Arizona Diamondbacks


Closer Updates: Not Exactly the Best

If you don't own a Diamondbacks closer, it's probably been a pretty quiet week for you. Given that, we'll take a quick look at some closers who may have seen changes in their value, and examine the situation in Arizona, before tackling the most exciting possible post-July-4th topic: disappointing closers. A couple weeks ago, we looked at the best* closers around baseball and determined whether or not we would want each one on our teams going forward. Back then, we promised to follow up with the rest of baseball's stoppers, so here we are.

*Note: actually, we looked at those closers who had saved the most games thus far. Some (**cough, cough**, Tom Wilhelmsen) were not even arguably among "the best."

Diamondbacks

J.J. Putz just hasn't been a good investment this year. Bad pitching, seven weeks of injury, and now he blows the save and loses his job in his first outing back. I guess there's a reason most teams ease returned stoppers back into the ninth. For now, Putz will work to build himself up and Heath Bell has un-lost the closing gig. Hold on to both for now, keeping Bell until Putz shows a strong hold on the job, and not dropping Putz unless he scuffles in middle relief for an extended period. The whole situation makes this Bell owner pretty happy his father beat him to snagging Putz off the waiver wire....

Mariners

The aforementioned (and afore-maligned) Tom Wilhelmsen locked down his 17th save Wednesday, and looks to be getting future chances. If he got dropped (I dropped him) in your league, pick him back up if you need saves. 

Cubs

Sure, Kevin Gregg blew his first save, but he came back with another winner for the Cubs. The chance that he gets traded to a contender to set up is pretty high, but in case he doesn't, he could be a good trade target, as this article suggests a solid reason for his much-improved control.

Brewers

Francisco Rodriguez nailed down another save Wednesday. He's gotten a lot more chances than Jim Henderson lately, and it may be proper to consider him the real closer in Milwaukee. Trade for him with care, however, as he's a good candidate for a real-life trade into the 7th or 8th inning.

Less than the Best

It's worth noting (briefly) that I'm not including closers who've bounced in and out of the job, those who've spent significant time injured, or who just got the job. Those guys get plenty of face time in this space anyway.

Can't Complain--or Shouldn't, at Least

Ernesto Frieri, 21 SV

Frieri is what he is and does what he does. Specifically, he strikes tons of people out, and walks tons of people. He's like the old Armando Benitez, a good Carlos Marmol, or Aroldis Chapman-lite. It seems to work, and the Angels are more likely to reload for next year than try to rebuild.

Glen Perkins, 20 SV

Perkins has been a boss, but you should trade him away. Why? Because the Twins are awful and he could fetch a serious return on the real-life trade market. Deal him first, just in case, because most of the closers he'd replace don't pitch for the teams that will be buyers at the deadline. (Except the Tigers, but an in-division trade is a bit much to hope for.)

Grant Balfour, 20 SV

The world's most appropriately named person (seriously, I bet his parents were Nolan Ryan fans and hoped he'd grow up to be the all-time leader in walks issued) has given owners none of the stress they (we) received last year. Luckily for his owners, the A's are firmly in contention and won't be dealing him away. He's a great trade target if you can pry him away from his owners.

It's Been an Interesting Ride, Hasn't it?

Greg Holland, 18 SV

Quick: who's got the second best K/9% among closers. Yup, it's Holland, who's only a little behind Chapman and nearly a full point ahead of third-place Jason Grilli. Holland's owners should hope Kansas City can retain delusions hopes of contention, because he could make a great trade piece. He's been so good that I'd gamble on him until and unless trade rumors heat up about him.

Casey Janssen, 17 SV

This guy has quietly pitched very well up North. The Blue Jays may not be contending this year, but the team they built in the offseason wasn't built for this year only. Unless the rumor mill says otherwise, expect Janssen to keep the job. He's a good one to deal for, if worried owners predict a real life trade.

