Sunday, February 9, 2014

2014 Baseball Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

So, as a lead up to the 2014 MLB season, I think I am going to do some posts previewing the baseball season.  They're not going to be super exciting if you don't like baseball.  But since I do, I don't really care that much. I'm going to go through the teams in alphabetic order.

Team: Arizona Diamondbacks

Last season's record: 81-81

Key off-season additions: Mark Trumbo (.234/.294/.454, 106 wRC+, 2.5 fWAR), Addison Reed (71.1 IP, 9.08 K/9, 1.7 fWAR), Bronson Arroyo (202 IP, 3.79 ERA, 4.49 FIP, 0.8 fWAR)

Key off-season losses: Tyler Skaggs (38.2 IP 5.12 ERA, 4.86 FIP, 0.1 fWAR in 2013, 1.4 fWAR projected in 2014), Matt Davidson (.237/.333/.434, 108 wRC+ in 2013, 0.7 fWAR projected in 2014), Adam Eaton (.252/.314/.360 84 wRC+ in 2013, 2.0 fWAR projected in 2014), Willie Bloomquist (.317/.360/.361 101 wRC+ 0.5 fWAR in 2013), Wil Nieves (.297/.320/.369, 86 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR in 2013, 0.2 fWAR projected in 2014)

Preview: After the 2nd consecutive season where the Diamondbacks finished with 81 wins, they reached out to revamp portions of their offense.  Trumbo was brought in from the Angels to provide some pop with MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt.  Despite Trumbo's immense power, he barely provides offense above league average because of his lack of on-base ability (6.3% career walk rate).  Trumbo also provides little value on the base and even worse out in the field.  All told, he is projected to provide about two wins above replacement.  Considering what the Diamondbacks gave up for him, in Skaggs and Eaton, it doesn't look like they improved the team much.  They dealt with the White Sox again, this time giving up one of their top prospects in Matt Davidson for relief pitcher Addison Reed.  Reed will likely produce about 1 win above replacement for the Diamondbacks.  After trading Skaggs in their quest to find power, they turned their search to finding a new pitcher.  They were initially involved with Matt Garza and were rumored to be after Masashiro Tanaka before the Yankees outbid everyone else for his services.  Instead, the Diamondbacks overspent for a pitcher who will provide about 200 innings of averageish pitching, in Bronson Arroyo.  While Arroyo provides some value to a team, he is costing the team millions of dollars more than he should.

The Diamondbacks have a fine core of Goldschmidt, Martin Prado, Gerrardo Parra, A.J. Pollock, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Montero, Wade Miley, Patrick Corbin, and Trevor Cahill.  They also have top prospect Archie Bradley coming up which will help the team.  But I don't think the team improved where they thought they were going to and it looks like they will be around the mid-80's again, in terms of wins.  It doesn't look like they have much of a chance competing in the N.L. West against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

MVP candidate: Paul Goldschmidt. Last year, he put up an fWAR of 6.4 with an wRC+ of 156.  He is the best player on the Diamondbacks.  He looks like he'll have another season of over 30 home runs.  If he continues his strong contact skills, he might be able to approach a .300/.400/.500 slash line for the second straight year.  But it's not just his offense that makes him an MVP candidate.  He provides some value on the basepaths and has proven to be a solid defender at first base.  Even with my fairly conservative projections, especially regarding his batting average, it looks like Goldschmidt is likely to have another all-star caliber season and probably challenge for some more MVP votes.

Cy Young candidate: Patrick Corbin.  Corbin was the best pitcher on the Diamondbacks last year, posting a 3.7 fWAR by preventing runs 13% better than league average.  His FIP and ERA are nearly identical, which won't help him be mentioned as a potential ace.  Corbin looks like he is going to put up similar numbers in 2014.  Being very young, he might be a potential breakout candidate.  If that is the case, he might begin to be mentioned as an eventual leaguewide Cy Young candidate.  But because he is a young pitcher, there is always the chance of an arm injury that might derail his career.  At any rate, Corbin will be the best pitcher on the Diamondbacks for 2014.  If they expect to get closer to 90 wins, it will be because pitchers like Corbin make an additional step forward.

Up from the farm: Archie Bradley.  Bradley has all the potential of being a true number one starter in the Major Leagues before too long.  He will probably start the 2014 season in Triple A and will likely join the big league staff by the second half of the season.  He is ranked as the top prospect for the team by most talent evaluators and is also the one who is most major league ready.  There has been some speculation that the Diamondbacks might make a trade for David Price using Bradley as the centerpiece of the trade. Prospects will break your heart if you keep waiting for them, but Bradley might be one of the few ones who live up to the hype.

So, for each team, I am going to choose my favorite player to root for or player I think more people should be paying attention to.  I'll do small updates throughout the season about this team.  There will be a total of 30 players who will make up the roster, but by and large, will be about a full team in terms of roster construction.

My player: Gerardo Parra, Parra is about a league average hitter but his real value is found everywhere else.  Parra is one of the best defensive outfielders in the Major Leagues.  A combination of these things makes Parra a +3 win player.  Depending on how you feel about his defense, he can be considered an all-star caliber player.  This year, his age 27 season, could see him break out offensively.  I think Parra is a guy to watch out for this year, and potentially an all-star that not many people are talking about.  

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