2/8/2013 12:00 A.M. ET
Spring promises balanced offensive attack in Arizona
D-backs shuffle deck as longest-tenured players depart in offseason
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- There will be a lot of new faces when the D-backs begin assembling at Salt River Fields for Spring Training.
Gone are players like Stephen Drew and Chris Young, the team's two longest-tenured players. And of course, former No. 1 overall pick Justin Upton will be toiling in Atlanta this year rather than Chase Field.
Yet the D-backs are feeling good about the additions they've made in the offseason, including Martin Prado, Brandon McCarthy and Eric Chavez.
"I think we're a much better club today than we were when the season ended," D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick said.
The D-backs lost some power, but they believe the offense will now be a more balanced attack that will be more consistent than in recent years.
"I would say that we're going to be a little different club," general manager Kevin Towers said. "I think we'll still hit home runs, but I think the last couple of years we've relied too much on the long ball. If you look at our record on the days we didn't homer, we usually didn't win. We wanted to have more of an offense where we had that speed dynamic."
The D-backs will also spend the spring trying to recapture the chemistry and cohesiveness they had in 2011, when they surprised many by winning the National League West.
"Everybody starts out at the beginning of the year and throws their hat in the ring and says we're in," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "But the reality of it is one by one, people start sneaking their hat out. You want to have the resiliency to have enough guts and determination and drive to leave yours in there and see it out to the end, and I feel good about that this year."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Home vs. Rockies, Feb. 23 at 1:10 p.m. MST
Home vs. Cardinals, April 1 at 7:10 p.m. MST
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. Who wins the No. 5 spot in the rotation?
The D-backs have tried to build their organization around pitching, and their success in that regard is evidenced by the fact that they only have one spot open in the rotation, which will likely be filled by a young pitcher.
Left-handers Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin, along with right-hander Randall Delgado, are the front-runners to win the spot. Skaggs and Corbin were both acquired by the D-backs in the Dan Haren trade in July 2010, while Delgado came over in the Justin Upton deal this winter.
Skaggs and Corbin both made their big league debuts last year, while Delgado has made 25 appearances (24 starts) for the Braves over the past two seasons.
It's hard to forecast this competition and it's one that is not likely to end when Spring Training does. Whoever claims the spot on Opening Day had better pitch well with the other two ready and waiting at Triple-A.
2. How is playing time in the outfield going to be distributed?
Heading into camp is looks as though Jason Kubel will start in left, Adam Eaton in center and Cody Ross in right.
Gibson, though, has said he wants to get plenty of at-bats for Gerardo Parra and that he could envision a rotation that got each of his four outfielders between 400 to 500 at-bats. How that plays out remains to be seen, but Eaton will likely need to have a strong spring for the club to feel comfortable having him be the primary center fielder.
3. Who hits where?
With as many as four players expected to be in this year's Opening Day lineup who were not there last Opening Day, Gibson will need to figure out where best to hit everyone.
One of the biggest dilemmas is the No. 2 spot in the order. Aaron Hill had great success there last year and Gibson frequently referred to the second baseman's comfort in that spot.
However Martin Prado has hit mostly second in his career and ideal for the role given his ability to make contact and get on base. It would seem the most logical thing would be to hit Prado second and slide Hill to No. 3, but Gibson might be wary of messing with Hill's success. Look for the manager to spend the spring trying to see whether Prado or Hill would be more comfortable with a move.
81-81, 3rd in the NL West
Projected batting order
1. CF Adam Eaton:
.259 BA, .382 OBP, .412 SLG, 2 HR, 5 RBI in 2012
2. 3B Martin Prado:
.301 BA, .359 OBP, .438 SLG, 10 HR, 70 RBI in 2012
3. 2B Aaron Hill:
.302 BA, .360 OBP, .522 SLG, 26 HR, 85 RBI in 2012
4. LF Jason Kubel:
.253 BA, .327 OBP, .506 SLG, 30 HR, 90 RBI in 2012
5. 1B Paul Goldschmidt:
.286 BA, .359 OBP, .490 SLG, 20 HR, 82 RBI in 2012
6. C Miguel Montero:
.286 BA, .391 OBP, .438 SLG, 15 HR, 88 RBI in 2012
7. RF Cody Ross:
.267 BA, .326 OBP, .481 SLG, 22 HR, 81 RBI in 2012
8. SS Cliff Pennington:
.215 BA, .278 OBP, .311 SLG, 6 HR, 28 RBI in 2012
1. Ian Kennedy, 15-12, 4.02 ERA in 2012
2. Trevor Cahill, 13-12, 3.78 ERA in 2012
3. Brandon McCarthy, 8-6, 3.24 ERA in 2012
4. Wade Miley, 16-11, 3.33 ERA in 2012
5. Tyler Skaggs, 1-3, 5.83 ERA in 2012
The new guys
RHP Heath Bell: The D-backs are hoping that a change of scenery will help Bell return to the form he displayed when he was a dominant closer in San Diego. The D-backs acquired him in a deal for a Minor Leaguer and are on the hook for $13 million of the $21 million he's owed over the next two seasons.
RHP Randall Delgado: Delgado was acquired by the D-backs from the Braves in the deal that sent Justin Upton to Atlanta. Arizona likes his upside, but he will have to pitch well this spring to earn a spot in the rotation.
RHP Brandon McCarthy: The 2012 season came to an abrupt and scary end for McCarthy on Sept. 5 when he was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of Erick Aybar and suffered a skull fracture and a brain contusion. The D-backs put McCarthy through an intensive physical before signing him to a two-year $15.5 million deal.
LHP Matt Reynolds: Reynolds is not a true left-handed specialist, in that he is able to get righties out at an even clip. He certainly can be counted on to pitch. Cincinnati's Sean Marshall and Atlanta's Jonny Venters are the only left-handers to make more appearances than Reynolds over the past two seasons.
