Last season, the Arizona Diamondbacks finished 81-81, 13 games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
This season, under the guidance of gritty manager Kirk Gibson, who can often will teams to win, they seemed primed to surprise a lot of people in the NL West and possibly contend for a Wild Card spot if everything clicks while teams that have more talent, on paper, than the Diamondbacks–like the Giants and the Dodgers–falter.
In the offseason, Arizona traded Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves in a blockbuster seven-player deal that saw them receive Martin Prado and four other players, including pitcher Randall Delgado.
Their outfield, without Upton, will be solid and potentially spectacular, with Jason Kubel and Gerardo Parra at the corner outfield positions and Cody Ross returning the National League to play center field.
On the right side of the infield, the Diamondbacks have pure gamers in Aaron Hill at second base and Paul Goldschmidt at first. Watch out for Goldschmidt this season, his gritty style of play endears him to fans and he can become much more of a household name as the season progresses.
Eric Chavez and Willie Bloomquist give the Diamondbacks solid players off the bench. Add Eric Hinske to the mix and Arizona’s lineup will not drop off by that much should some of their starters need a day off or two during the dog days of summer. In addition, Chavez and Bloomquist are veterans who add to the team’s chemistry and compliment players like Goldschmidt and Hill.
Ian Kennedy anchors Arizona’s rotation but how successful Brandon McCarthy does may determine the fate of the team. Miguel Montero is a catcher who has some pop, but he calls a great game and few runners will attempt to steal bases on him, which puts the pitching staff at ease.
Arizona’s bullpen also seems like it, like the team, could be “boom” or “bust.” J.J. Putz is Arizona’s closer while David Hernandez and Heath Bell, hoping to recover from a nightmare season in Miami and the find the form he had in San Diego, are the setup men. Brad Ziegler, the submariner who almost scrapes the mound as he pitches, will give right-handed batters fits. If these pitchers are on, the game could be over after the 6th inning
Miguel Montero has some pop but he makes his staff feel at ease and comfortable. Runners do not want to run on him, which makes his pitching staff more comfortable on the bump.