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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.