LHP Tony Sipp: Acquired in the deal that sent Trevor Bauer to the Indians, Sipp provides the D-backs with another solid left-handed option in the bullpen. Last season he held lefties to a .209 batting average while righties hit .250 against him. Over his four-year career, his splits are reversed, with righties hitting .209 against him and lefties hitting .215.
3B Eric Chavez: Signed to a one-year deal, Chavez is expected to see the bulk of his playing time at third base, though he is an option at first as well. After watching him post solid numbers with the Yankees last season in a part-time role, the D-backs would like to limit him to around 250 or 300 at-bats to maximize his effectiveness.
INF Eric Hinske: A veteran who has adjusted to being a pinch-hitter, he will provide some thunder off the bench as well as provide first baseman Paul Goldschmidt with an occasional day off.
SS Cliff Pennington: Acquired in October from the A's in exchange for outfielder Chris Young, Pennington avoided salary-arbitration and signed a two-year contract. He will likely get the bulk of the starts at short while the club waits for young Didi Gregorius to be ready.
3B Martin Prado: The centerpiece of what the D-backs got back for Upton, Prado was signed to a four-year $40 million contract just after the trade. He is expected to get the majority of his starts at third base, but could also see time in the outfield. The D-backs value not only what he brings on the field, but his leadership off it as well.
SS Didi Gregorius: The D-backs see Gregorius as their shortstop of the future. When that future arrives is anybody's guess at this point. He made a brief appearance in the big leagues last September with the Reds, but the organization seems to think he would benefit from some more at-bats in Triple-A so he will likely start the year in Reno.
OF Cody Ross: Signed to a three-year $26 million free agent deal, Ross looks to be the team's primary starter in right field. While he won't post the numbers that Upton did in that spot, the team is counting on his leadership and all-out style of play to add to his value.
Prospects to watch
LHP Tyler Skaggs: Acquired in the Daren Haren deal in 2010, Skaggs is the top pitching prospect in the system. He has pitched well at every level and got his first taste of the big leagues last September. He'll have a shot at winning the No. 5 spot in the rotation during the spring, but even if he doesn't, he figures to be in the big leagues sooner rather than later.
LHP Patrick Corbin: Though Skaggs may have the higher ceiling, Corbin was a bit more polished last year, which earned him 22 big league appearances, including 17 starts. Very athletic -- he was once a standout basketball player -- Corbin fields his position well, holds runners and can handle the bat, which are all things that appeal to Gibson.
SS Didi Gregorius: The D-backs believed so much in Gregorius' potential that they traded right-hander Trevor Bauer, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 Draft for him this offseason. A slick defender, there has been some questions about his bat, but that does not seem to be a concern within the organization. He is likely to start the year in Reno in order to get some more experience, but he is viewed as the team's shortstop of the future.
3B Matt Davidson: The road to the big leagues got a little more complicated for Davidson after the team acquired Martin Prado from the Braves. Davidson was a supplemental first-round pick in 2009 and he has moved steadily through the system. He played at Double-A Mobile last year and was rewarded for an outstanding season with a spot in the Arizona Fall League.
On the rebound
RHP Heath Bell: After signing a three-year, $27 million free agent deal with the Marlins last year things went south in a hurry for Bell. He struggled out of the gate, lost his closer's job and then feuded with Miami manager Ozzie Guillen.
RHP Ian Kennedy: It's not like Kennedy had a bad season, but more was expected out of him following his 21-win season in 2011. Location seemed to be his major issue and the team is hopeful he will once again pitch like a top of the rotation hurler.
C Miguel Montero: Montero is expected to play for Venezuela. The D-backs certainly want to monitor his workload this year, as he led the Majors in innings caught last year with 1,190.
OF Gerardo Parra: Parra has had strong Spring Trainings the past two seasons and it was his performance in March 2011 that earned him the starting job in left field that year, when he went on to win a Gold Glove. He is set to play for Venezuela.
3B Martin Prado: Prado is listed as an outfielder on Venezuela's provisional roster. The D-backs would like to have him in camp as much as possible to help him learn his new teammates, and also so the coaching staff can get a feel for him firsthand.
RHP Heath Bell: The D-backs look at Bell, who is slated to pitch for Team USA, as their primary seventh-inning reliever.
SS Willie Bloomquist: Bloomquist has wanted to play for Team USA for a while now, and he is said to be fully recovered from the back issues that forced his 2012 season to come to an early end.
RHP David Hernandez: As the team's eighth-inning guy the previous two seasons, Hernandez has logged a lot of appearances so the D-backs are likely to monitor his workload closely.
RF Justin Upton: By far the biggest departure of the offseason was Upton, who after two years of trade rumors finally, was dealt to the Braves at the end of January.
SS Stephen Drew: The longest tenured D-backs player was sent packing to the A's in August last season and was signed by the Red Sox as a free agent during the offseason.
CF Chris Young: After struggling through an injury marred season, Young was dealt in October to the A's, where he will be reunited with former manager Bob Melvin.
RHP Takashi Saito: It's hard to consider Saito a departure, because it felt like he was never really a member of the team. Signed before last season as a free agent he was injured for much of the year and appeared in just 16 games.
RHP Matt Lindstrom: The D-backs liked what they saw of Lindstrom last year, but elected not to bring him back due to the depth they already had in the bullpen.
3B Chris Johnson: Acquired just before last year's trade deadline, Johnson would have split time at third base with Eric Chavez had he not been dealt to Atlanta in the Upton deal.
3B Ryan Wheeler: After a monster start to the 2012 season with Reno, Wheeler earned a callup. There were concerns about his defense, and the club dealt him to the Rockies in the deal that brought over Reynolds.