Sure it's only January, but with the Cardinals season over and the date for players to start reporting to spring training only a month away I figured it was time to dust off the old blog and assess where the Diamondbacks might see themselves this season.
The Diamondbacks were the talk of baseball during the winter meetings when they traded Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth in a three team deal receiving Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy in return. Many people felt they gave up too early on a couple young pitchers with very high potential, Max Scherzer in particular.
In reality they acquired two starters for one, including a very solid third man in the rotation with Jackson, who is probably ahead of Max Scherzer in terms of development and his ability to go deeper into games. Edwin Jackson averaged better than 6.1 innings per start, Scherzer averaged about 5.2 innings per start. The Diamondbacks also received a high end prospect in Ian Kennedy to hopefully fill the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation. Kennedy has had success in the minors but has experienced set backs in his major league progression due to injury.
In the following weeks they picked up 2B Kelly Johnson coming off a bad year for a bargain price and a solid, veteran, true 1B Adam LaRoche. Certainly neither player has the flash or name recognition of a Jason Bay but they do solidify a lineup that was too reliant on utility players and rookies last year. With the hopeful return to form from Conor Jackson and Brandon Webb the Diamondbacks are looking like they could be a respectable team next season…if things work out as planned.
To get a gauge on how the Diamondbacks stack up their starting position players and top three starters are compared to the NL champion Phillies, and NL West winning Dodgers. Below are the players for each team ranked in terms of their 2009 season performance. In some cases a few players had seasons that were far below what they had done in previous seasons so their career numbers were used rather than 2009 numbers.
At first base Ryan Howard clearly has the edge with his power, but Adam LaRoche is certainly comparable in batting average and has more power than James Loney.
Again at 2B the Phillies have the obvious better player, but Kelly Johnson’s .264 career batting average beats out Blake DeWitt and Johnson had a very respectable .281 average in 2008 prior to his injury hampered 2009 campaign.
The Diamondbacks have the advantage a 3B with Mark Reynolds emerging as one of the league’s young power hitters. In addition to his power he also has more speed than the other two.
If Jimmy Rollins returns to his previous self then the Phillies will have the absolute advantage here too, and even if he doesn’t they still might due to Rollins’ home run and stolen base numbers, however his average and OBP definitely level the playing field some.
Always a respectable player, Raul Ibanez catapulted himself to one of the leagues elite sluggers in the first half of the 2009 season. However, after hitting 22 home runs prior to the All Star break he hit only 12 after the All Star break. He’s 38 years old and prior to last season he had hit 30 or more home runs only once in his 13 year career.
You also have to wonder if Manny’s age and prior supplement usage are catching up with him, as he too saw a significant drop in is second half numbers, batting .355 pre All Star and .255 post All Star. But this is about what the player did last season rather than speculation on what will happen this season, so with that in mind Manny and Ibanez have the advantage over Conor Jackson.
This is the one position that the Dodgers have the clear advantage. Matt Kemp has the potential to be one of the best players in the league and has a great combination of strength and speed.
All three of these players would be welcomed on any team but Justin Upton beats out Werth and Ethier with a considerably higher average and SLG %.
Miguel Montero leads the catchers group with a much better average, home run total, and SLG %. His numbers not only beat Ruiz and Martin, but are also better than most catchers in MLB.
The Phillies got the jewel of the off season with the acquisition of Roy Halladay, one of baseball’s best arms, but their second and third pitchers are a significant drop off. The Dodgers pitchers are more level than the Phillies but the Diamondbacks are the only team with all of their top pitchers under a 4.00 ERA and the top two under 3.50 ERA.
When looking at the above figures, it is apparent that the Phillies have the best players, and they should considering that they have the sixth highest payroll of any MLB team and the third highest payroll of all NL teams, nearly $40 million higher than the Diamondbacks. But the Diamondbacks have the best player at two of the eight positions and have the strongest front end pitching rotation.
Want further proof that the Diamondbacks are ready to compete? When the numbers of the players above are averaged the Diamondbacks have the highest batting average and only rank last in OBP. There is definitely reason to believe that this year will be better than 2009 if for no other reason than it would be hard to be worse.