Arizona Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson may be facing one of his most challenging seasons ahead as he prepares his teams do battle in the highly competitive National League West.
With the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants appearing to be the powerhouses of the division, combined with the loss of mercurial outfielder Justin Upton, the challenge for the team is to contend in a division loaded with talent and adapt their style of play to best suit their roster.
Gibson is an extremely good manager who has shown his ability to bring a team together and win, such as he did during the 2011 season, when the team surprised many in the baseball world by winning the division title and then advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
When I grew up in Arizona, there was no professional baseball team and upon my return to Arizona in April of 2011, I set about learning as much as I could about local team as well as the differences in the way baseball is played in the National League. After following the Seattle Mariners since 1981, it took a little bit of getting used to the different strategies and nuances of the game in only for the pictures have to hit. I understand that lower scoring games and strategy are more common in the sleekness without the DH and teams do not swing for the fences with as much reckless abandon as they do in the American League.
The Diamondbacks are blessed to play in Chase Field, which offers a first-rate facility in a city where it’s very easy to attract players. The year-round weather combined with the proximity to California and Las Vegas as well as the ample dining, shopping, housing and recreational opportunities of Arizona make it appealing to players and many of them live here in the off-season.
As such, the team has assembled a roster than on paper will depend less on the long ball and more on speed, fundamentals, execution and timely hitting. Now I know that this is a recipe for most teams to have success, but we all know that there are some teams blessed with an abundance of power that can get away without slugging their competition.
Paul Goldschmidt is off to an impressive start this spring and is being counted upon to provide the power presence in the lineup. Centerfielder Adam Eaton is another player that the team’s high on and they hope to see him become a regular contributor in the team’s lineup, especially with newly acquired Tony Campana providing speed and base stealing threat to the team. A.J. Pollock is also having an impressive spring and is another of the team’s talented young individuals who they hope will shine through the season.
Offense can only carry a team so far and be up to the pitching rotation to keep the team in games. Trevor Cahill and Tyler Skaggs are two intriguing arms to watch this year and if veteran closer JJ Putz can stay healthy, the team may have the ingredients in place to contend in the highly competitive West.