I have been trying to look at the Arizona Diamondbacks' glass half-full this spring. But, I'll admit I have been having a hard time doing it, especially in light of the terrible news that Patrick Corbin is lost for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, as AZCentral.com's Zach Buchanan reports.
Corbin's injury takes an area that was already the team's weakness and makes it even thinner before the season has even started. I didn't view the D'Backs as a playoff team with Corbin, and now it looks like the team might struggle to win 80 games this season. On the heels of consecutive 81-81 seasons, it would be discouraging to see the team potentially moving backwards in 2014.
The offense figures to be the strength of the D'Backs with the team featuring legitimate MVP-threat Paul Goldschmidt. He is the D'Backs best player, and if you are looking for a reason to keep watching Arizona all season, keep your eyes focused on the 26-year-old slugger.
Newcomer Mark Trumbo will have a lot of pressure on him to provide power and play a manageable left field this season. Trumbo has always had great power but has struggled recently with strikeouts and OBP. Martin Prado will benefit from being in his second season in Arizona, and Aaron Hill will hopefully avoid injuries while providing offense from second base.
The bullpen should be much improved with the addition of closer Addison Reed. The 25-year-old had 40 saves last season, and having a legitimate closer will allow David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler and J.J. Putz to be in the right roles moving forward.
After looking at areas where the D'Backs might be improved compared to 2013, I keep turning back to the starting rotation. Assuming the D'Backs' Opening Day rotation is Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, Trevor Cahill, Bronson Arroyo and Randall Delgado, it's a fair question to ask whether any of those pitchers would start for the Los Angeles Dodgers or the San Francisco Giants at this point of the season.
Here's a glimpse at what Arizona might be facing this year when looking at the rest of the division.
The Dodgers look like the clear favorite in the NL West, with an enormous amount of money and talent at their disposal. For the rest of the division, the hope seems to be that the Dodgers' clubhouse dysfunction ends their hope of winning the division in a clash of egos and selfishness.
Even with Kershaw missing Sunday's start due to inflammation in his back, reported here by ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne, it will likely only cost the Dodgers' ace a few starts. Unless Kershaw's back is an issue all season, the Dodgers are loaded from top to bottom and will be a World Series favorite this season.
San Francisco had a down season last year, but it has managed to have a solid offseason by re-signing Hunter Pence and adding starter Tim Hudson. Hudson would have been an arm who would have slotted very nicely into the D'Backs rotation if the team had been a little more aggressive at the beginning of the winter.
Matt Cain and Tim Linececum haven't looked great this spring, giving the D'Backs some hope that the Giants rotation won't be as strong as anticipated.
The San Diego Padres have quietly had a good offseason, slowly building a team this season that might stay in contention longer than anyone anticipates. As it stands right now, San Diego has a better rotation than Arizona with Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy leading the way.
Joaquin Benoit was a crucial addition to the team's bullpen, supporting closer Huston Street and giving the Padres the ability to shorten games. If Josh Johnson can give this team 20 good starts, the Padres could find themselves in playoff contention come September.
Bringing up the rear of the division again will be the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies have some interesting pieces on offense, including Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, but the Colorado starting rotation is more of an unknown quantity than the D'Backs. The Rockies added Brett Anderson to go with Jorge De La Rosa, meaning the Rockies have put their hopes on two oft-injured pitchers to lead the way.
If you are looking for bright spots for the D'Backs, look at the development of Chris Owings and Archie Bradley during the course of this season. Both players will have a huge role in shaping the D'Backs moving forward. More than any other player in the Arizona organization, the 21-year-old Bradley will have a huge impact on the D'Backs if he lives up to expectation.
If the division struggles this year, then maybe the D'Backs can stay in contention through the summer. Arizona will score runs and win a lot of high-scoring games with this offense. The bullpen looks like it will be an area of strength if it is not overworked. If the starting rotation can keep this team in games and build confidence, the outlook for this season would drastically improve.
Right now Arizona looks like the fourth-place team in the NL West. It will be up to the D'Backs starting pitching to change that outcome.
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