With Spring Training right around the corner what better time to start looking at all 30 MLB teams for the upcoming 2014 season. Season previews will go alphabetically through the teams over the next 10 days before wrapping up with my final season preview that will include standings, playoffs, World Series, award picks and Top 50 prospects. Next: Atlanta Braves.
2013 Record: 81-81 (Second place in NL West)
Key additions: Traded for OF Mark Trumbo, RHP Addison Reed; Signed 3B Eric Chavez, RHP Daniel Hudson
Key losses: LHP Tyler Skaggs (traded to Los Angeles Angels), RHP Heath Bell (traded to Tampa Bay Rays), OF Adam Eaton (traded to Chicago White Sox), 3B Matt Davidson (traded to Chicago White Sox), LHP David Holmberg (traded to Cincinnati Reds)
Quick winter recap: It was a busy winter for the Diamondbacks who signed Hudson to a minor league deal 11 days after he opted to test the market. Trumbo gives Arizona the power bat it’s been missing in the corner outfield. Gerardo Parra basically forced out Eaton, but Skaggs could be the one that hurts as General Manager Kevin Towers continues to look for pitching.
Farm system outlook: Archie Bradley could be the answer for a rotation spot if the Diamondbacks decide to advance him, which doesn’t seem likely right out of spring. He’s a legitimate top-10 prospect. Solid prospects Chris Owings and Zeke Spruill are already on the 40-man roster and No. 3 prospect Braden Shipley hasn’t been invited to spring training yet.
Most intriguing player: Bradley made short work at High-A in 2013 and made 21 starts at Double-A. He posted a low strikeout rate (8.68 K/9), but still continues to walk more than he should and he’s on the brink of making the club this year if he improves that end of his game. Bradley already has multiple plus offerings with his fastball and curveball. At 21 years old, his changeup is quickly turning into a third plus pitch. Bradley is coming quickly and he’ll be very interesting to track in 2014.
Due for a better year: Trumbo. It’s hard to say a guy with career numbers in home runs (34), RBI (100) and WAR (2.5) is a due for a better year, but Trumbo joins a more hitter-friendly park. If he turns his strikeouts and weak grounders into walks or at worst a flyball, his OBP stands a chance of going up. Otherwise, he’s in the mold of an Adam Dunn, where he could put up monster home run and slugging totals in Arizona but not do much else. Best-case scenario is one of these years he puts on a show like Chris Davis did in 2013, and that’s only if everything aligns.
Due for a worse year: Parra. The outfield was so crowded with the addition of Trumbo that former top prospect Eaton was shipped out before his peak talent was given a chance to be reached. Parra had a magnificent season, but he didn’t match well against lefties and could find himself in a platoon role with A.J. Pollack and Cody Ross, while struggling to reach 600 plate appearances again. For everything he did well to reach a 4.6 WAR value last year, it can’t be expected again this year.
2014 outlook: Paul Goldschmidt seems to be the only guarantee. There are many questions in the rotation, at catcher and who will start in the outfield on a consistent basis. The infield will be solid with Martin Prado coming off a typical season, Aaron Hill healthy and Didi Gregorius hopefully improving his offensive exploits, with Owings waiting in the wings if he doesn’t. Despite that, the Diamondacks can make a nice run because even with question marks, they seem to have fewer than most in the NL West except the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now, if someone joins Patrick Corbin atop the rotation things could change quickly, at least in terms of Arizona’s hopes for the Wild Card. The offseason was mixed, but overall, probably an improvement to the bullpen and power numbers. A .500 team again? Just over, especially with another starter.
Prediction: 84-78 (Second in NL West)