As we approach the start of the regular season, the position players on the Diamondbacks' Opening Day roster appear set. SS Stephen Drew will start the season on the Disabled List, leaving the shortstop position to a combination of Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald. The rest of the infield starters will be 1B Paul Goldschmidt, 2B Aaron Hill, and 3B Ryan Roberts, with Lyle Overbay and Geoff Blum serving as backup infielders. The outfield will split time among four players - Justin Upton will be the lineup almost every day, but there will be some rotation among Chris Young, Jason Kubel, and Gerardo Parra for the other two spots. Behind the plate, Miguel Montero will get the bulk of the playing time, with Henry Blanco getting about one start per week.
In 2011, the biggest offensive surprises were from Roberts and Parra, while Drew, Melvin Mora, and the group of first basemen (Russell Branyan, Juan Miranda, Xavier Nady) all performed below expectations. Here are my projections for 2012:
The Diamondbacks selected RHP Brett Lorin in last December's Rule 5 draft, and need to make a decision on his future with the organization within the next week or so. If Lorin is not on the Opening Day roster, he must be offered back to the Pirates for $25,000, or the two teams can try to work out a trade so that Lorin can stay in the Diamondbacks' organization. The team has been impressed with Lorin, but right now, there just doesn't seem to be any space for him.
Lorin, 24, is a tall (6-7) righthander who throws in the low 90s, with excellent command of a sinker and slider. His tall frame gives him a good downward plane on his pitches, and his pitching repertoire keeps the ball on the ground. Lorin has made six appearances during Spring Training in 2012, and has solid overall numbers - 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. The only runs he has allowed were last Friday on a two-run inside-the-park homer off the centerfield wall by A.J. Pierzynski. Manager Kirk Gibson praised Lorin last week, saying "He's sneaky. He's 6-7 and he got up to 90-92 (mph) today. That's getting on you quick. That's the thing about radar readings, you see guys who throw really hard and guys are all over it, you see guys who are 88-90 and they take bad swings at it. There's something about it."
The Arizona Diamondbacks' farm system has made great strides in the last two years, and now includes three players ranked among the Top 25 of Baseball America's overall rankings, and four players in the Top 100. The organization is now very pitching-heavy, and had enough depth that it could afford to trade Jarrod Parker, who would have been ranked anywhere from #1-4 in the system, to Oakland for the more experienced Trevor Cahill during the winter.
I think every ranking for the Diamondbacks' top prospects has Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, and Archie Bradley as the Top 3, but there are some variations in their order. All three are fantastic prospects, and they each have different amounts of experience, risk, and skills. Bradley (age 19) has the least experience of the three, with a grand total of 2 professional innings for Rookie League Missoula last year. But he probably has the highest upside of the three, with a fastball that already reaches the high 90s and an overpowering curve ball. Skaggs, at age 20, has the most pro experience of the group, and struck out 198 batters in just 159 IP between Class A Visalia and AA Mobile. But his stuff may be just a notch below the other two, although his stats have been outstanding so far. Bauer has the deepest pitching repertoire of the group, with a fastball that usually sits in the mid 90s, and an outstanding curve ball. Plus, Bauer also throws changeups, sliders, splitters, and various combinations of all of those pitches. He has extensive major college experience at UCLA, and did make 7 starts between Visalia and Mobile after being drafted by the Diamondbacks last June. He's probaly the closest to the Majors of the Big Three. It's very hard to separate them, but my rankings right now are: 1) Bauer, 2) Bradley, and 3) Skaggs.
Here are my full rankings for the Diamondbacks' Top 25 Prospects for 2012. (Here are links to rankings from 2011 and 2010).
This article wraps up our 2012 Diamondbacks Spring Training preview, with a look at the outfielders. The most controversial move by the Diamondbacks in the offseason was the signing of OF Jason Kubel, who will battle with Gerardo Parra and Chris Young for playing time along with RF Justin Upton. As we discussed in this article when Kubel was signed, Kubel is a solid offensive player, but is below average defensively in LF. What he does add is another left-handed power threat to the lineup, which currently only has Parra and Miguel Montero from the left side. Here is a closer look at the outfielders in the Diamondbacks' Major League camp. (Here are links to previous articles on the Starting Pitchers, Bullpen, Catchers, Middle Infielders, and Corner Infielders).
The team has nine outfielders in camp for Spring Training - Justin Upton, Chris Young, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra, Cole Gillespie, David Winfree, A.J. Pollock, Marc Krauss, and Adam Eaton. The latter three all played in AA in 2011, and will almost definitely start 2012 in the Minor Leagues. Gillespie and Winfree are battling to make the team, but probably will end up with a roster spot in AAA Reno. The first four - Upton, Young, Kubel, and Parra - are the four who should be locks for the Major League roster (with infielders Willie Bloomquist and Geoff Blum possibilities for the 5th outfielder position). The only question is how the playing time will break down.
Last year, the Diamondbacks began Spring Training with major question marks in the corner infield spots. At 1B, the team was looking at rookie Brandon Allen, newcomer Juan Miranda, and veteran Russell Branyan. Melvin Mora was expected to be the starting 3B, replacing the traded Mark Reynolds, with Geoff Blum as the primary backup. Things didn't really work out for any of those five players, and by the end of the season, the Diamondbacks were playing Paul Goldschmidt at 1B and Ryan Roberts at 3B, with Lyle Overbay and Sean Burroughs as the top corner infield reserves. This year, Goldschmidt and Roberts are expected to remain the starters, with Overbay returning as the backup 1B. As we continue our 2012 Spring Training Preview, here is a review of the corner infield candidates (Here are links to previous articles on the Starting Pitchers, Bullpen, Catchers, and Middle Infielders).
Continuing our preview of Spring Training 2012 for the Arizona Diamondbacks, here is a look at the team's middle infield situation (Here are links to previous articles on the Starting Pitching, Bullpen, and Catchers). If all goes well, the team's middle infield will have a healthy Stephen Drew at SS, and a hot hitting Aaron Hill at 2B. But Drew missed the second half of 2011 with a serious ankle injury, and Hill went through a huge offensive slump for almost two full seasons before joining the Diamondbacks. If Drew isn't ready to go on Opening Day, or if Hill goes back to his 2010-11 Blue Jays batting ways, the Diamondbacks have several middle infield options in Spring Training - Geoff Blum, Willie Bloomquist, and John McDonald, plus non-roster invitees Cody Ransom and Chris Owings. The problem is, none of these other five can supply the offense/defense combo that the team needs, so the team really needs Drew and Hill to come through. Here is a closer look at the middle infield candidates.
Continuing our 2012 Spring Training preview (see Starting Pitching, Bullpen), here is a look at the Catching Situation for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team has seven catchers in Big League camp, four from the 40-Man roster, and three non-roster invitees. Most likely, the team will carry just two when the season starts - Miguel Montero and Henry Blanco. Montero had a fine season offensively, and has greatly improved defensively. Blanco continued to throw well, and was the King of the Solo Homer. The third player with Major League experience is 28 year old Craig Tatum, who was claimed off waivers in the offseason.