And Now You're 2006 Diamondbacks
This could be Gonzo's farewell tour
This could be Gonzo's farewell tour
Managing Editor
Posted Apr 3, 2006


The roster is set (at least for opening day) and the Diamondbacks are ready to play ball. FutureBacks takes a quick look at every player, what to expect, how they got here, and where they're going.

Greg Aquino  RHP

The Next In Line

Aquino beat out Casey Daigle for the final spot in the D'Backs opening day bullpen this season after a sparkling spring.  As a rookie he was a dominant closer over the last two months of the disastrous '04 season but arm troubles limited his appearances and effectiveness in '05.  A non-drafted free agent signed as a shortstop back in 1995, a combination of weak bat and strong arm propelled him to the mound, where he rocketed up the minor league ladder.

 

Miguel Batista  RHP

Return to Start

Batista returns to Arizona, where he was a key in the 2001 World Series run, as a starting pitcher after coming to the D'Backs in the trade that sent Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays.

 

Juan Cruz  RHP

Deciding Factor

Once a top prospect in the Cubs system, Cruz has been plagued by inconsistency in both the starting rotation and the bullpen.  Came from Oakland late this spring in the trade the simultaneously sent Brad Halsey to the A's and vaulted Claudio Vargas into the #5 spot in the rotation.  There is no doubt to Cruz's talent, he regularly hits the upper 90s with movement, but harnessing an arm (and body) that has been compared to Pedro Martinez more than once is the key.

 

Jason Grimsley  RHP

Redemption?

In 1985 Grimsley was a 10th round pick by the Phillies.  Since then he’s been…well…everywhere.  He might forever be remembered in Houston as the man who was traded, straight up, for Curt Schilling, while most recently he was a disappointment for the Orioles, as he fought arm and leg problems.  He’s in Arizona, his ninth organization (though he had multiple stints with both the Indians and Royals), to provide veteran leadership to a very young bullpen.

 

Orlando Hernandez  RHP

El Duque Hanging On

Hernandez came to the Diamondbacks along with Chris Young in the December 2005 trade that sent Javier Vazquez to the White Sox.  While he will start the season as the #2 starter in the rotation questions about his velocity and durability could drop him down, or even out, of the rotation before mid-season.

 

Brandon Lyon  RHP

A Full Season?

Yet another pitcher (along with Jason Grimsley) who has, at one point in time or another, been traded for Curt Schilling.  Lyon might be one of the great closers in the game if he could keep himself healthy.  Came out of the shoot super-hot in 2005 as the closer before, once again, succumbing to arm troubles.  Slotted tentatively as one of the two set up men to start the '06 season.

 

Terry Mulholland LHP

Retiring Hitters or Retirement Home

Invited to camp in 2006 as a non-roster invitee, and stuck because of a combination of factors including the fact that he will be the only lefty in the bullpen, or on the staff for that matter.  Other factors could include the fact that he was in the league before some his fellow bullpen mates were born, and that he's both durable and versatile.  Expect Mulholland to make a minimum of 50 appearances this season, at least two or three of which will likely be spot starts.

 

Russ Ortiz  RHP

Most Likely to Disappoint

Signed with the D'Backs in December of 2004 coming from the Atlanta Braves where he won 21 games in 2003.  He has never been that good since.  Despite a spring that included an ERA nearing 7.00 Ortiz claims he's ready for the season.  Reports had the D'Backs shopping him to anyone in the league, and getting no takers even when they offered to pick up half his salary.  The starter most likely to be replaced by Kevin Jarvis and Dustin Nippert before the All-Star Break Ortiz continues to try to be too fine, falling behind in counts and then having to throw flat fastballs that seem to, more often than not, end up in the bleachers.

 

Jose Valverde  Closer

As Close to A ‘Sure Thing’ as We’ve Got

'Papa Grande' is back as the closer, without question.  Published reports have manager Bob Melvin telling Valverde the job was his at the end of last season, and he kept his word, despite having a minimum of three other possibilities (Lyon, Aquino, and Daigle have all closed before), never wavering.  And why would he, when Valverde has been healthy he's been solid, he has both the arm (mid 90s fastball with movement, tight slider) and the head (brash, but also able to lose today and come back tomorrow) to close in the bigs.  If he stays healthy he should easily save 35-40 games this season.

