cannot be placed on the DL, he will either take one of these 25 slots, or the team could choose to release him. The two players whose spots are most at risk are probably Allen and Mickolio - seeing them replaced by the group of Bloomquist, Abreu, Pena, Vasquez, or Owings would not be a surprise.