The Arizona Diamondbacks seem to have quite a few players who have either under- or outperformed the baseballing community’s initial assessments of them. Of course, this isn’t true of all the D-Backs — I mean, Augie Ojeda is probably right about where you’d expect him to be — but still, to this author’s mind, it does appear as though the team possesses quite a few players who were misread initially.
Which is why, for this edition of Current Talent — and to appease that part of the brain that looks for patterns in everything — we’ll look at three categories of D-Back: the Outperformers, the Underperformers, and then the Other Guys.
There were big concerns about Mark Reynolds‘ contact rates and major league position. A 2007 injury to Chad Tracy solved the latter; as for the former, well, it turns out that if you hit 44 homers and take some walks, you’re okay. How could wunderkind Justin Upton outperform his pedigree? Pretty easy, actually; by being better than these guys: Bryan Bullington, Delmon Young, and Matt Bush. Those are the three Number One Picks before Upton.
Dan Haren was, at one point, traded for Mark Mulder. Now he’s basically a lock for about 200 innings of low-3s FIP. Back in the day, Brandon Webb was an eighth round pick out of Kentucky. Before last year’s injury, he was a constant threat for the Cy Young. That’s what a sinkpiece and an outpitch will do for you. (Although, it needs to be said, the injury is of great concern right now.) Chad Qualls received the Heath Bell treatment for some years. Now he’s en route to becoming a Proven Closer. Like Bell, he’s got sweet groundball numbers.
It’s almost definitely unfair to deem an underachiever somone who’s projected by CHONE to post a 2.8 WAR, but shortstop Stephen Drew hasn’t yet become the player that the prospect maven community expected. Slightly above average isn’t bad, mind you, but that wasn’t the original assessment. “Left fielder” Conor Jackson was hailed for his excellent plate discipline — and it’s true, he’s has always had pretty excellent numbers as far as that goes (10.2% BB rate versus 13.0% K rate). Thing is, if you play corner outfield — and your name’s not Ichiro — you should probably jack a donger every once in a while. “Power-speed combo” must’ve been thrown around like a million times about center fielder Chris Young before he made his debut. Unfortunately, people said the same thing about Corey Patterson, too. Like Patterson, Young hasn’t really figured out how to get on base, and his career 91 wRC+ shows it.
Starter Edwin Jackson appears poised for a career as a league-average innings-thrower. That’s worth something, for sure — just not what we expected. Ian Kennedy will get an chance immediate chance to prove himself in the D-Backs’ rotation this spring. His 43/37 K/BB ratio in 59.2 major league innings bears little resemblance to the 273/77 K/BB in 248.2 minor league ones.
Miguel Montero seems to have successfully banished fellow catcher Chris Snyder to the role of back-up. Both are offensive pluses. Adam LaRoche will play an average-ish first base and hit like Albert Pujols — starting in mid-July. Second baseman Kelly Johnson got taught a lesson in random variation last season as his BABIP plummted to .247. That’s unlikely to happen again.
On the bench you got Ryan Roberts, who’s not bad at all, backing up non-shortstop infield positions; the lovable Augie Ojeda ready to fill in for Stephen Drew; and 23-year-old Gerardo Parra, The giant and powerful Brandon Allen might make an appearance at some point.
Billy Buckner posted a 3.95 xFIP last season, largely on the strength of a groundball rate (48.8%) that far surpassed his previous major league numbers. He’s poised to pick up many of Webb’s lost innings. Rodrigo Lopez and Kevin Mulvey represent a name you thought you’d never hear again and a name you may never hear again.
Finally, like many teams, the D-Backs have a bullpen. In this case it’s not the beacon of excitement. Juan Gutierrez has some of the proverbial giddy-up on his fastball (94.8 mph last year) and his slider came out to 3.00 runs per 100 pitched. Aaron Heilman is meh-worthy and Bob Howry throws a straightball. Clay Zavada and Zachary Kroenke are LOOGY-types, but only one has the facial hair of a medieval knight. Bobby Cox attempted to detach Blaine Boyer’s arm in Atlanta. Let’s hope it still works.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.