Continuing our Spring Training preview for the 2012 Arizona Diamondbacks, here is a look at the relief pitching. Like the starting pitching, most of the bullpen appears to be set before a single Spring game is played. There are a total of 16 relievers in camp, who will be battling for around 7 spots. Here are the candidates:
Jonathan Albaladejo, Craig Breslow (L), Mike DeMark*, Sam Demel, David Hernandez, Jensen Lewis*, Brett Lorin, Evan Marshall*, Kevin Munson*, Yonata Ortega, Joe Paterson (L), J.J. Putz, Takashi Saito, Bryan Shaw, Mike Zagurski (L), Brad Ziegler. (* = Non Roster Invitee)
Pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spring Training today, and the Diamondbacks find themselves considered the favorites in the National League West. Just one year ago, most experts had picked the team to finish last in the division, and many fans were speculating that the team could lose more than 100 games. Now, the team is coming off a division-winning 94-68 season, and has been bolstered by the additions of Trevor Cahill, Jason Kubel, Takashi Saito, and Craig Breslow. Unlike last year, most of the Opening Day roster appears set, and there are only a few questions for the team in Spring Training. This is the first in a series of articles previewing Spring Training for the Diamondbacks, starting with the starting position.
We've still got some time until spring training but that doesn't mean Phoenix isn't a bad place to be as a sports fan in that uncomfortable gap between football season and the start of baseball.
A couple weeks back the PGA Tour was in town and Kyle Stanley walked away with the win and a mighty big check. Check out the video below to see what goes on behind the scenes at this great event in addition to why golfers love coming to Phoenix.
If you're dying for more golf coverage, I'd suggest checking out the Haney Project which premiers on The Golf Channel on February 27th.
Click here for more info on The Haney Project and Feherty on Golf Channel
In an unexpected move, veteran left-hander Joe Saunders re-signed with the Diamondbacks on a one year, $6M contract. The club had reportedly offered a 2 yr, $12M deal during the fall that was turned down by Saunders. Saunders had then countered with an offer of 3 years for $27M, and the team decided to non-tender him. But after looking at his options around the league, Saunders decided to come back to Arizona. Key factors included the fact that he had enjoyed his time with the Diamondbacks, and that he had recently purchased a home in Arizona.
The signing of Saunders basically completes the 2012 starting rotation, with Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, and Josh Collmenter filling the other four slots. In fact, the entire 25-Man roster is basically set at this point, with 26 players likely batting for 25 spots. Let's take a look at the likely roster and payroll for next year's team.
Starting Pitchers (5 players, $11M): Ian Kennedy ($0.5M), Daniel Hudson ($0.5M), Trevor Cahill ($3.5M), Joe Saunders ($6M), Josh Collmenter ($0.5M)
Relief Pitchers (7 players, $10.75M): J.J. Putz ($4.5M), David Hernandez ($0.5M), Takashi Saito ($1.75M), Bryan Shaw ($0.5M), Brad Ziegler ($1.5M), Craig Breslow ($1.5M), Joe Patterson ($0.5M)
Catchers (2 players, $7.2M): Miguel Montero ($6M), Henry Blanco ($1.2M)
Infielders (7 players, $18.7M): Paul Goldschmidt ($0.5M), Aaron Hill ($5.5M), Stephen Drew ($7.75M), Ryan Roberts ($1.1M), Lyle Overbay ($1M), John McDonald ($1.5M), Geoff Blum ($1.35M)
Outfielders (5 players, $23.65M): Justin Upton ($6.75M), Chris Young ($7M), Gerardo Parra ($0.5M), Jason Kubel ($7.5M), Willie Bloomquist ($1.9M)
Total: 26 Players, $71.3M
The numbers above include estimates for players like Montero, Ziegler, Breslow, and Roberts, who are all arbitration-eligible this year. But it seems clear that the opening day payroll will be at least $70M, a significant increase over the 2011 level of $56M, but similar to that in 2009 and 2010. It also means that prospects such as Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, and Wade Miley will probably start the 2012 campaign in the Minor Leagues, which is good since they all have very little experience in the upper minors. If Stephen Drew is healthy for Opening Day (and there are no other injuries), then obviously someone will have to go (Geoff Blum?). Or the the team could choose to send Collmenter down to AAA for the first two weeks, until they need a 5th starter.
