29 – Number of days until Opening Day
48,525 - Number of signatures at www.budweiser.com/openingday to make Opening Day a National Holiday
ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS PREVIEW
Key Additions: Addison Reed, Mark Trumbo, Bronson Arroyo
Key Departures: Wil Nieves, Matt Davidson, Tyler Skaggs, Adam Eaton, Heath Bell
This is a team that underperformed in 2013 and will have a chip on its shoulders entering this year. It was a busy winter for the Diamondbacks as they made two big trades, acquiring Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed. Both players have a chance to contribute greatly this year. These moves were about now, not the future. It will be interesting to see how these trades work out, both in the short term and long term.
OFFENSE: When you talk about the Diamondbacks offense, it starts with Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy had an incredible year in 2013 both at the plate and in the field. In 159 games, he hit .302, 36 home runs, and 125 RBI. He led the NL in home runs and just missed out on the NL MVP to Andrew McCutchen. For the Diamondbacks to be successful this year, Goldschmidt has to produce the same type of numbers he did last year. The offense produced the fifth most runs in the league despite not hitting a lot of home runs (130, ties for 11th in the NL). The question is will Trumbo hit 40+ HR season now that he has a home that’s a little more homer friendly? He hit 32 and 34 in the last two seasons, so it's fair to expect him to have a big year.
The player that must improve is Miguel Montero. He didn't exactly follow up on his 2011 and 2012 campaigns as many had thought. He dealt with a lingering back injury that eventually forced him to the disabled list August, limiting him to 116 games for the season. A 100% healthy Montero isn’t only good at the plate, but behind it as well.
PITCHING: After failing to find a front line starting pitcher through trade (they had talks with the Cubs regarding Jeff Samardzija) and free agency (mentioned among the Masahiro Tanaka suitors), the D-backs settled for Bronson Arroyo. With this signing, they added a back-of-the-rotation innings-eater, while correspondingly improving their pitching depth. The starting rotation will be Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Arroyo, and Randall Delgado. Corbin's sophomore seas0n was a bit overlooked due to the breakout campaign from Goldschmidt. Corbin won 14 games and struck out 178 batters while posting a 3.41 ERA. Corbin also finished 9th in the National League in innings thrown - 208.1 in just his second season.
BULLPEN: The Diamondbacks absolutely stole Addison Reed from White Sox. He is a top tier closer that averaged a strike out per inning. In 71 1/3 innings last year, he had 40 saves and struck out 72 batters. I guarantee you that Reed will be an All-Star closer this year for the Diamondbacks. J.J. Putz can certainly fill the ninth inning role if Reed were to stumble, but a more likely role for Putz this year is a set-up role.
2014 Prediction: Can this team break the string of two mediocre seasons in which they finished at .500 (81-81)? I say yes because you would be hard pressed to see a team play .500 baseball in three consecutive seasons. The offense is better as is the pitching staff. The Diamondbacks will strike out a lot and do not have much speed. But, this was one of the best defensive teams in the National League last year and they should continue to be in 2014. The Diamondbacks will fly under the radar and if they venture to the good side of .500, the pitching will need to perform at a higher level than last season. This staff permitted the third worst batting average against among all NL staffs at .257. Their starters allowed the fourth most runs (482), while the bullpen was in the middle of the pack.
FINAL RECORD: 86-76 (2nd place in NL West)
32 – Number of days until Opening Day
43,186 – Number of signatures at www.budweiser.com/openingday to make Opening Day a National Holiday
This weekend I will be making my annual journey to Mesa,AZ to visit the new Cubs Park. I watched opening day at the park yesterday and it looks like the new gem of the Cactus League. I'll be attending the Royals/Cubs game on Sunday afternoon. It will be great to watch a ballgame and enjoy my beverage of choice. The Cubs are going anywhere there year, but I still find myself full of excitement and anticipation. On Monday, I will begin breaking down each team and give you my predictions for 2014.
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