 

Claudio Vargas  RHP

The Surprise of the Rotation

He came into camp this season in a (at least) three way battle for the #5 spot in the rotation with Brad Halsey and Dustin Nippert.  The D'Backs decided pretty early on that they wanted Nippert to get a few more minor league starts, but as recently as two weeks ago the smart money was on Halsey to start since Vargas has been so good for the D'Backs out of the pen.  All that changed however when Halsey was moved to the A's in exchange for Juan Cruz (another middle reliever who would prefer to start), and Vargas, who has stated he preferred starting ever since being claimed off waivers from the Nationals in '05, finally got his wish.  He starts the season as the #5, but could be the #3 by mid May if Ortiz and Hernandez are hurt or just plain bad.

 

Luis Vizcaino  RHP

Seen It All

Acquired from White Sox along with outfielder Chris Young and pitcher Orlando Hernandez in trade that sent Javier Vazquez to the White Sox.

Might be the most important addition GM Josh Byrnes made this season, at least as far as this season is concerned.  A proven talent out of the bullpen who has experience but has managed to stay healthy for the majority of his career, he will fill several roles, not the least of which will likely be Bob Melvin's 'go to' guy before the eighth inning.

 

Brandon Webb  Staff Ace

#1 With a Bullet

After a misfire in the '#1' spot in 2004 Brandon Webb appears to be as ready for the top spot as he'll ever be.  The most consistent pitcher on the roster Webb was likely the happiest person in Arizona when the Diamondbacks acquired Orlando Hernandez to play second base, as his sinker ball style yields more ground balls than nearly any pitcher in the league.  The improved middle infield defense should improve what were already impressive '05 numbers for Webb.  Whether his win/loss total will take a hit pitching against more #1s and #2s than #3s and #4s has yet to be determined.

 

Johnny Estrada  C

Stay Away from Darin Erstad

The switch hitting catcher came to the D'Backs from the Braves for Lance Cormier and Oscar Villarreal.  Though he has an injury filled '05 there is no doubt that Estrada has the talent to be a contributor both offensively and defensively.  Will split time in the general neighborhood of 65%-35% with Chris Snyder.

 

Chris Snyder  C

Back to Defensive Roots

Made the leap from Double-A to the bigs in 2004 and landed himself an opening day spot on the '05 club but couldn't get his bat much above the Mendoza line all season, prompting the D'Backs to acquire Estrada.  A fantastic defensive catcher who will see a significant amount of time behind the plate.

 

Tony Clark  1B

On the Bench…for How Long?

Clark had one of the greatest seasons in the history of baseball last year, but since it came in just 349 at bats few seemed to notice.  The Diamondbacks believe a large part of the soon to be 34 year old Clark's success was rest, and they believe Conor Jackson is their first baseman of the future, so Clark will once again start the year as a big bat off the bench and a spot starter, but if Jackson falters it will be hard to keep Clark off the field.

 

Craig Counsell  SS

Shoulder Surgery to Sparkplug to Stephen

For just a minute there it seemed as if Craig Counsell was going to lose his job to Stephen Drew because of a partially torn labrum, but surgery was ruled out and rehab has apparently done the trick.  Still, it might only be a matter of time before Counsell returns to his natural role, that of 'super-sub,' and Drew claims the starting shortstop role for...well...forever...or at least until the Diamondbacks figure out if it will be Drew or Justin Upton at SS.  Still, Counsell made all the plays in the last week of spring training, and starts the season as the likely lead off hitter and everyday shortstop.

 

Damion Easley  INF/OF

Didn’t you used to be Damion Easley?

The utility man signed a one year free agent deal with the Diamondbacks in December of 2005.  He can play all four infield positions as well as both corner outfield spots.  Then again, he's also 106 years old, and can't play any of those spots everyday.  As a veteran leader who plays smart and has been clutch in pinch hitting roles Easley will be the sixth inning pinch hitter, while Clark will handle the later innings.