Jose Veras, 17 SV

Veras went practically undrafted in many leagues this year, as the hapless Astros weren't expected to offer enough save chances for him to be relevant. Well, he is. He's worth targeting, especially as a throw-in for a larger fantasy trade. Unfortunately, Veras is very vulnerable to leaving the Astros for the middle of a contender's bullpen.

Fernando Rodney, 17 SV

I'm pretty sure fantasy owners who drafted Rodney early didn't expect Jose Veras to have matched his save total at this point in the season. Here we are, though. It's clear that Rodney isn't the guy he looked like last year (surprise), but he isn't as bad as he once was, either. Expect him to close all year on the contending Rays team; he's a good one to target in trade, as his owner is likely still disappointed in his production.

There's Always Next Year the Second Half

Steve Cishek, 16 SV

Cishek might get the award for Most Likely to Be Traded, as the Marlins are going nowhere and have a compulsive desire to trade anyone making more than half a million dollars every deadline. If you can get any value for him, I'd cut bait on this Fish. Unfortunately, you probably can't, so your best option is just to ride it out and enjoy the few saves while you can.

Jonathan Papelbon, 16 SV

Papelbon is probably the best trade target out there right now. He's just gone through a pretty rough stretch, which might lower his value just a bit. More importantly, he's the only closer that might be on the market that will close just about anywhere he gets traded. Even if the Phillies don't improve in the second half, it's very likely that he gets (and converts) plenty more save chances. 

Huston Street, 15 SV

Street has already spent injured time, depressing his save total. While he could be traded, San Diego isn't out of it just yet and might not be hoping to sell. Of course, Street has been horrid this year, with a 4.94 K/9 and an eye-popping 7.59 FIP. The good news is that his xFIP is only 4.90. If you can find a buyer, deal him away. 

Bobby Parnell, 14 SV

Parnell has shown great control and hasn't let a single ball out of the yard. Pretty impressive, but not good enough to net him the lowest save total for anyone who's kept the job all year. At least he isn't under the shadow of Frank Francisco anymore. There haven't been any trade rumors about Parnell yet, but the Mets aren't exactly playing for the 2013 Series. Like Papelbon, he's likely to receive more save chances in the second half.

Rafael Betancourt, 14 SV

Betancourt has been his usual fragile-but-good self this year. With Colorado just 2.5 games back, don't expect the Rockies to try dealing him away just yet. That makes him a better trade candidate than most of the pitchers on this list.



Closer Updates: Committees, Injury Returns, Strugglers, and the Early Trading Block

Jason Grilli might have blown his first save, but that doesn't mean he's in hot water. Arguably the season's best closer so far, he won't be making it into any of this week's categories of concern--not even as a trade target, with the Pirates nestled into the second NL Wild Card. Grilli's owners may be lucky, but below are four categories of closers worth worrying about.

Committees

The pernicious closer-by-committee might be favored in sabermetric circles, but it never gets much love from the mainstream media. Why? Because of those of us who play fantasy baseball, I bet. We might have been part of the "sabermetric revolution" at its beginning, but there's nothing we hate more as a group than the closer-by-committee. All those saves going to waste, spread out across three or four fantasy teams....

Brewers

Last week, Jim Henderson made it back to the Majors from the DL, but he didn't slide right back into his old role. Instead, Francisco Rodriguez was allowed to chase the 300-saves milestone. Well, K-Rod is still chasing it, stuck as he is on number 299. Not that Rodriguez hasn't pitched well, but it'd be nice to get this situation down to a single closer. More than likely, Henderson reclaims the job after K-Rod finally gets that big save, but there's no way to be sure. Keep running both pitchers out there for now, as neither will hurt your ratios in the eighth or ninth innings, despite Henderson's eighth inning blown save.

