Thursday, April 8, 2010

2010 Year in Preview: Arizona Diamondbacks

When you think "Arizona Diamondbacks", what comes to mind?  Randy Johnson?  Curt Schilling? Justin Upton?  Yusmeiro Petit?  The D'Backs have been around since 1998 and were an almost instant success,  winning three NL West titles in 1999, 2001 and 2002, and winning the World Series in 2001.  Since then they've had mixed results, never reaching the World Series again.  Maybe it's because I'm a Yankees fan, I don't know, but when I think DBacks I think of Luis Gonzalez leaping in joy as the Diamondbacks won the World Series, walkoff style.

Ugh.  I enjoyed your post-steroidal dropoff, Luis, and I'm looking forward to Justin Upton becoming the face of the franchise for the next six years.   

Key Departures
Eric Byrnes, scrap scrap scrap scrap scrap scrap scrap DFA,  Doug Davis, signed with Milwaukee, Max Scherzer and Daniel Schlereth, traded to Tigers. 

Key Additions
Received Aaron Heilman in trade with Cubs, received RHP Edwin Jackson and RHP Ian Kennedy from Tigers and Yankees, respectively, exercised the one year, $8.5M option on RHP Brandon Webb, signed 1B Adam LaRoche to a one year, $6M deal, signed the DFA'd Kelly Johnson to a one year, $2.35M deal, signed RP Bob Howry to a one year, $2.25M deal.  Signed RF and Force of Nature Justin Upton to a six year, $51.25M extension, signed 3B Mark Reynolds to a three year, $14.5M extension with an $11M club option for 2013, signed RHP Edwin Jackson to a two year, $13.35M extension. 

Talent En Route
The Diamondbacks farm system is a bit thin on talent.  The top prospect is RHP Jarrod Parker, whom you can find on Twitter here.  Parker was the Diamondbacks first-round pick in 2007.  Drafted straight out of high school, Parker had a sparkling debut in A ball as a 19 year old, throwing 117 IP and striking out 117 batters while walking only 33.  His ERA was 3.44, which almost masks how excellent the peripherals were (9.0 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, 3.55 K/BB, 1.241 WHIP.  As you can see, Parker has great control.  His ERA and his WHIP (1.241) suggest then that he was too hittable at times.  This diagnosis was confirmed by BP's Kevin Goldstein

"Parker can be more hittable than his stuff should allow for, as he tends to throw his fastball not only for strikes, but down the middle too often."
 Parker began his 2009 campaign in High A, where he dominated in a short stint with a 0.95 ERA (19, 12, 4, 21).  He was then promoted to Double A, where he posted a 3.68 ERA over 78 innings, striking out 74, walking 34 and allowing 82 hits. His WHIP was a career high 1.481, inflated by a career high in H/9 (9.4) and BB/9 (3.9).  His K/9 (8.5) and K/BB (2.18) were also career lows.  All things considered, this was a solid start to the season even if he was still a tad too hittable and was walking more batters than before.  His K rate was still decent (8.5), and he was only 20 years old. 

Unfortunately, Parker was injured midway through the year and required Tommy John surgery.  He is scheduled to miss all of 2010.  If he returns strong, we could see him shoot up the 2011 prospect lists and crack the bigs in late 2011 or early 2012. In the meantime, Parker will continue rehabbing and blogging about it at Parker's Pitch.  Parker wrote this the day after his surgery:  

Everything went well yesterday during and after the procedure! I struggled to get comfortable last night with a cast on my right arm and my left leg wrapped in a brace. The reason my leg was in a brace was because they used a graft from that leg to repair the ucl in my right arm. 
 He also commented on a typical rehab day at the facilities:
Following the whirlpool treatment I start my wrist and elbow stretching and range of motioin exercises. These usually can be done on my own but when I'm finished our training staff wants to see my progression and they help me get more movement. An important thing that people quickly forget is how crucial it is keeping your shoulder strong throughtout all this. This week was the first week I was able to start moving my leg more freely, I was able to get on the bike and loosen my knee and hamstring up. We have been focusing a lot on the small stuff and there are some new things we add to my program daily, which I love cause I am always willing to try new exercises and get better.
Interesting stuff.  Parker will be one to watch in 2011.  Another name to watch is 1B Brandon Allen, who will begin the year in AAA.  Allen is 6'2", 235 lb right-handed hitter that the DBacks acquired from the White Sox in exchange for reliever Tony Pena.  In 2008 he knocked 29 home runs in 539 PAs between High A and Double A for the White Sox, posting a line of .278/.367/.555.  He began 2009 as a 23 year old in Doulbe A Birmingham for the White Sox and performed adequately, 7 HR in 274 PAs with a tripleslash of .290/.372/.452.  He was then promoted for 15 games to Triple A Charlotte, before getting dealt to the DBacks, who assigned him to Triple A Reno.  In Reno, the biggest little city in the world and home of Lieutenant Dangle, Allen raked, hitting .324/.413/.641 and clubbing 12 home runs in 167 PAs.  However, Reno is a notorious hitters' park, and the offensive stats are inflated.  Perhaps this is why the DBacks signed Adam LaRoche to a 1 year, 4.5M deal.  Clearly they want Allen to take more time to develop his power stroke in Triple A.  

