Young Ready for New Role; Free Agent List


Posted Oct 13, 2006


We've seen them all now. Miguel Montero for just a bit, Stephen Drew for much longer, Carlos Quentin once Shawn Green was moved, Conor Jackson for a full season, but next year might be the year Chris Young emerges as the power hitting threat the D'Backs missed this season. PLUS: Batista tops on D'Backs free agent list; Arbitration eligible players.

INSIDE PITCH
Chris Young didn't get to make the kind of big splash he wanted after making just 13 starts in center field and getting 70 at-bats for the Diamondbacks. But the main thing was, he got a taste of the major leagues, and it was enough to let him and the organization know he is ready to play at that level every day.
"In the minor leagues, you always wonder how it is at the big leagues," Young said. "Is it that much different? Is it that much harder? Is it that much better? You get here, and you realize it's the same game.
"Yeah, it's quicker. But as you move up the minors, it gets quicker every year."
Young, 23, represents just one of a handful of youngsters pegged to be in Arizona's starting lineup in 2007, joining the likes of shortstop Stephen Drew, 23; right fielder Carlos Quentin, 23; catcher Miguel Montero, 23; and first baseman Conor Jackson, 24.
All but Montero, with just 16 at-bats and four starts behind the plate, got a lot more playing time than Young. But that will come next season when Eric Byrnes moves from center to left field, replacing Luis Gonzalez, and Young becomes the everyday starter in center field.
"We could be amazing out there," Young said of the Diamondbacks' 2007 outfield. "Carlos has made great plays, and Byrnes did the job all year. I'll come in and get my chance, and I'm going to try and do the same."
Young can help the Diamondbacks in multiple ways. He's an exciting defensive player who already has made a few highlight-film catches. He's got an above-average arm and can hit for power. And he's got speed on the basepaths.
"That's part of my game," he said, "and (manager) Bob Melvin has told me he's going to let me use that a lot next season. He's into the running game, and when we get chances to use it, we're going to use it."
Melvin said Young could emerge as a legitimate power hitter. At least one statistical service has already projected him to lead the club in home runs next season with 29.
"He's a guy who's going to hit a few home runs," Melvin said. "Carlos Quentin, same thing. (Third baseman) Chad Tracy, too. And the same with Conor Jackson and Eric Byrnes. We don't have that guy you look to hit 40, but if we have a bunch of guys hitting 20, we think we'll be just fine."

NOTES, QUOTES
--OF Eric Byrnes has been doing some studio work for ESPN during the postseason, a gig he may continue to do until the end of the World Series. Byrnes hosts a radio sports talk show in San Francisco in the offseason and wants to get into broadcasting when he's finished playing.
--Thom Brennaman, the Diamondbacks' television play-by-play man for each of the club's first nine seasons, was allowed out of his contract to call games with his father, Hall of Fame broadcaster Marty Brennaman, with the Reds.
--Managing general partner Ken Kendrick said the Diamondbacks would likely operate with a payroll similar to the 2006 budget, which fell in the $60 million range.
"The last couple of years, we have had a real budget that we have had to live by," Kendrick said. "We have done that, and we'll continue to do that."
--RF Carlos Quentin could provide some big numbers for the club next season if he plays up to his expected potential, said GM Josh Byrnes.
"He's 23, and not many guys slug .550," Byrnes said of Quentin. "There's life in that bat."
--Third base coach Carlos Tosca is expected to replace Jay Bell as the team's bench coach next season, with Triple-A Tucson manager Chip Hale likely to join the staff as Tosca's replacement as third base coach. Bell will serve as a special assistant to manager Bob Melvin next season, serving as a part-time coach to spend more time with his wife and three children.
BY THE NUMBERS: 100 million -- Dollars the Diamondbacks still owe on deferred player salaries from previous years.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We can be very successful at 3 million fans, successful in terms of financially we can make some profit that we can reinvest into the team in increasing payroll. That would allow us to go out and get selected players out of free agency and have a blend of veterans and younger players that is kind of the best mix you can ever hope for in a middle-market team." -- Managing general partner Ken Kendrick, looking ahead to 2007.