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In a very surprising move, the Diamondbacks signed OF Jason Kubel to a 2 year, $15M deal with an option for 2014. There is no question that Kubel can hit, but where will he play on the field?
The Diamondbacks seemed set in the outfield, with Justin Upton, Chris Young, and Gerardo Parra returning. This was a very good group defensively, with Parra collecting 12 Outfield Assists and winning a Gold Glove in LF. Parra was a surprise offensively in 2011, posting career highs in AVG (.292), OBP (.357), and SLG (.427). Upton is coming off a .289/.369/.529 season with 31 HR, and will clearly be the starting RF. Chris Young was good defensively in CF, but only hit .236/.331/.420. Paul Goldschmidt was expected to be the starting 1B, coming off a .250/.333/.474 performance since his August call-up, with Lyle Overbay serving as the backup. Now, the Diamondbacks certainly have more options.
There are several possible scenarios that could happen:
1) Kubel becomes the everyday LF, with Gerardo Parra becoming the 4th OF;
2) Kubel starts in LF, with Parra in CF against RHP, with Parra/Young starting against LHP
3) Kubel starts in LF, and Parra takes over in CF, with Chris Young traded;
4) Kubel starts in LF against RHP, with Parra starting against LHP;
5) Kubel platoons with Paul Goldschmidt at 1B;
6) Kubel rotates between 1B and LF, depending on slumps and injuries;
7) Kubel becomes a very expensive pinch hitter and backup at 1B/LF.
The Diamondbacks made a big trade during the Winter Meetings, trading top prospect RHP Jarrod Parker, along with OF Collin Cowgill and RP Ryan Cook, to the Oakland A's for pitchers RHP Trevor Cahill and LHP Craig Breslow. The Diamondbacks are trading a player with a lot of upside in Parker for the more established Major Leaguer in Cahill. But is important to note that while Cahill has already pitched for three years in the Majors, with 96 Games Started and 40 Wins, he is only 8 months older than Parker, who spend most of 2011 in AA Mobile. Cahill is already signed to a reasonable contract through 2015, so the Diamondbacks will be able to keep him for several years. But the big question is - how good is Trevor Cahill, and is he likely to be better than Jarrod Parker during that time?
The Diamondbacks selected 24 year old RHP Brett Lorin with the 25th pick in the 2011 Rule 5 Draft, from the Pirates organization. Lorin is a big righthander (6-7, 245) who pitches on a downhill plane. Despite his size, he is not a very hard thrower, usually averaging around 90-91 mph on his fastball, and occasionally getting up to around 94. Lorin has excellent command with his sinker/slider, gets a lot of ground balls, and does a great job of keeping the ball in the park (26 HR in 341 career minor league IP). Lorin pitched for Bradenton in the Florida State League (High Class A) in 2011, primarily as a starter.
Brett Lorin (24) - 7-6, 2.84 ERA, 117.1 IP, 7.6K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9, 17 Games Started
Lorin is a Southern California native, pitching for Dana Hills HS and then attending Long Beach State. He was drafted in the 5th Round by the Mariners, and then was traded to the Pirates in mid-2009 as part of the Jack Wilson/Ian Snell for Ronny Cedeno/Jack Clement trade. His career was delayed by hip surgery in 2010, forcing him to restart his career back in Rookie Ball and Low Class A. He came back healthy in 2011, and showed excellent control, with a 5.21 K/BB ratio. Some scouts felt that he may have been too advanced for that league.
Lorin was slated for AA in 2012, so the Majors would be a big jump for him. If he sticks with the Diamondbacks, he would almost certainly be a reliever. But while his command and control are very good, there are questions about whether his stuff is good enough for the Majors. The team may be hoping that he will add a few mph to his fastball by pitching in relief. Long term, most scouts feel that he profiles as a 4th starter. GM Kevin Towers was quoted as saying "There's upside. The numbers were very impressive. We're excited to have him." At the same time, there are reports that the Pirates hope to get Lorin back, since it will be tough for him to make the Diamondbacks' roster.