30 Teams in 30 Days: Arizona Diamondbacks Preview

Arizona Diamondbacks – National League West

2009 Record: 70-92, Last Place (5th) in National League West, 25 Games Back

2009 Review: The Arizona Diamondbacks finished the 2009 season with a 70-92 record, finishing last in the National League West, 25 games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers. With a team average age of 26.3, the Diamondbacks had a team batting average of .253, an on-base percentage of .324 and a slugging percentage of .418. The team was led by third baseman Mark Reynolds’ 44 home runs and 102 runs batted in and outfielder Justin Upton’s .300 batting average. On the mound, the D‘backs were led by Dan Haren’s 14 wins, 223 strikeouts and an earned run average of 3.14. They were seriously hurt by the loss of Brandon Webb, who had surgery after pitching only four innings at the beginning of the season.

As a team, Arizona scored 720 runs, ranking 8th in the N.L. They hit 173 home runs, ranking 4th but their tam batting average ranked the 13 out of 16 teams in the National League.

After 29 games, Manager Bob Melvin was replaced by A.J Hinch after compiling a 12-17 record. Hinch’s record for the remainder of the season was 58-75.

The season was a disappointment. They had hopes of a division championship; when they lost their top pitcher early in the season, it was a tough mountain to climb.

Key Transactions since 2009:
Losses:
Eric Byrnes – On January 20, Byrnes was designated for assignment after four seasons with the Diamondbacks. There was once a time he was a 20 home run hitter with the ability to hit .260 or better. Those days are gone now. He was a backup with an $11.67 million salary.

Doug Davis – Although only 9-14 in 2009, Davis was an innings horse. He led the National League with 34 starts and pitched over 200 innings. He gave up over 100 more walks and hits per inning pitched and had an era over 4.00.

Max Scherzer – On December 9, Scherzer was part of a three team trade and was traded to Detroit. He was 24 at the end of the 2009 season and is considered an up and coming arm. He started 30 games in 2009, with a 9-11 record, striking out 174 in 170.1 innings. His low salary $1.45 million and string arm made him coveted by others.

Daniel Schlereth – Schlereth was also traded away on December 9 in the same three team trade. He is another young pitcher, 23, with a strong arm making the league minimum which makes him valuable in a trade. He appeared in 21 games in 2009 and was expected to have a bigger impact in 2010.

Scott Schoenweis – Schoenweis is an 11-year veteran who pitched in 45 games in 2009. However, his $3.6 million salary was not money well spent for a pitcher who had a 1-2 record with an era over 7.00.

Chad Tracy – The 29 year old played the most games at first base in 2009 for the Diamondbacks, playing 98 games. However, he hit .237 with only 8 home runs, not a large amount from an infield corner position. In he two seasons, he played in over 150 games, he hit over 20 home runs. However, for a team that just finished last place, his $5 million salary was too much and his option was not picked up.

Other Losses from the 2009 team includes: Daniel Cabrera, Luke Carlin, Trent Oeltjen, Yusmeiro Petit, Alex Romero, Doug Slaten, Josh Whitesell

Gains:
Aaron Heilman – On November 19, the Diamondbacks obtained Heilman for two minor leaguers. In his only season with the Cubs, he was 4-4 with an era over 4.00. He pitched in 70 games. For the Diamondbacks, Heilman is scheduled to be the setup man for closer, Chad Qualls.

Bob Howry – The right-handed reliever was 2-6 with San Francisco last year, but had an era of 3.39. He is a 12 year veteran who was once the closer for the White Sox. Howry is expected to be a right hand specialist for the Diamondbacks. He will help Heilman and Qualls give some substance to the bullpen.

Edwin Jackson – Edwin was the player that the Diamonbacks coveted when giving up the young pitchers Scherzer and Schlereth. He was 13-9 in 2009 with an era of 3.62 for the Detroit Tigers. This was his best season in the majors as in 2008 he was 14-11 with an era of 4.42 with the Rays. He is slated to be number three starter for the D’backs behind Brandon Webb and Rich Haren. He was solid in 2009 with 214 inning pitched, with 33 games started and his first all-star appearance. He will be a solid upgrade to the starting pitching and is still young, only 27 years old.

Kelly Johnson – Although he had a down year, Johnson should be the starting second baseman for the Diamondbacks in 2010. He hit only .224 for the Braves, but had a good season against left handed hitters, batting .325. In 2007 and 2008, he hit around .280, averaging 14 home runs and 68 runs batted in. his on-base percentage in those two seasons was also about .360. The D’backs are hoping Johnson can get back to those numbers in 2010.

Ian Kennedy – Kennedy was obtained from the Yankees in the same three team that brought Edwin Jackson to Arizona. He will be slated into the number four spot in the rotation after only pitching one inning in 2009 due to aneurysm surgery. He was once a top prospect for the Yankees who always had a strong upside. Previous to his surgery, he had very little major league experience, but his time has come. Arizona is expecting him to pitch about 150 innings this year.

Adam LaRoche – A career .274 hitter, LaRoche finished 2009 strong with Atlanta by hitting .325 with 12 home runs and 40 runs batted in, in only 57 games. He averages 26 home runs per season, with an on-base percentage over .340 and a slugging percentage of almost .500. He will be a solid upgrade for the Diamondbacks at first base and in the middle of their lineup. He is a veteran presence that will help improve the organization.

Other Additions to the Diamondbacks through minor league contracts: Jeff Bailey, T.J. Beam, Carlos Corporan, Rodrigo Lopez, Drew Macias

2010 Preview: After a very disappointing 2009 season, the Diamondbacks are expecting an exciting season. They have a very young team with many exciting players who have a chance to compete for the National League West Championship.

The Diamondbacks have three new additions to their starting rotation compared to the 2009 season; Brandon Webb (only pitched four innings in 2009), Edwin Jackson, and Ian Kennedy. If Brandon Webb has an “average” season and wins 15 games, Jackson wins 14 games (his average for the past two seasons), and Ian Kennedy wins 10 games for the Diamondbacks, which is a total of 39 wins (I was thinking conservatively for these three pitchers). The pitchers they are replacing won 26 games in 2009, an increase of 13 games. In addition, Dan Haren’s record should improve as he will be moved to the second spot in the rotation, with the return of Webb.

In the bullpen, Chad Qualls now has veterans to be his set up men. The additions of Heilman and Howry should be an improvement compared to the pitchers of 2009. These pitchers should help other pitchers move down to other places in the bullpen that they are more suited for. The additions to the bullpen and support for Qualls should improve the quality of the D’backs bullpen and the minor league signings/Rule 5 signings should also add some quality that was missing during the 2009 season.

Looking at the everyday players to leave Arizona after the 2009 season, they do not have any devastating losses that were irreplaceable. They improved at first base and expect their new second baseman to be a significant improvement to the players that finished the 2009 season at that position. In addition, younger players such as Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds, Gerardo Parra, Chris Young, and Stephen Drew are one year older and have one more year of experience. Place LaRoche in the middle of that lineup, protecting Reynolds and Montero, should brings more scoring opportunities and more runs scored for a team that was in the middle of the pack in 2009.

In 2010, the Diamondbacks should be a comeback team improving a minimum of 15 games, with a maximum of 20 games. A record of 85-77 to 90-72 is not out of the question and should allow the D’backs to compete in the National League West in 2010.

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