2007 saw Augie Ojeda forced into action when Orlando Hudson went down with a
hand injury and Alberto Callaspo fell out of favor with the organization.
Jeff Salazar became a key member of the Arizona Diamondbacks outfield because
Carlos Quentin did not live up to his expectations and Justin Upton was learning
a new position in right field.
Really, all that the organization wanted from Ojeda was a dependable defender
to help develop some of the pitching prospects in Triple-A. There were
higher expectations for Jeff Salazar, given that he is six years younger than
Ojeda and had played well for the Rockies in September of 2006. No one
could have predicted that Salazar would have started 16 games after his August
15th callup during a heated pennant race.
Earlier this month, the Diamondbacks signed outfielder Tim Raines and
infielder Jesus Merchan. Like Salazar and Ojeda, no one expects these two
to do more than provide stability to a Tucson squad that could include some
young players. Like Salazar and Ojeda, could they exceed those
Raines should bolster attendance figures in Tucson, if nothing else.
His father deserves to be enshrined into the Hall of Fame, and brought an
excitement to the game that could drive fans to watch the younger Raines play.
He also could get an opportunity because of a now-depleted outfield in
Arizona. National League pitchers know enough about Chris Young now to
know to give him a steady diet of breaking balls. The Diamondbacks may
need a secondary option behind Young whenever there's a breaking ball specialist
scheduled to start. Justin Upton only hit .221 last year, and could find
himself getting more seasoning at Triple-A if he can't improve upon that early
in the year. And as always, the injury bug could bite, and Alexander Romero is the only Diamondbacks outfield prospect likely to be ready this year.
Raines doesn't provide the kind of offense that his father did. He's
got the same speed, however, and might be even a little more agile in the
outfield. His arm isn't good enough to play right field, and he won't hit
well enough to start regularly, but Raines could provide value as a reserve
Merchan had his best
offensive season last year
Merchan's chances look worse. Like Ojeda, he's a light-hitting
infielder who is showing signs of bat life later in his career. He hit 10
homers in 2007, half of his career total. Also like Augie, he's difficult
to fan. His defense isn't nearly as steady , however, with a fielding
percentage of .947 at shortstop and .929 at third base.
Merchan does boast a .973 fielding percentage at second base, but between
Ojeda, starter Orlando Hudson, newcomer Chris Burke, and prospect Emilio Bonifacio, second base appears to be the Snakes' position of greatest depth.
The only way Merchan would see major league playing time in 2008 would be for
something to happen to Stephen Drew, and even them Merchan would need to have
proven himself to be a dependable defender there first.
Both Raines and Merchan played for three organizations prior to joining the
Diamondbacks. They are expected to begin the season at Triple-A Tucson,
just as their counterparts did last year.
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