Running down the rosters: Arizona Diamondbacks

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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.

Braves’ prospect Ronald Acuna wins AFL MVP, helps clinch AFL Championship Game

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The Arizona Fall League competition came to a close on Saturday, concluding with the Peoria Javelinas’ 8-2 win over the Mesa Solar Sox for the championship title. No one stood out more than Braves’ no. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna, who took home honors as the AFL MVP after slashing .325/.414/.639 with a league-leading seven home runs and second-best 1.053 OPS in 83 at-bats.

At just 19 years old, Acuna is the youngest prospect to receive the award. He made his presence felt even before he suited up for the AFL, earning promotions to the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett and batting a remarkable .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs across three levels in 2017.

Acuna was also a major factor in the Javelinas’ win on Saturday, but he wasn’t the first to make some noise. The Solar Sox got to right-hander T.J. Zeuch in the first inning, leading off with three singles and a run-scoring sac fly to get a 2-0 edge over the Javelinas. It was the only lead they’d get all afternoon and it lasted just two innings. Luis Urias snapped the shutout with a sac fly in the bottom of the second inning, and the Javelinas took the lead with a game-tying RBI single from Acuna and two-run base hit from Braves’ no. 16 prospect Alex Jackson in the third.

From then on, it was smooth sailing for Peoria. Andrew Case, Andres Munoz and Art Warren combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief, while the offense tacked on another handful of runs with Acuna’s fourth-inning two-RBI single and Michael Chavis’ eighth-inning triple. With runners at the corners and one out, the Solar Sox lifted right-hander Dakota Bacus for fellow righty Nolan Blackwood. Even he was flummoxed by Acuna, however, who grabbed hold of the first pitch he saw and returned another sac fly to center field for the Javelinas’ eighth and final run of the game.

Only 131 days left until Opening Day, folks.