The National League West Division looks wide open with every team except one having a shot.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are the team that has no chance, or do they?
Arizona was 65-97 last year. Only Pittsburgh and Seattle had worse records and only Seattle was worst from a money standpoint. The Diamondbacks were a money-draining minus 24.8 units in 2010.
Bookmaker.com is calling for slight improvement from the Diamondbacks. They list Arizona’s ‘over/under’ win total at 72. The Diamondbacks are 100/1 to win the World Series, according to odds at Bodog.com.
Arizona has the longest odds, along with San Diego, to capture the NL West at 12/1, according to odds at Sportsbook.com, which has defending world champion San Francisco at plus 160 followed by Colorado at plus 190 and the Los Angeles Dodgers at plus 250.
The Diamondbacks were a respectable 40-41 at Chase Field, but a horrendous 25-56 on the road.
San Diego won 90 games last season, so perhaps there is hope for Arizona. But it sure seems like a leap of faith considering the Diamondbacks’ many weaknesses.
Arizona’s starting pitching is young and largely untested, its bullpen had an ERA of 5.74–third worst in major league history–and the infield corners appear extremely weak.
Gone are third baseman Mark Reynolds and first baseman Adam LaRoche. They combined to smack 57 homers and drive in 185 runs. Replacing them are 39-year-old Melvin Mora and a probable platoon at first consisting of Juan Miranda, Brandon Allen, Russell Branyan and possibly outfielder Xavier Nady.
The starting pitching staff lacks an ace with both Brandon Webb and Dan Haren gone. Former Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Zach Duke joins Joe Saunders, Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Barry Enright in the rotation. Look for a regression from Hudson after he went 7-1 with a 1.69 ERA coming from the Chicago White Sox.
New general manager Kevin Towers has reshuffled the team’s dreadful bullpen picking up J.J. Putz to be his closer. Putz was an All-Star with Seattle in 2007. However, he’s hasn’t closed since 2008 and underwent elbow surgery midway through 2009.
Lack of corner power and what could be improved relief pitching should mean more ‘unders’ for the Diamondbacks in 2011. The ‘over’ was 88-70-4 (55.6 percent) in Arizona’s games last season.
The Diamondbacks do have strengths. They are tough in the middle infield with shortstop Stephen Drew and second baseman Kelly Johnson. Catcher Miguel Montero was on the cusp of becoming a star, but suffered a knee injury that sidelined him two months. Justin Upton and Chris Young are young outfielders with power and speed.
Drew and Johnson give Arizona rare sock from the inside of the diamond combining for 41 homers. Montero batted .294 with 16 homers two seasons ago, but was limited to less than 300 at bats last year.
Upton has the potential to rate among the best outfielders. Upton couldn’t match his 2009 figures of batting .300 with 26 homers and 86 RBI’s, dropping to .273 with 17 homers and 69 RBI’s, but he’s only 23.
Young bounced back from a disappointing 2009 season to post 27 homers, drive in 91 runs and steal 28 bases last year, although batting .257.
Towers has given Kirk Gibson, starting his first full season as manager, a veteran coaching staff, including respected hitting coach Don Baylor. They might be able to get the best from Upton and Young.
The veteran Nady figures to hold down the other outfield spot while also drawing duty at first base. He’s been hampered by injuries the past two seasons, including being limited to just seven games in 2009 due to elbow surgery. Gerardo Parra is the top outfield reserve.
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