The Diamondbacks begin a three-game slate with the Padres today and those Padres are currently 4.5 games out of first. Despite the record, they’ve been able to put together streaks from time to time and can really be a headache when everything clicks. To talk about the team, I spoke with Dallas McLaughlin of Chicken Friars, the FanSided site that covers everything Padres. He had a series of questions for me as well, and here’s how things transpired when we hooked up to talk Dbacks and Padres.
Jeff Wiser: Who is the Padres’ MVP thus far?
Dallas McLaughlin: Well, that’s a loaded question. Most people will just assume it’s Chase Headley, which a case could be made for, but I think is ultimately wrong. I think Yonder Alonso is the numbers MVP. He’s finding his power stroke, his defense gets better with every game, and he’s becoming a fan favorite. I think he’ll finish with at least 20 homeruns and an average hovering around .300. I’ll take that any day of the week. But, the real MVP is Carlos Quentin. He literally messed the Dodgers up so badly mentally, that it’s costing them $214 million dollars to be in last place. That’s something I think everyone can get behind.
DM: Same question to you, but you can’t say Paul Goldschmidt. Ha!
JW: Obviously, Goldy has been incredible thus far and while most people would say it’s been him, I’m going with my bro-crush: Gerardo Parra. Goldschmidt was expected to rake and provide a big part of the offensive punch for the team long before the season began. That comes with the territory when you play first base and are known as a bat-first player. What Parra has done, however, has both been unexpected (by some) and stabilizing. First, a lot of folks never bought into his game at the plate and I’d say he overachieving to a degree right now, but he can spray the ball, take a walk and provide a little bit of pop in the leadoff spot. With Jason Kubel, Cody Ross and Adam Eaton, the supposed starting outfield, all missing time this year, Parra has filled in all over the place magnificently. You couldn’t ask for more out of this guy (except a better SB%).
JW: Dallas, how underrated is Chris Denorfia?
DM: I was actually at the game last night talking about that same thing. He’s a curious case. He’s not young; he’s had a couple chances to stick with the Reds in 2006 and the A’s in 2008. Both times he played well and hit over .280. He’s played well for the Padres, but he’s always looked at as the 4th outfielder, and I wonder why that is. When it appears that Venable and Maybin are having a personal competition to see who could hit under .200, I can’t figure out why Denorfia doesn’t get the everyday nod. Maybe there’s something we don’t know, but I feel like this is definitely the season to figure it out. No use in keeping out of the lineup when it seems like he’s productive every time he’s in it.
DM: to the contrary, how overrated is Martin Prado?
JW: This really saddens me. I have been a big Prado guy for a few years and always tried to own him in fantasy leagues since he provided decent offense and a ton of positional flexibility. Right now, he’s only giving us one of those things. Looking at the numbers, he’s got a career-low BABIP going right now and it’s currently almost 100-points below his career average. That won’t last and he’ll pick it up, but it’s definitely concerning. I thought the 4/$40 extension was a good idea at the time and it likely still is, but the production hasn’t matched the hype thus far. Despite the struggles, he seems to be pretty upbeat and I think he’ll turn it around to a degree.
JW: What are your thoughts of Jedd Gyorko?
DM: I like him. He’ll be a great replacement for Chase Headley. Which, by the way is completely happening. Chase will leave; the real question is how well will Gyorko be playing when it happens. I’m always timid to praise our prospects. Kevin Towers wouldn’t let Sean Burroughs go for the moon, and he ended being a bigger bust than I was in high school. We loved Anthony Rizzo, and then traded him away when it seemed like he couldn’t hit a breaking ball. Yet, we give guys like Venable, Everth Cabrera, and Nick Hundley chance after chance to prove themselves. It makes no sense. However, I do like what they’re doing with him – let him play. From day one, keep him up and in the lineup. We have nothing to lose, so why not see what the kid can do? I don’t think he’ll end up being Evan Longoria, but I do think he could be an Aramis Rameriz type, and I’m down for that.
DM: What are your thoughts on Didi Gregorius (besides having the best name in Baseball) and do you think Gerardo Parra will be a Diamondback in two seasons?
