#29 – Arizona Diamondbacks (64-98) in 2014, my 2015 projection (71-91)
The good news: Tony La Russa isn’t drunk, asleep at the wheel of his Florida SUV. The bad news for Diamondbacks fans: Tony La Russa is, in my opinion, drunk, asleep at the wheel of your organization. Since the Diamondbacks hired La Russa as Chief Baseball Officer in May of last year, to oversee the baseball operations department, TLR has bizarrely hired several of his friends to various positions in the D’Backs organization. Dave Stewart, a former player of La Russa’s, who was working as a player agent, was hired as GM, to work directly under TLR. Chip Hale, who had crossed paths with Stewart and La Russa as Bench Coach for the A’s, was hired as Manager. Dr. Ed Lewis, 66-year-old former veterinarian was hired to lead the Diamondbacks analytics department. The early outlook is not great. The Diamondbacks signed 24-year-old Cuban import, Yasmany Tomas, to a 6-year, $68.5 million deal, then threatened to play him at Third Base. The verdict is still out on his bat, though it’s concerning he struck out more often than he walked in the Cuban Serie Nacional, a league soft in pitching. The one report on Tomas in which everyone seems to agree, he’s not going to be able to pull off Third Base. That potentially gives the team a pair of corner outfielders, in Tomas and Trumbo, who project similarly, with good power, poor contact skills, and questionable defense. The D’Backs also raised some question marks trading away two prospects to land Starting Pitcher, Jeremy Hellickson, coming off a disastrous 2013, and injury-plagued 2014 with the Rays. Hellickson, a fly-ball pitcher, often had trouble keeping the ball in the yard in pitcher-friendly Tampa. The move to Chase Field, combined with the Diamondbacks corner outfield defense, isn’t likely to help his numbers. The fact the Diamondbacks front office keeps suggesting they expect this team to immediately compete, combined with there being no clear direction or trend to any of the moves this team has made in the last year and a half, all suggests to me this team might be looking in a new direction, someone to clean up La Russa’s mess, within another year or two.
Hitters to watch: Is Paul Goldschmidt too obvious? If that name isn’t obvious, google him. There’s enough out there that you don’t need to hear about him from me. I love A.J. Pollock. Offensively, he’s not great at anything, but he’s good at everything. Defensively, he could be one of the best Center Fielders in the game. He should be headlining that Arizona outfield for a least a few more seasons. At shortstop, I like Chris Owings. Like a poor man’s A.J. Pollock, Owings is very good defensively, and does enough to contribute offensively. He’s one of those guys who’s a much better real-life player than fantasy player, so he’ll always be a bit under the radar. I’m also interested in Outfielder, Ender Inciarte, though his role is uncertain. He’s another player who’s value is mostly tied to his defense. I think there’s still some question if Inciarte can provide enough offensive value to keep him in the lineup. The trouble is, he may not get the opportunity to show us his value, because, if Tomas is forced to the Outfield, Inciarte dips to 5th on the D’Backs depth chart.
Pitchers to watch: This is where the team will struggle the most. I’m not a believer in Hellickson, Vidal Nuno, or Addison Reed. I think Opening Day starter, Josh Collmenter, is probably better suited for a role in the bullpen. It’s going to be rough. As a positive note, I like Patrick Corbin, currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery, and due back mid-season. I also think the Diamondbacks have some interesting arms that could contribute at the back end of the rotation or the bullpen. Rubby de la Rosa, Chase Anderson, and Allen Webster have all shown promise and possess tools to be successful Major Leaguers. I’m particularly fond of Anderson, 27-years old, who may have the least impressive stuff of the three young pitchers, but has had the most encouraging results. There is some depth in the bullpen. Addison Reed, Brad Ziegler, Oliver Perez, Evan Marshall, Matt Reynolds, and Randall Delgado are all usable Relievers. However, I wouldn’t expect any of them to be much better than average. A below average rotation backed up by an average bullpen is going to make it a long year for Diamondbacks fans.
3/16/2015 – Ryan Perry, @OCBrooks7 on Twitter