The Diamondbacks were the surprise winners of the National League West in 2011. The last year they were surprise winners of the National League West they bombed the following year. Myworld does not think they will bomb in 2012, but we think they will fall short of making the playoffs.
General Overview: One thing Kevin Towers is good at building is a bullpen. So teams should be warned that if he is inquiring about a pitcher they might think twice about trading him to the Diamondbacks. He turned David Hernandez from a starter to a reliever and had tremendous success with that. It will be interesting to see how they respond to being defending conference champions. Their response after winning it in 2007 was a complete collapse in 2008, after starting April 2008 with the best record in baseball. The collapse won’t be so bad in 2012, but they will still miss the playoffs.
Why They Will Win: Myworld keeps hearing that Justin Upton has the potential to be the best player in the major leagues. I take a look at his underachieving brother B.J. and Grady Sizemore and see a number of similarities. If he meets the hype the Diamondbacks have themselves a player. A .289 average and 31 homeruns is nothing to sneeze at, but myworld still sees 88 RBIs and a .239 average with runners in scoring position. Paul Goldschmidt has the potential to be a big time run producer. Miguel Montero is a solid catcher who can hit and play defense. Jason Kubel will be another productive bat to be added into the lineup. He also provides protection to the younger Goldschmidt at first base. That makes gold glover Gerardo Parra a fourth outfielder/defensive replacement, so Kubel will have to hit to make his presence worthwhile. The bullpen is very strong from the right side with J.J. Putz, David Hernandez and Brad Ziegler protecting leads.
Why They Won’t Win: They went and acquired Trevor Cahill, but he pitched awful the second half of the year. The Athletics seemed too amenable to giving him away. Fangraphs has his fastball at 89 which is not the Cahill myworld remembers. Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson will have trouble matching the years they had last year. J.J. Putz reminds me more of an effective setup man than closer, though he did an excellent job when healthy as the closer in 2011 with his 45 saves. Joe Saunders gave them a lot of innings last year, but they seem to be very willing to let him walk, hoping that Josh Collmenter with Cahill can match his innings. That still leaves them a starter short, which could be the cue for Trevor Bauer if he has a good spring. The middle infield of Stephen Drew and Aaron Hill seems a bit short of what you want to see from a playoff caliber team. Chris Young can go get it with the best of them, but his offense sees too many slumps and unproductive at bats for too many long stretches. It would shock me if Ryan Roberts could repeat his production of 2011.
Prospects to Make the roster: He throws in the triple digits and it would be ideal if he got some more seasoning in the minors, but Trevor Bauer is definitely talented. He did reach AA last year but it wasn’t an overwhelming success (7.56 ERA). Expect him more as a mid-year promotion possibility that being on the opening day roster. Wade Miley could find himself in the starting rotation or being used as a lefty out of the pen. Joe Patterson is currently their only legitimate lefty. Zach Kroenke could be another lefty option out of the pen if Miley makes the starting rotation. Cole Gillespie has an opportunity to make the team as an extra outfielder, though he would be better served playing in the minors until an injury created a need for his callup.
Long Range Prospects: Ryan Wheeler could take playing time away from Ryan Roberts if Roberts does not repeat his production of last year (originally had Mike Olt here but the Rangers have not traded him). Tyler Skaggs should work himself in the starting rotation by mid-year. Most of their top porspects are at the lower levels and would only get September callups at best.
Significant Transactions (as of Jan.4): Their biggest transaction was obtaining Trevor Cahill for the starting rotation and Craig Breslow to assist the bullpen from the left side. They had to give up potential ace Jarrod Parker, who has been injured the past two years and young outfielder Collin Cowgill along with bullpen help Ryan Cook. Significant free agent signings are Lyle Overbay as protection from a sophmore slump from Paul Goldscmidt, Cody Ransom to help Willie Bloomquist in the utility role and Takashi Saito to strenghten the bullpen. They also signed from Japan Jonathan Albaladejo, who failed in his job as a closer for the Yomiuri Giants, but may be more comfortable in a setup role. He pitched in the Yankees bullpen in 2010 and was the player the Nationals traded to get Tyler Clippard. The Diamondbacks also signed Jason Kubel as an outfielder to add a little more production to the offense in left field. He can also DH against American League teams and play first base.
Expected Finish: Myworld predicts them to finish behind the Giants and just missing the wild card, which will go to the National League East in 2012. The rotation is just not strong enough, which may burn out the bullpen and the offense will not generate enough runs to compensate for the runs the starting rotation gives up. For diamondback fans the 2011 season will seem like a mirage.