JW: The Parra-Didi 1-2 combo at the top is really exciting. I hope their play can justify them staying there in the lineup all season long. In terms of Didi, I really thought we’d see the bottom fall out of his numbers by now. I assumed pitchers would start throwing him more breaking balls and he’d struggle to adjust, but it really hasn’t happened. His plate discipline has improved big time and the pitches in the dirt that I saw him swing at in the minors are the pitches he now taking for balls. That’s growth.
I’ve stated my bro-crush for Parra and I hope he stays. My uninformed guess is that he replaces Kubel full time next year in left with Eaton manning centerfield. This is his age 26 season, so he’s about to reach his peak, and I think the team will try to keep him beyond 2014. The value is high but the type of game he plays won’t command huge dollars on the free agent market. I think you could even make the case that they should attempt an extension this winter.
JW: How excited are you to get Yasmani Grandal back?
DM: Next question. Kidding. Kind of. I don’t think anyone is really excited. Reason being that we really don’t know how good he is. Last season he made everyone so hopeful, but those were fudged numbers. How long has he been juicing? What’s real? We’ll see soon, but honestly it can’t get much worse than Hundley and John Baker splitting time back there. Don’t get me wrong, I think those guys are great clubhouse guys, but they’re backups at best. I do like that Grandal owned up to his mistake, and took it like a pro. It seems like that’s the only real way to get away with using steroids. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, every one forgets. Case in point: Melky Cabrera or Andy Pettitte. Most people probably forgot that Pettitte was busted, because he owned it like he should have. Grandal did the right thing, and if comes back and even gets close to his 2012 form then no one will care, and then and only then will I be excited.
JW: So, totally off topic: if I’m going to a game at PetCo, where should I eat and/or drink before hitting the stadium?
DM: Haha! Well, I’m an alcoholic so you asked the right guy. Kidding. Kind of. It’s a tough call, cause it’s a downtown stadium, so you should be drinking then walking to games. If you are walking I suggest Henry’s Pub. Good food and reasonable drink prices. A lot of people dig Tivoli, but that place gets packed quickly on gameday. If you’re willing to walk a bit and want the best beer selection you should go to Monkey Paw. It’s new, but it’s got all the local brews on tap, and San Diego is becoming legendary for their local brews. Now, if you’re taking the trolley, then hit Little Italy first and go to The Waterfront. It’s the oldest bar in San Diego, Wyatt Earp drank there, and one time I bought Bud Black a Coors Light there. Cheaper drinks than any place you’d find downtown, and one of the top 3 burgers in the city. Drink and eat, then take the short trolley ride, which let’s you out right outside the gates of PETCO – and, parking would be way cheaper. If price doesn’t matter and you’re downtown then I would suggest Cowboy Star. Best steak I’ve had in San Diego, and really good drinks. Full bar, and they don’t mess around. It’s a tad expensive but worth every penny.
DM: Is Majerle’s still open? I loved that place. People say Phoenix is a fun town, but what is there to do there before a game? Do you like Chase Field?
JW: Dude, If I’d known you were a Marjerle’s guy, I would have never interviewed you! Kidding of course, but I’ve been there twice and was not impressed in the least bit. I can see how in the days of Majerle, Barkley and the competitive Suns how it would have been a cool place to watch games since it’s pretty close to the stadiums. Now it’s just a bar with bad food and no atmosphere. I’m from Seattle and tend to be a little picky on my eateries and drinking spots, so Majerle’s definitely leaves something to be desired. For real food, there are a couple of places I’d recommend in the downtown area: POMO Pizza (coming soon) and The Breadfruit. For drinks, you cannot beat The Angel’s Trumpet for beer. These places are several blocks from Chase, but the stuff right around there is very generic.
Speaking of Chase Field, it’s a great venue for a game. When it’s cool enough to have the lid off and open things up, it’s beautiful, especially in the twilight hours of the spring and fall. I’ve been to quite a few stadiums on the west coast and Chase is right up there with the best of them. Need to get myself into the centerfield pool at some point, though! Haven’t figured out how to do that yet, plus my beach-bod is probably not fit for public consumption.
JW: What is Eric Stults doing right? The results have been good so far. Also, is Andrew Cashner the future of Padres pitching?
