Running down the rosters: Arizona Diamondbacks

4 Comments

Give the Diamondbacks credit; even though all of the team’s key players were already under control for 2012, they didn’t stand pat after winning the NL West crown last season. In writing the team’s postmortem last October, I stated that adding a No. 3 starter had to be the priority. That’s what the team did in trading for Trevor Cahill. The Diamondbacks also spent to re-sign Aaron Hill and Joe Saunders (after originally non-tendering him) and then made one of the winter’s most surprising additions in bringing in free agent Jason Kubel.

Rotation
Ian Kennedy – R
Daniel Hudson – R
Trevor Cahill – R
Joe Saunders – L
Josh Collmenter – R

Bullpen
J.J. Putz – R
David Hernandez – R
Takashi Saito – R
Brad Ziegler – R
Craig Breslow – L
Joe Paterson – L
Bryan Shaw – R

SP next in line: Wade Miley (L), Trevor Bauer (R), Joe Martinez (R), Barry Enright (R)
RP next in line: Sam Demel (R), Jonathan Albaladejo (R), Mike Zagurski (L), Zach Kroenke (L)

That’s not necessarily a great rotation — I think Hudson is the only one of the returnees likely to duplicate his 2011 performance — but it’s certainly one that will keep the Diamondbacks in games. The Cahill acquisition was excellent, though it came at the expense of the team’s most major league-ready pitching prospect in Parker. Fortunately, Bauer, the team’s first-round pick in 2011, might not be far behind.

The bullpen is underrated. Putz can’t be counted on to stay healthy, but he was terrific over the course of 58 innings last season and Hernandez is perfectly capable of filling in as closer. Ziegler is an underrated righty specialist and can be paired with Breslow and Paterson in the seventh inning. There’s also plenty of depth. I especially liked the move to sign Albaladejo, the Yankees castoff who spent last year in Japan.

Lineup
SS Stephen Drew – L
2B Aaron Hill – R
RF Justin Upton – R
C Miguel Montero – L
CF Chris Young – R
LF Jason Kubel – L
1B Paul Goldschmidt – R
3B Ryan Roberts – R

Bench
C Henry Blanco – R
1B Lyle Overbay – L
INF John McDonald – R
INF-OF Willie Bloomquist – R
OF Gerardo Parra – L

Next in line: C Craig Tatum (R), INF Geoff Blum (S), INF Cody Ransom (R), OF Cole Gillespie (R), OF David Winfree (R)

The Diamondbacks still don’t have a real leadoff hitter, but it’s a potent lineup anyway. They’ll likely again try to get by with Drew in the spot, or Bloomquist if Drew opens the season on the disabled list. I’m not a fan of Hill in the two hole either, but he did hit .315/.386/.492 in 124 at-bats after coming over from the Jays last season.

Everything after that looks good. The Diamondbacks finished fourth in the NL in homers and third in slugging percentage last season. I think they’ll improve on both of those positions this season. The two teams that finished ahead of them in slugging happened to be the teams that lost Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols.

Part of the reason for that is the Kubel signing. I’m not really sure he’s an upgrade on Parra in left field — the power will come at the expense of defense — but it did give the team a lot more depth. Now they can just plug in Parra if an outfielder gets hurt. Without Kubel, they’d be stuck playing Bloomquist regularly or trying Gillespie or Winfree in the event of an outfield injury.

Another thing the Kubel signing did was give the team six bench players for five spots. Unless Drew or someone else needs to start off on the disabled list, Blum, the recipient of a foolish two-year contract last winter, will probably be released.

At the end of last season, I wasn’t optimistic about the Diamondbacks repeating in 2012. Now, I am. Props go out to ownership for expanding the budget and GM Kevin Towers for bringing in a couple of quality pieces. They definitely had a better winter than the Dodgers or Giants.

Andrelton Simmons is absolutely freaking ridiculous

Associated Press
2 Comments

I’ve been watching Andrelton Simmons play shortstop since he came up with the Braves back in 2012. From the moment he burst onto the scene it was clear that he was an otherworldly defensive talent. His arm was incredible. His range was astonishing. His sense of where he was on the field and his instincts about what to do with the ball were unmatched.

I’ll admit, however, that I’ve seen him less in the past couple of seasons than I used to. It’s understandable: he no longer plays for my favorite team and he now plays most of his games after old men like me go to bed back east. The numbers have shown that he’s still the best defensive shortstop around and the highlights which get circulated are still astounding, but I’ve not appreciated him on a day-to-day level like I once did.

But that just makes me more grateful for the highlights when I miss him in action. Like this one, from last night’s game against the Astros. You can see it in high resolution here, but if you can’t click over there, here’s the play as it was tweeted around:

I didn’t see last night’s game, but my friend Dan Lewis tweeted this out a bit. His observations about it in this thread explain why what Simmons is doing here is so amazing:

The lay-outs, the bobble-saves, the jump-throws and all of that spectacular stuff are understandably appreciated, but the various skills Simmons displayed in just this one play — not to mention the freakin’ hustle he displays backing up third base after it all — is just astounding.

There hasn’t been one like him for a while. We should all appreciate him while he’s still in his prime.

The Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager

Getty Images
5 Comments

Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported over the weekend that the Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager. Part of that comes after team meetings between Snitker and top brass. Some of it, however, is likely attributable to player sentiment, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting this morning that Freddie Freeman and several Braves players have told the Braves front office that they want Snitker back.

Is it a good idea to bring Snitker back? Eh, I’m leaning no, with the caveat that it probably doesn’t make a huge difference in the short term.

The “no” is based mostly on the fact that Snitker has had a disturbing trend of preferring veterans over young players, as Bradley explains in detail here. For a brief moment this summer the Braves seemed surprisingly competitive. Not truly competitive if anyone was being honest, but they were hovering around .500 and were arguably in the wild card race. Around that time he made a number of questionable decisions that favored marginal and/or injured veterans over some young players who will be a part of the next truly competitive Braves team, likely messing with their confidence and possibly messing with their development.

These moves were not damaging, ultimately, to the 2017 Braves on the field — they were going to be under .500 regardless — but it was the sort of short-term thinking that a manager for a rebuilding team should not be employing. Part of the blame for this, by the way, can be put on the front office, who only gave Snitker a one-year contract when they made him the permanent manager last year, creating an incentive for him to win in 2017 rather than manage the club the way a guy who knows when the team will truly be competitive should manage it. Then again, if Snitker was so great a candidate in the front office’s mind, why did they only give him a one-year contract?

I suspect a lot of it has to do with loyalty. Snitker has been an admirable Braves company man for decades, and that was certainly worthy of respect by the club. That he got the gig was likewise due in part to the players liking him — the veteran players — and they now are weighing in with their support once again. At some point, however, loyalty and respect of veterans has to take a back seat to a determination of who is the best person to bring the team from rebuilding to competitiveness, and Snitker has not made the case why he is that man.

Earlier, of course, I said it probably doesn’t matter all that much if they do, in fact, bring Snitker back. I say this because he will, in all likelihood, be given a short leash again, probably in the form of a one-year extension. It would not surprise me at all if, in the extraordinarily likely event the Braves look to be outclassed in the division by the Nationals again in 2018, they made a managerial switch midseason, as they did in 2016. If that is, indeed, the plan, it seems like the front office is almost planning on losing again in 2018 and using the future firing of Snitker as a time-buying exercise. Not that I’m cynical or anything.

Either way, I don’t think Snitker is the right guy for the job. Seems, though, that he’ll get at least an offseason and a couple of months to prove me wrong.