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N.L. West Preview: Arizona Ready To Take Next Steps

by Joe LaTengo on March 26, 2012

in MLB Baseball

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Kirk Gibson has electrified the Arizona Diamondbacks like few others could. The run-heavy “Gibby-ball” captured the imagination of the fans in the desert since Gibson was named interim manager; it propelled the team from back-to-back last-place finishes to 94 wins in 2011 and an improbable National League West title. They’ve steadily advanced since the “interim” tag was removed from Gibson’s title, and it could very well lead them further into the playoffs.

The Action: General manager Kevin Towers traded three prospects to the Oakland A’s for starter Trevor Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow. He also re-signed starter Joe Saunders, lured Jason Kubel away from the Minnesota Twins with a two-year, $15-million deal and, for good measure, picked up Takashi Saito to pack the bullpen.

It’s A Lock: On the day this preview was posted, the club announced its starting rotation: 21-game-winner Ian Kennedy; Daniel Hudson, who could become a 20-game winner this season; up-and-comer Josh Collmenter; Cahill, and Saunders. It’s a strong mix of veterans and young arms, and can hold its own against any in the division. Add closer J.J. Putz into the mix, along with Breslow and Saito in the bullpen, and it’s a collection of arms which should be the envy of most of the teams in the league.

Justin Upton is expected to take his regular turn and provide much of the power in this lineup. Chris Young is ripping it up with a spring average over .400; he has done this before, though. There’s no doubting the strength behind the plate with Miguel Montero and Henry Blanco.

Hedge Your Bets: It could be the make-or-break season for Stephen Drew, who is coming back from a broken ankle; Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald will be there if Drew can’t cut it. Paul Goldschmidt is still a question mark, with dubious range at first base and a bat filled with holes; Lyle Overbay will fill in when necessary.

Ryan Roberts doesn’t set the world on fire at third base, but he does have some power and can steal a base or two, which is critical if he wants to fit into Gibson’s plans. Nonetheless, Geoff Blum will probably see playing time there and at first base. Aaron Hill is kind of like Roberts (certainly with fewer tattoos), but his home-run bat seems to have disappeared.

The Payoff: The National League West is a division where anyone can come to the fore, and the MLB futures betting has the D-Backs just behind the San Francisco Giants for the league title. With five teams in each league now making it into the playoffs for the first time ever, Arizona is definitely a threat to go a long way if their pitching stays fit and one or two players find their power stroke.

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