As New Year’s approaches and 2012 progresses into 2013, it’s as good a time as any to take a look at how the D’backs have progressed their roster, or regressed in some cases.
The D’backs have made several trades and acquisitions in the last few months in an attempt to facilitate progress. There is no need to recap them here as you can read all about them in previous posts on Venom Strikes.
For now, let’s just look at the roster position by position and see if the team has progressed or regressed with certain acquisitions. If a position will be filled with a returning player, let’s look at whether a progression or a regression should be expected.
At catcher, Miguel Montero will be back coming off a stellar 2012 campaign. He caught a career-high 141 games for the D’backs and accumulated 15 home runs, 25 doubles and a .391 On-Base Percentage (10th best in the league).
While the OBP was much higher than his previous career best, .355 in 2009, his other numbers indicate that the D’backs should expect a similar performance in 2013 with perhaps a tick up in power. Montero had a high Batting Average on Balls In Play that might cause a drop in his batting average but his career-best walk percentage in 2012 shows more discipline at the plate that should carry over into 2013 and keep his OBP high.
Verdict: Some progression.
At first base, Paul Goldschmidt also returns in 2013 as the full-time man at first. He had a breakout 2012 season but not in the way expected. Goldschmidt was seen as an all-power guy that lacks discipline at the plate. Instead, he showed he had plenty of discipline at the plate – a .359 OBP – and not as much power as expected – 20 home runs. However, Goldy also hit 43 doubles, tied for ninth-best in the league.
It’s safe to assume that a few of those doubles will turn into home runs in 2013 and we’ll see a tick up in Goldschmidt’s slugging percentage. If that uptick in power comes with a similar discipline at the plate, Goldy could be an elite power bat. Combine that with his pretty good defense, and Goldschmidt could possibly be a six-win player.
At second, Aaron Hill completes a returning right side of the infield. Hill had a career year in 2012, showing off his power, 26 home runs, his plate discipline, .360 OBP, and outstanding defense. He ended with 4.6 bWAR.
The biggest reason for Hill’s return in power was a big uptick in his HR/FB percentage. He had an 8.9 percent number in 2012 after three straight years of under four percent. But the 8.9 number is not his career high. In 2009, he had an 11.7 percent number and a 10.8 in 2010. But those two are really not sustainable. Perhaps he regresses closer to his career average, which will drop his power numbers just a bit. His defense and OBP should be similar.
Verdict: slight regression.
The D’backs spent the entire offseason in search of a shortstop, a big hole last year. To this point, it’s unclear who will be starting on opening day but it will definitely be a new name. Newcomers Cliff Pennington and Didi Gregorius are both stellar with the glove up the middle. That’s where they will make most of their impact. Last season, Willie Bloomquist and John McDonald split time at short.
Bloomquist was bad defensively but provided some value on offense. Alternatively, McDonald was pretty good defensively, but provided zero value on offense.
Pennington and McDonald are similar players. Pennington provided almost two bWAR on defense alone last season but only provided replacement level production on offense despite 462 plate appearances.
There seems to be no room for improvement for Pennington after five seasons in the league. If the D’backs hope to improve at shortstop, they’ll have to rely on the offensive progression of Gregorius. If he progresses to even league average offensively, Gregorius can be an outstanding player for the D’backs for years to come. If he doesn’t, the D’backs will essentially have a John McDonald on their roster for years to come.
The D’backs seem to be set on bringing Chris Johnson back at third base. Johnson spent half of 2012 with Houston before being acquired by the D’backs. He basically hit his career numbers across the board with a .281/.326/.451 slash line in 2012. There’s no reason to see much progression or regression.
Left field is one of the question marks for the D’backs after the signing of Cody Ross. It seems that one of Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra or Justin Upton will be moved to make room for Ross in the lineup. For now, I’ll assume that Kubel will be moved. In that case, Ross, Parra and center fielder Adam Eaton will form a three-man rotation in left and center. So I’ll take a look at both positions together.
Parra and Eaton both hit left-handed while Ross is right-handed. In a perfect world, Parra and Eaton would hit against right-handed starters while Ross is moved in to either center or left against lefties and to spell Parra or Eaton at other times. However, Ross was also signed to a three-year, $27 million dollar deal. That suggests he’ll play more than just as a platoon and fourth outfielder.
So who sits, Parra or Eaton? Ross has played 387 games in center and 534 in a corner-outfield spot. In any case, it’s difficult to project just how the 162 games will be split up between the three players, with Eaton and Ross taking over for Chris Young and Kubel in the outfield.
Eaton could be the leadoff hitter the D’backs have been searching for with a similar defensive ability to Young. Ross is probably pretty similar to Kubel from the opposite side of the plate. But with Eaton, it should be a slight improvement overall in left and center.
Verdict: some progression
I’ve written extensively about Justin Upton and how highly I think of him as a person and player. It’s not hard to see that he had a down year last season. But he still delivered good value with plate discipline, smart base running and good defense.
All of those attributes should continue in 2013 and I believe he will have a big bounce-back year in the power department. In fact, as a glimpse to tomorrow’s piece, I have a bold prediction that Upton will demolish his previous career high in home runs with 40 bombs in 2013.
Most of his power was zapped for the start of the 2012 season with a nagging thumb injury but he had six home runs in September once he was fully healthy. I expect he maintains that pace in 2013 and hits 40 home runs in a possible MVP campaign.
Verdict: Big Progression
I’ll take a look at the starting rotation and bullpen tomorrow. Keep an eye out.