DM: You’re like the third guy to ask me that. I don’t see it. He was better last year. He’s 4-3 with an ERA over 4. If that’s what we have to settle on for good, then our pitching staff needs more help than I thought. I don’t know. I don’t see dominance with him, but I do see reliability, which is something we always need. He’d be a great 5th spot guy on any other team, but in San Diego people are talking like he’s our Ace. He’s 33 and just now getting serious looks – I’m not comfortable with that at all. He had a very solid 2012, and I hope he can keep steady in 2013, but if we offer him some sort of long-term deal, I will lose all the good faith I’ve been putting in Josh Byrnes.
In terms of Cashner, I hope. Once Cory Luebke comes back, it’ll be interesting to see what happens. I wouldn’t mind a 1-2 of Luebke and Cashner. My concern with Cashner is location and stamina. But, if he can keep making adjustments and learning I think he’ll have a great career in front of him, and then we will trade him.
DM: Same question for Patrick Corbin: the future in Arizona?
JW: I’d love to think Patty will keep his ERA under 1.50 all year, but he’ll experience regression like all of the other small sample size super stars. When he locates his fastball and commands his slider, he’s tough. The development of the changeup will only make him better and I think he has a long, successful career ahead of him. I don’t see him as an “ace” per se, but he can be a very good pitcher for a long time. I liked him in his brief call-ups in the past and was really clamoring for him to make the team this spring. I feel dignified in predicting that he’d be a good major league pitcher. How good over the long haul is yet to be determined, but I think he can be a number two or three starter on a good staff for a long time.
JW: What’s up with Houston Street?
DM: He’s overrated. Closer is the most overrated position in baseball. They should have traded him last off-season when his stock was high, and got some double-A corner outfielder. He’s always been up and down, and now he’s doing that same song and dance as a Padre. Problem is, unless he turns it on soon we won’t be able to trade him for anything. No one needs a high-price closer. Those days are over. There’s a reason there was Hoffman and Mariano Rivera, and…That’s about it.
DM: Same question about Miguel Montero. What’s going on with him?
JW: The dude is scuffling in a bad way right now. First and foremost, he’s seemingly behind in every count. He was taking a lot first-pitch hacks and that wasn’t working, but as he’s started taking more pitches to start AB’s, they’re going for strikes. I swear, every time I look up MIggy is down 0-1. He also looks to be in-between a lot of pitches. I’ve seen way too much Mainers baseball over the last few years, so I know what it looks like when a guy is uncomfortable and between pitches. He’s tardy on fastballs and rolling over the off-spead and breaking stuff. He’s not driving anything.I remain hopeful, though, as his track record says he get it sorted out to some degree and he still plays with a big smile on his face. As long as he hasn’t given up hope, I’ll keep believing he can work through it.
JW: How do you perceive the Diamondbacks this year? Any thoughts?
DM: Let me get this out of the way – I love Kirk Gibson. Now, let me say that you have been cursed with Kevin Towers and for that I apologize. He was once a genius GM, who doesn’t seem like he’s been able to keep up with the changing landscape of Baseball. I am really sad you guys let Justin Upton go, however it was never going to come together for him in Arizona. I just feel like you guys have some good young players, but are not even close to making a run. I mean, Cliff Pennington. Cliff. Pennington.
DM: Same question for you. Also, do you like Kevin Towers and what he’s been doing? Do you see hope for the future?
JW: I see the Diamondbacks right in the thick of the wild card race and not far behind the Giants down the stretch. Whether we make the playoff depends on two things: the allocation of playing time and the front office’s ability to make necessary moves.
We’ll have a log jam in the outfield once Eaton is healthy and a logjam in the infield when Aaron Hill is activated off the DL and Willie Bloomquist gets back. How the staff manages playing time and platoons will be the critical in maximizing output from the big league roster.
This team could use a quality reliever to replace JJ Putz, although it looks like the market for relievers is pretty thin this year. Also, I’d like to see them get another right-handed bat that can play the outfield and primarily come off the bench. They have a quality lefty option in Eric Chavez, but need a right-handed compliment. The team is pretty left-handed heavy right now.
My opinion of KT is still taking shape. His strength is clearly his understanding of young pitchers and our rotation and minor league system reflects that. We are short on impact position players in the system right now, which is fine in the short term with current log jams mentioned above, but we need those guys down the road. He’s proven he can identify exciting pitchers, don’t even get me started on Archie Bradley, but I’m not sold on his ability to do the same for hitters. With that said, I do see hope, because as long as you’ve got pitching, you’ve got a chance.