ROSTER REPORT
The Diamondbacks enter the offseason with a couple key objectives, which include finding a top-end starter to complement ace Brandon Webb and veteran Livan Hernandez, and deciding if they need to invest in a quality cleanup hitter or trust a fairly capable lineup without a proven slugger. If they decide they need both, the moves likely would occur through trades, not free agency.
BIGGEST NEEDS: Arizona has the defense, but it doesn't have the starting pitching to lead a group of mostly young position players and a bullpen that remains slim on postseason experience. With Miguel Batista probably leaving through free agency, there isn't a difference-maker among the rest of the candidates, and the Diamondbacks may have to part with some of their better prospects to fill this need. Webb and Hernandez aren't enough. Not nearly.
FREE AGENTS: LF Luis Gonzalez, INF Craig Counsell, UT Damion Easley, RHP Miguel Batista.
Gonzalez was told on Sept. 15 that his $10 million club option was not going to be picked up and the team had no plans for him next season, but he wants to be an everyday player and hopes to sign with a team in the NL West, potentially the Padres. There is interest in bringing back Counsell, but only for a super utility role, as shortstop and second base will be occupied by Stephen Drew and Orlando Hudson, respectively. Counsell has said he probably will pass on the offer and try to sign elsewhere if there's a chance to play every day. Easley likely will return in the role he played this year, as a bat off the bench and a player who can make starts at shortstop, third base and right field. Batista and his representatives have had preliminary talks with the club about returning, but it is thought he will sign elsewhere for more money, with the Mets possibly being an option.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: 2B Orlando Hudson, C Johnny Estrada, OF Eric Byrnes, RHP Luis Vizcaino, RHP Claudio Vargas, RHP Juan Cruz, RHP Brandon Lyon, RHP Jorge Julio.
Hudson likely will receive a multiyear extension after basically having the best season of anyone on the club. He's in the hunt for his second consecutive Gold Glove Award. Estrada is gone. He will be traded despite a stellar offensive season that saw him hit .302 with a career-high 11 home runs and finish with 71 RBIs. He has too many enemies on the club. Byrnes will be replacing stalwart Gonzalez in left field and is also eyeing a multi-year extension. The only pitchers who could be out of the loop are Cruz and Julio. Cruz is certain to gather interest from several clubs, but Julio has fallen off the radar some because of his wildness.
IN LIMBO: Estrada, Vargas, Cruz and Julio can't be sure of their futures, and ditto with left field prospect Scott Hairston, who has seen a job open in left field with the departure of Gonzalez, only to learn it will given to Byrnes. Estrada's situation is sure to be solved in the form of a trade, and he's already stated he would like to moved to Philadelphia, if possible. If not, destinations could include San Diego, if Mike Piazza doesn't re-sign, and perhaps San Francisco, which is near where Estrada was raised.
PROSPECT WATCH: CF Chris Young didn't get as many at-bats or starting assignments as some of the other youngsters among the position players, but the Diamondbacks have seen enough to know he can handle the job in center next year. He rates out on the plus side of every aspect of his game, and he could mature into a power hitter as well as speed burner with top-notch defensive skills. C Miguel Montero is thought of so highly in the organization, the club is willing to part with switch-hitting starting C Johnny Estrada, who was among the team leaders in RBIs. Montero was a September call-up and made several starts down the stretch. It looks as if he will be the man in 2007, with Chris Snyder helping provide a 1-2 punch. RF Carlos Quentin was promoted in July, and it wasn't long before the Diamondbacks agreed they would be better served trading Shawn Green away -- he went to the Mets -- to open up daily playing time for the rookie, who experienced his share of highs and lows during the second half.
MEDICAL WATCH:
1B Tony Clark, who had right shoulder surgery, should be fine by the time the team reports to spring training. He has one more year left on his contract.
OF Jeff DaVanon underwent surgery to repair a left ankle injury, and he will be ready in time for spring training. He has a player option to return to the club in 2007, and has indicated he plans to exercise it. He also had a cyst removed from his right shoulder late in the season.


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