2010 Rewind: After first and second place finishes in the NL West in 2007 and 2008, the Diamondbacks have found themselves in the cellars the past two seasons. The team hit rock bottom last summer and cleaned house in July as they hired Kirk Gibson as their manager on their way to a 65-97 finish. The team was awful, including having the third worst bullpen (5.74 ERA) in major league history.
The Good: The D-Backs boast second basemen Kelly Johnson and shortstop Stephen Drew up the middle, giving them one of baseball’s best all-around combos. They only committed 18 errors combined and both flashed some pretty good leather. Johnson hit .284 with 26 HR and 76 RBI and wound up hitting third in the order by year’s end. Drew, a .272 career hitter, batted .278 last year with 15 HR, 61 RBI, 83 runs and 10 stolen bases.
The Bad: Long gone are the days of Arizona having one of the division’s best rotations. They dealt Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson last season, leaving them with a rotation that figures to have Joe Saunders, Daniel Hudson (7-1, 1.69 ERA after being acquired July 30), Ian Kennedy, Zach Duke, and Armando Galarraga in the mix. Despite positive results in stretches last season the unit likely overachieved. The bullpen got better and will now turn to J.J. Putz to close out games, but expect it to be taxed and worn out early on.
Biggest Loss: Though they won’t miss his 211 strikeouts .198 batting average, the team will sorely miss Mark Reynolds’ power. The third basemen left via free agency as did fellow corner man, first basemen Adam LaRoche. The duo combined for 57 homers and 158 RBI a year ago.
Best Addition: Melvin Mora was brought in to replace Reynolds at third base. He will come nowhere near the power numbers, but he will provide a much more professional at bat and a major upgrade defensively. The veteran hit .307 with 31 RBI following the All-Star Break in 2010 after taking over the starting job in Colorado.
Fantasy Slant: The biggest buzz in the desert centers on the Diamondbacks’ young outfielders, Justin Upton and Chris Young. Upton is one of the game’s best five-tool players, but his average 2010 numbers could lower his value heading into this season. He has some injury risk, but could prove to be a great value pick for owners. Young rebounded from a dismal 2009 campaign by hitting 27 HR and 91 RBI while earning All-Star honors. He needs to get the .257 average up and cut down on his strikeouts, but the team is counting on him in the middle of the order.
Final Take: The Diamondbacks still have plenty of question marks, but they appear to be headed in the right direction. The division isn’t as good as it was a year ago, so don’t count on 97 losses again. Still, it will be hard for them to improve their record by more than 10 games…2011 Record: 73-98
Fantasy Baseball, MLB