Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here
Overall – 82 points (7th MLB, 2nd NL)
Starting Rotation – 33 points (4th MLB, 1st NL)
Line-Up – 33 points (12th MLB, 7th NL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 16 points (T-5th MLB, T-3rd NL)
Offseason Additions – Dan Haren, Chad Qualls, Billy Buckner (seriously)
Offseason Subtractions – Tony Clark, Livan Hernandez, Carlos Quentin, Jose Valverde
Biggest Strength– Brandon Webb and Dan Haren
In Webb and Haren, I believe that the Diamondbacks have the best 1-2 punch in the major leagues. Both are on the right side of their primes (Webb is 28, Haren is 27), both are very reliable (Webb averaged 233 inning over the last 3 years, Haren averaged 221) and both are dominant (Webb had a 3.01 ERA last year, Haren had a 3.07). While not quite as good as Johnson/Schilling, these two will have the same affect on the team, giving them a distinct advantage in 40% of their games.
Biggest Weakness– Young Offense
The Diamondbacks won their division last year despite being OUTSCORED and having essentially the same run differential as the 76 win, 86 loss, Oakland A’s. They are loaded with talented young hitters such as Stephen Drew, Justin Upton, Conor Jackson, Mark Reynolds and Chris Young. However, they can’t count on doing it with smoke and mirrors again this year. Some of these players are going to have to step up. Picking a team to make the playoffs that has Eric Byrnes as it’s best offensive player scares me a little bit. With that said…
Key Player in ’08– Conor Jackson
You could really put any of those young guys here, but based on 2007 numbers, I’m guessing that Jackson has the best chance to break out. He was 2nd to Mark Reynolds on the team in OPS (.836) despite not striking out very much (50 Ks in 477 PA). He has decent pop and could approach 30 HR and 90-100 RBI. This will be his 3rd full year in the league, and at 25, he’s at an age and service time where many hitters make that next step. But if he doesn’t, who knows, maybe it will be…
Player to Keep an Eye On– Justin Upton
Upton was called up to big leagues last year as a teenager. At 19, he was nearly 2 years younger than anyone else in NL. At the time of his call-up, he was doing pretty well in AA. How well? Well – if you took the numbers he was putting up and extrapolate them over a normal MLB season, they would have looked like this: .309 BA, 111 Runs, 39 2B, 9 3B, 30 HR, 122 RBI, 23 SB, .955 OPS. For a 19 year old SS? That’s completely ridiculous. Upton certainly has the biggest ceiling of any of the young D-Backs, but it will likely take him awhile to get there (though the .360 he’s hitting in spring training might suggest otherwise). When he does, he will probably be the best SS in the majors. (Editors Note: He will play RF in the majors – so it will be difficult for him to be the best SS. But he’ll still be really good – you get the point)
2008 Outlook: 1st Place, NL West. I think that Diamondbacks will win about 70% of the games that Webb and Haren pitch, and that their offense, bullpen and the intangibles (defense, managing) that won them games last year will do enough to win 50% of the games they don’t. That’ll put them at about 93 wins and at the top of this division. If Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds and the rest of the young snakes all break-out, this team will be unstoppable.