The Diamondbacks proved last year that without 2013 NL MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt, they are a substantially below average lineup. The two-time All-Star first baseman only played in 109 games last year but still led the team in runs, hits, walks, doubles, and home runs. He was only second to Miguel Montero in RBIs and we'll get to Mr. Montero in a little bit. The team went into free fall when Goldschmidt broke his hand on August 1st, going 16-37 in his absence. Goldschmidt is now 100% healed and Arizona is going to hope to the gods that he stays that way because their offense is bare bones without him. Yasmany Tomas is in at third base, at least one hopes so after signing a 6 year, $68.5 million dollar deal. The Cuban defector was plucked up seemingly at the last minute by Arizona as he seemed destined for Chicago or Los Angeles. If he can live up to projections, the corners of the Arizona diamond are going to produce some fireworks. I don't want to get into what will happen if he doesn't. The middle of the infield will not boast such promise. At second base, Aaron Hill just turned 33 and his home run numbers have dropped in each consecutive full season he's played in Phoenix. The troubling part of this power outage is that the number dropped from 11 to 10 over the past two years even though he played 46 more games in 2014 than he did in 2013. Add that to a batting average (.244) that dipped to its lowest point since his .225 average got him jettisoned from Toronto and you have a player in obvious decline. Chris Owings can play second base and shortstop and showed he could hit for average. Neither him nor Hill can really play defense though which makes the trade of Didi Gregorius that much more of a head scratcher. The argument against the Dutch infielder is that he was a liability at the plate even though he hit just as many home runs and drove in one more than Owings in less games played. Another trade that didn't seem necessary was of the aforementioned Miguel Montero. Montero was third to only Buster Posey and Devin Mesoraco in the National League in RBIs by a catcher even though he hit a good thirty points lower than the Reds backstop and nearly seventy points under the 2012 NL MVP's. Montero was traded by new GM Dave Stewart to the Cubs for two pitching prospects in the nosebleed section of the minors. His replacement, Tuffy Gosewisch, is a 32 year old minor league lifer with a .213 career Major League batting average who seems more intent with trying to gun out opposing baserunners than becoming a baserunner himself. You know what is the worst thing about this infield however? If any of these players go down, there is no depth to speak of.
The outfield is just as much of a concern. Outfielders Mark Trumbo, AJ Pollock, and Cody Ross each missed over 70 games through injury leaving a paper thin roster even thinner. Their absence however allowed David Peralta to get some reps in left field. If the 27 year old Venezuelan could improve upon his below Mendoza line average against left handers, he could be one of the few positives out in the desert. While Pollock continues to show promise, he also is in a constant display of fragility. His injuries mounted so often that it overshadowed a .302 batting average and the pace for a 20 HR/30 SB season. Trumbo and Ross didn't help matters much either with their inability to stay off the disabled list. While Trumbo's arrival relegated Ross to fourth outfielder status, the fact that both were injured concurrently forced Arizona to dig into a minor league system that wasn't ripe for the picking. Peralta and Ender Inciarte both showed flashes of Major League readiness but where the jury is still out is to whether they are capable of producing on anything but a part-time basis.
Just like their NL West counterparts one spot below, Arizona's pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. Josh Collmenter was the team's pitcher of the year last season after going 11-9 with a 3.46 ERA. He has been a steady hand over his four year stint in Arizona but in no way should be a team's number one starter. He has that distinction this year because Arizona traded their Opening Day starter from a year ago, Wade Miley, to the Red Sox for Rubby De La Rosa and Allen Webster. Yes, the Diamondbacks traded their starting battery from 2014. As a Dodgers fan, I still hope that De La Rosa and Webster find their way into becoming competent Major Leaguers. I just don't think either will do that as a starter, a role that Arizona will most likely be asking BOTH to perform in 2015. Rounding out the rotation is Jeremy Hellickson and Trevor Cahill. Hellickson, currently slotted as the number two starter, has been injured and inconsistent since taking home the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year award. His ERA for the past two years is an even 5.00 and while that will presumably come down a bit in the National League, it isn't a comforting sight as your second arm in the rotation. Cahill's run in Arizona hit rock bottom in 2014 with a 3-12 record, 5.61 ERA, and ghastly 1.61 WHIP. He was demoted to the bullpen and even finished eight games and recorded a save. However, unless Chase Anderson or Randall Delgado wow new manager Chip Hale enough to overtake him, Cahill will get the ball every fifth day. In my opinion, Cahill shouldn't be more than a mop up pitcher. The fact that he is even in the conversation about making the TEAM never mind the rotation is a problem. It will be interesting to see if either Hellickson or Cahill stays in the mix when Patrick Corbin and Bronson Arroyo return in the summer from Tommy John surgery or Archie Bradley is called up from Triple-A. The rotation isn't as big of a problem as Arizona's pen though.
As I stated in last year's 30 Teams In Under 30 Days for Arizona, their bullpen is their Achilles' Heel. It improved from a horrifying 2013 but was still the second worst bullpen in the NL just in front of you guessed it, Colorado. Closer Addison Reed racked up 32 saves but also compiled a 1-7 record with six blown saves. His set-up man Brad Ziegler, blew eight. I could go on a huge rant about Oliver Perez but honestly he was Arizona's most reliable arm, from either side, out of the bullpen last year and should get some looks at closing if the opportunity arises. You see what you made me do Arizona! You made me praise Oliver F'n Perez! Your bullpen is so abysmal that I have to say positive things about a man who has caused more fans' trips to Bosley than very few others since he's been in the Majors. Hang your heads.
In closing, Arizona has the #1 pick in the First Year Player Draft on June 8-10. They should hope that whomever they take at #1 doesn't decide against signing like last year's first overall pick, Brady Aiken, decided to do to Houston. This is going to be a long enough season as it is.
LAST YEAR's RANKING: #20 (DOWN 8)
PREDICTED RECORD: 67-95
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REP: Paul Goldschmidt (first baseman)
Trevor Utley wants everyone to know that he once owned a Paul Goldschmidt rookie card but has since lost it.
Image Credit: Diamondbacks logo (sportslogos.net)