2011 Free Agency and Salary Outlook 
The Diamondbacks enter 2010 with around $71M committed to their payroll, which is slightly down from their Opening Day number in 2009 of $73M.  In 2011, they have $43M committed to payroll, not factoring in arbitration raises.  The Diamondbacks have $14.2M coming off the payroll in Brandon Webb ($8M), Chad Qualls ($4.2M) and Aaron Heilman ($2M), which bumps it down to around $58.2M.  How then does it drop to $43M, you ask?  Weeeell, the Diamondbacks are paying $14.7M in 2010 to players that are no longer on their team.  Eric Byrnes, whom they DFAd and is playing for the Mariners, is getting $11.2M, Jon Garland is getting $2.5M and Chad Tracy is getting $1M.  Add it all up, and you've got a 2011 payroll of $43M. 

Thankfully for the Diamondbacks, $43M includes the hefty raises that will go to their core talent.  Haren will  be getting a bump from $8.25M to $12.8, Mark Reynolds will be going from $800K to $5.3M, and The Force of Nature that is The Justin Upton will be going from $700K to $4.4M, as a part of his 6 year, $50M extension that will prove to be worth EVERY PENNY.  Now, $43M will rise as Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson, Kelly Johnson, Miguel Montero, and Augie Ojeda get arbitration raises.  Let's tack on an additional $10M for those players.

So the Diamondbacks will move into the winter of 2011 with a payroll in the neighborhood of $55M, which may give them at least $15M to spend.  Where are their holes?

C - Miguel Montero - only in second year of arbitration eligiblity
1B - Adam LaRoche - club option for 2011 or call up Brandon Allen
2B - Kelly Johnson in third year of arbitration eligiblity
SS - Stephen Drew in second year of arbitration eligibility
3B - Mark Reynolds signed through 2012
LF - Conor Jackson in third year of arbitration eligibility
CF - Chris Young signed through 2013 (gulp)
RF - Justin Upton signed through 2015(!)

SP 1 - Dan Haren signed through 2012 with 2013 club option
SP 2 - Edwin Jackson signed through 2011
SP 3 - Ian Kennedy not even arbitration eligible yet

The Diamondbacks will be in pursuit of some help for the rotation and for the back end of the bullpen.  If Qualls works out, I wouldn't be surprised to see them attempt to resign him quickly.  In the rotation, the Diamondbacks are hoping that Webb can regain his 2008 form.  Either way, I wouldn't be surprised to see him rejoin the team in 2011, probably at a discounted rate. This will leave the Diamondbacks with enough money to pursue a free agent SP.  Possible targets could include Bronson Arroyo, Kevin Correia, Chad Gaudin, Hiroki Kuroda or Kevin Millwood.  I would be surprised to see them make a run at a more expensive pitcher like Cliff Lee or Javier Vazquez.

The Future of the Diamondbacks
A lot needs to go right for the Diamondbacks to compete in 2010.  They need Brandon Webb to be healthy. They need Edwin Jackson to have a relatively good year, although not as good as he had in the first half of the year with the Tigers (which wasn't really that good, if you look at his xFIP).  They also need some help from guys like Ian Kennedy and Rodrigo Lopez.  On the offensive side, the D'Backs have a very nice core of talent in Montero, Reynolds and Upton.  If some of the group of Johnson, LaRoche, Jackson or Young could put it together and have a solid year, the Diamondbacks could be contenders in the weak NL West.  If they flounder, the Diamondbacks will go down very quickly and will have some tough decisions to make about 2011.  Dan Haren and Justin Upton are world-class players.  The question is, both now and in the coming years, how good the Diamondbacks front office will be at filling out the roster behind them.  I'm cautiously optimistic, but they'll have to be very shrewd.


  1. They deserve that payroll. Colorado also did that to their team several seasons ago. You can check it online. Payroll services method on teams have changed because of that. Great!