The Coors Effect

January 20, 2010 7:03 PM

2010 Preview Series: Arizona Diamondbacks

While the Coors Effect is, always has been, and always will be a Rockies-focused blog, the Rockies don't play in a vacuum.  Entering the season, it's important to know just what is going on with the rest of the teams in the majors; hence, we're going to take a day to preview each of the other 29 teams in the league.  Don't worry -- we'll keep up with any Rockies-related news during this time.

The Diamondbacks, for a 70-win team, aren't that far away from being a playoff contender.

2009 was a season in which virtually everything went wrong for the team.  Brandon Webb pitched a grand total of four innings.  Conor Jackson, coming off three straight 800-plus OPS seasons, missed most of the season with something called "valley fever."  Stephen Drew failed to build on his solid 2008 season, cratering to a .748 OPS.  Chris Young hit .212 and even got demoted to AAA at one point.  Augie Ojeda got over 300 plate appearances.

The pitching was generally pretty solid despite the loss of Webb, as four starters turned in an ERA+ of 107 or better, and Dan Haren had an excellent year.  The Diamondbacks also got some pretty capable relief pitching.

The bad news for the Diamondbacks is that three of the four starters who posted above-average numbers in 2009 are gone, although Jon Garland is still floating around as a free agent.  The good news is that Webb should be back for the season opener, though it's unclear just how effective he'll be, and Edwin Jackson is now in the fold after his best season yet at age 25.

And, as far as the offense goes, it should be pretty good, though you wouldn't have seemed like a loon if you had said that entering last season.  The Diamondbacks have a budding superstar in Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds and his ridiculous power, a solid offensive catcher in Miguel Montero, and the returning Conor Jackson.  Aside from that, the Diamondbacks should expect a bounce-back year from Stephen Drew, and Adam LaRoche and Kelly Johnson provide an upgrade on the right side of the infield.

Despite all the hype, though, Chris Young has never posted an OPS+ over 90 in three full seasons in the majors and actually regressed last season.  While a bounce-back season from Drew isn't unreasonable, with Young, while the talent is still there, he hasn't shown that he can be even an average player in the majors.  The Diamondbacks have Gerardo Parra around in case Young struggles again, but in 2009 he didn't offer much beyond a good BA, though he was just 22.

The pitching staff is a question mark beyond Webb/Haren/Jackson (and even Webb's kind of a question mark at this point.)  The Diamondbacks will probably throw out some combination of Ian Kennedy, Billy Buckner, and Bryan Augenstein to fill out the final two rotation spots, but that's a pretty big dropoff from the front three.  The bullpen should be pretty solid again, but bullpens are typically tough to predict.  There's still a possibility that the Diamondbacks could bring in a free agent to fill out the rotation, but they haven't shown the inclination to shell out the kind of money needed to sign a Piniero.

Trades have gutted the depth of the farm system, so the Diamondbacks don't really have a lot of depth if anybody goes down.  While it's unreasonable to expect a team to have a guy capable of putting up a .900 OPS hanging around just in case somebody gets hurt, the Diamondbacks really don't have that many players who won't embarrass the team if somebody gets hurt.  Gerardo Parra should be a good player in time, and Ryan Roberts will be a capable fill-in if an infielder gets hurt, but if there's a mass of injuries and/or disappointments (as there were in 2009), the Diamondbacks don't really have the depth to weather it.  That's especially the case with the starting pitchers.

So, in short, while the Diamondbacks have the makings of a team with solid frontline talent, there's very little depth, and there are a lot of "ifs."  If Stephen Drew has a bounce-back year, and if Chris Young plays up to his potential, and if Brandon Webb and Conor Jackson show no signs of having missed almost an entire season -- this team can make the playoffs.  As it stands, though, the Diamondbacks enter 2010 clearly behind the Dodgers and the Rockies, and probably behind the Giants as well.  Yes, the talent is there to make a playoff run, but almost everything will have to go right for the Diamondbacks to actually do it.

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