 

Andy Green INF/OF

So this is what Big League Opening Day Feels Like?

Andy Green has had so many cups of coffee in the Majors that he might be ready to open a Starbucks, but this will be the minor league veteran's first opening day.  Super versatility is the key to Green, though his incredible season last year at Triple A (.343/19/80) certainly helped his stock rise.  He played six different positions last year at Tucson, and will likely see just as many this year with the big league club if he stays on the roster all year long.

 

Orlando Hudson  2B

Defensive Gem/Webb’s Best Friend

Acquired from the Blue Jays in December 2005 along with Miguel Batista for Troy Glaus and Sergio Santos.  Hudson has been 'on the verge' of a breakout season for the last three years, and whether this is finally the year or not could be a determining factor for the D'Backs this season.  One thing is for sure, his defense will be a major assets.  Hudson's range will help Conor Jackson play closer to the line at first, and allow Craig Counsell to cheat into the hold and backup Chad Tracy.  Offensively he's a threat with both speed and power.

 

Conor Jackson 1B

Carpe Diem!

2005 was not the way Conor Jackson wanted to start his career off.  After averaging .332 as a minor leaguer he hit just .200 in limited duty with the big league club.  Adjustments have been made, and most importantly he knows that he'll be on the field everyday.  The Diamondbacks are hoping that allows Jackson, who has shown an incredible eye, to get into a rhythm.  The question for Jackson will be power.  He hit 17 homers in a 2004 split between Double and Triple-A, but those numbers fall far short of the power output expected from first baseman.  No one seems worried, but a power outage could open the door for Clark to step back in.

 

Chad Tracy 3B

Bring One Glove, and a Big Bat

Chad Tracy could almost be classified as a 'utility guy.'  In the last two seasons he's seen time at first, third, left and right field, but when Troy Glaus was traded to Toronto this offseason finding Tracy an everyday spot was almost as important and getting rid of Glaus' salary.  Tracy comes in with another 15 pounds of muscle, a tactic he repeats after adding 15 pounds last season, and justifying the extra muscle with a career high 27 jacks.  His power output will be closely monitored; since he will be counted on to produce it in the absence of Glaus.  Expect tough decisions late in close games as Bob Melvin must decide on Tracy's bat or his defense, which was less than spectacular before taking a year off from the hot corner.

 

Eric Byrnes  CF

Are you related to the GM?

Signed by the Diamondbacks as a free agent in December of 2005 to play center field until Chris Young is ready to take over.  The Diamondbacks liked the energy Byrnes brought to the team, but he will battle for playing time all season long with Jeff DaVanon.

 

Jeff DaVanon  OF

Most Likely to Start in May

Signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent prior to the 2006 season, and was arguably the most impressive player in the Cactus League this spring.  He hit .413 with 13 walks, opening up the possibility of him moving into the starting role, and leading off, if Counsell and his shoulder are not producing at the top of the lineup.  Will likely see significant time either way since he is the only true outfielder on the D'Backs bench, and neither Shawn Green nor Luis Gonzalez are getting carded at bars much anymore.

 

Luis Gonzalez  LF

Goodbye Gonzo?

Could this be the Luis Gonzalez fair well tour?  Though Gonzalez has an option for '07 there is wide speculation that he could hang 'em up after this season and make way for Carlos Quentin.  Though some will speculate that if he didn't retire after needing Tommy John surgery last year he wouldn't have any reason to ride off into the sunset right now either.  Will likely be the Diamondback who gets the most attention on the trade block if the D'Backs are out of the NL West race in June, but as a 10/5 player he will have veto power over any deal. 

 

Shawn Green RF

Will the Real Shawn Green Stand Up?

Depending on whom you listened to this offseason Shawn Green was going to play center for the Diamondbacks, right for the Cubs, left for the Padres and DH for a variety of AL teams.  Ultimately he's in right field for the D'Backs to start the year and will likely stay there for at least a year or two more.  His work in '05, playing out of position and still producing solid (if unspectacular) numbers nearly justified his contract last year, but with the departure of Glaus and Clark riding the pine there will be more pressure than ever for Green to return to his .310/40/120 form.



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