A rival scout sizes up the Diamondbacks
They got off to a slow start in the Cactus League. I shouldn't put a lot of stock in spring training results, but I don't like them to repeat. I like the Giants and the Rockies better.... They've got questions all over their infield. They think Ryan Roberts is going to be their every-day third baseman, but he's better suited to a superutility role. He's got some pop, but I think it was a career year last year.... The bigger concern is their shortstop situation. Stephen Drew doesn't look like he's going to start the year healthy. I'm hearing rumblings that they might package Gerardo Parra and Willie Bloomquist for an upgrade at short, which tells me there are some long-term concerns with Drew's recovery from his broken ankle.... Justin Upton is going to continue to be their impact guy. Do I ever think he's going to hit for a huge average? No, because he needs to learn to lay off the breaking stuff he can't handle. When he gets in good hitting counts, he's very dangerous.... Their pitching will keep them in the hunt. It's going to be tough for Ian Kennedy to replicate his 2011, winning more than 20 games. His stuff isn't lights-out, but his fastball command is as good as there is in the game. He commands all four quadrants and has a four-pitch mix.... With Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill and Joe Saunders, their rotation looks like a strength. Maybe not a lot of frontline guys, but a lot of quality guys, quality innings.... With Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs, they've got a couple of real high-upside starting pitchers who are close. It wouldn't surprise me to see Bauer up soon.
With 2011 Statistics
MANAGER KIRK GIBSON
3rd season with Diamondbacks
10 10 3.38 1.07
2 45 2.17 0.91 RH
5 11 3.38 1.14
RBIs from the ninth spot in Arizona's order in 2011—more than nine AL teams had in that slot. A quarter of those came from 16-game winner Daniel Hudson, who in his career has an RBI every 4.60 at bats. That's third best among active players (min. 100 PAs), behind Ryan Howard (4.39) and Manny Ramirez (4.50).
The Diamondbacks' decision to sign free-agent outfielder Jason Kubel was a head-scratcher to some. Incumbent leftfielder Gerardo Parra, 24, not only had a .292/.357/.427 line and went 15 for 16 on stolen base attempts, but by some measures he was the best defensive leftfielder in the NL in 2011. Kubel, though, gives manager Kirk Gibson some important flexibility: He can trade defense for offense. Parra's speed gives him sufficient range to shift to centerfield—a nice option to have because Arizona's regular centerfielder, Chris Young, has always struggled against righthanders. Having Kubel, a career .282/.342/.490 hitter against righties, allows Gibson to put him in left, Parra in center and Young on the bench in an effort to squeeze extra runs out of his lineup—particularly when groundball pitcher Trevor Cahill is starting, making outfield defense less of a concern. The Diamondbacks may also have taken advantage of a park effect when they signed Kubel, a former Twin, to a low-rate, two-year, $16 million deal. The move from the Metrodome to outdoor Target Field hurt him the last two years and suppressed his numbers. Back indoors at Chase Field, he should be closer to his career production levels.
ROBERT BECK (ROBERTS)
CHRIS PONDY/ICON SMI (KUBEL)