Arizona Diamondbacks 2011 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2011 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams . Today’s preview features the Arizona Diamondbacks. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers previews every team division by division until the start of the regular season.

A few short years ago, Arizona was on top of the world. It was just April of 2008.

Everything was clicking for them. Brandon Webb, Danny Haren, and Micah Owings were going to pitch them all the way to a World Series. Then the wheels fell off and a manager got fired and a new GM took over and he got fired.

Now, Kevin Towers and Kirk Gibson hold the spot. I think one is going to be tremendous at his job, and will be responsible for a turnaround in Arizona. The other guy, is a mess.

Kevin Towers spent the off-season attempting ways to ‘get too cute’ or put his little accent marks on a team in the only solid foundation pieces it has. I applaud him for trading Mark Reynolds. But to try and trade Justin Upton just because? Dude, get a clue. Trading away talents like Justin Upton who could become a generational talent in Arizona and change the landscape of your entire franchise in a decade is not how you get ahead. I don’t care that you’re the GM and I’m the fan. That soured me on this guy forever.

Strengths of the 2011 DBacks

This team has a lot of thunder. And that’s even with the trade of windmill Mark Reynolds. That was their MO last season; hit a ton of home runs and strike out a ton. You really can’t win that way, just ask the 2006 Reds. Everyone wants to point to Upton when we talk thunder and the DBacks, but if you look at the middle of their infield you see two really nice offensive players in Kelly Johnson and Stephen Drew.

On the corners, you’ve got a few guys who have some pop on different sides of their career arcs. Most people would say that Melvin Mora is too old, but he’s one of those guys who might just go on hitting forever Julio Franco-style. Last year he hit .307 with 31 RBIs after the All-Star break. On the other side of the diamond you’ve got a guy in Juan Miranda who should have Erubiel Durazo-esque pop.

Catcher Miguel Montero has the bat to be an NL All-Star reserve this season if he stays healthy. Remember where you heard it. Look at all the extra-base hits he had last season. The pop is there, and he’s going to be Brian McCann-ish in production this season so long as he gets 450 at bats.

Chris Young had a nice rebound year last year, but we’re still not buying him as the All-Star he appeared to be. We expect him to fall back a bit to the ‘norm’ and the regression will look like 2009. He survived last year by hitting the ball the other way, he’ll need to continue to make adjustments before we’re sold on him being a poor man’s Eric Davis.

The Starting Pitching

The DiamondBacks traded away Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson last season, again a move that I don’t completely understand but time will tell if they made the right move.

Arizona is really trying to force-feed Ian Kennedy to us as a top of the rotation starter, but I think he’s a better fit as a #3. He’ll be the Opening Day starter after going 9-10 last year. The guy to keep an eye on will be Daniel Hudson, who went 7-1 last season with a 1.69 ERA in route to helping us win a fantasy baseball title. Hudson has the stuff to come out of nowhere and win 18 games on a mediocre team and strike out 200. He’s absolutely filthy.

Armando Galaragga, Joe Saunders, and Zach Duke round out the rotation, and that should give you a pretty good idea as to how this team will fare in 2011. They’ll need some young prospects to step up and take these spots in order to make a jump in the years to come.

The Bullpen Achilles

The bullpen last year was absolutely horrific. It single-handedly gave the park in Arizona a name as a hitters park (more so than it already had). The bullpen ERA, 5.74, good for the third-worst in major league history. We’re not sure how much they really improved it.

J.J. Putz has been inserted as the new closer, while David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio were added to bolster the late innings. These guys have decent stuff, but how successful have they really been so far? Juan Gutierrez, Mike Hampton (yes, that Mike Hampton) and Sam Demel will also get some innings. Yikes.

The Final Verdict

This is going to be a last place team again in 2011. They might win more than the 65 they logged last season, but they’re still not going to be any good. Trading Upton would not be the answer. Build a team around him and by the time he’s 26 the DBacks will be in contention and he’ll be in MVP discussion. It will be an interesting season to see how the young phenom responds to all the off-season trade talks. Pencil them down for between 72-76 wins.