Tigers

Jose Valverde didn't have to fall very far to fall out of favor in the Motor City. The good news is that none of us spent a high draft pick on him. Other than that, it looks like manager Jim Leyland will play whatever matchups suit him, at least until he gets so tired of reporters' questions that he just names Bruce Rondon closer out of frustration. The committee cast has changed a bit since the beginning of the season, with Rondon and Al Alburquerque in AAA, and Octavio Dotel on the 60-Day DL. Expect Valverde to continue getting a few saves, while Joaquin Benoit, Drew Smyly, and Phil Coke share the job with him. Benoit is the group's early leader and a good choice for a pickup, the Tigers seem likely to have a closer high on their spring shopping list. In fact, it wouldn't be a shock to see them swing deals for more than one reliever before the deadline.

Mariners

This is easily the ugliest of the committee situations. Tom Wilhelmsen is no longer the team's closer, though they seem to hold out hope that he'll sort out his struggles. In the meantime, he's already blown a save as a committee member. Other possibilities for saves include Carter Capps, Charlie Furbush, and Oliver Perez. (Yes, the Oliver Perez who was once a promising lefty strikeout pitcher who completely imploded, signed a big contract with the Mets, imploded again, and threw a temper tantrum about going to the bullpen.) None is a great option, though Capps is likely to get the most save opps going forward, thanks to his right-handedness, though he coughed up a pair of runs without recording any outs in yesterday's brutal loss to the Angels. Any pitcher who does emerge from this quagmire with a closing gig is a decent investment, because the Mariners aren't in the position to seek outside help in relief. In fact, they're probably just frustrated that Wilhelmsen couldn't stay good long enough to get traded.

Injury Returns

It's never exactly clear what will happen when a closer returns from the DL. Sometimes the replacement keeps the job, sometimes the old guy takes it right back, sometimes the old closer is eased back into his role, and sometimes a committee develops. The plan for the teams below seems to be to reinstate the old closer, but you never quite know for sure.

Indians

I bet you never thought you'd be excited for Chris Perez to come take his job back from Vinnie Pestano. The Indians have scuffled hard since Perez's injury, though Pestano finally recorded his second save of the year. Perez won't be coming back immediately, following a terrible rehab appearance and flawed mechanics. If he gets his delivery sorted out quickly, he'll be back in the ninth just as quickly. If he happened to get dropped in your league, snatch him back up.

Rockies

Rafael Betancourt is inching his way back to the Majors and is scheduled to face hitters today. If everything goes well, he could be back relatively soon. It's far too early to drop Rex Brothers, but don't expect him to keep Betancourt from getting his job back when he does return. And it's advisable to hang onto Brothers after that, though, as he's pitched to a great ERA and Betancourt isn't exactly the healthiest closer in the ninth.

Diamondbacks

Heath Bell has been surprisingly good for Arizona. Not, you know, great, but better than we expected. The homers have given him trouble, and his job could be in danger if J.J. Putz comes back. And Putz might just be back soon, as he began his rehab assignment yesterday--a lot earlier than was initially expected. While he may take a little while in the minors, he could also be back in the Diamondbacks' closer role quickly. He was dropped in many leagues, but I'd advise picking him back up if you've got the room to stash him.

Strugglers

A couple of the early season's best closers have hit some serious rough patches and owners should monitor their situations.

Red Sox

Andrew Bailey has pitched horrifically in his last few outings, to the tune of an 11.25 ERA in his last four appearances. Manager John Farrell says that Bailey has "some work to do," but "for the time being...is definitely our closer." Well, doesn't he sound excited to keep Bailey in the ninth, and admits that he would consider other options, "at least temporarily." Bailey is clearly on a short leash, so Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara might be good choices for anyone speculating on saves. Update: Bailey has used up his short leash and is out as closer for now. Pick up Tazaway or Uehara.

Phillies

Jonathan Papelbon is the sort of name you don't expect to have to write very often in a column like this, but he's blown two saves over the course of three days. They're just his first two blown saves of the year, but keep an eye on him. Fortunately for Papelbon and his owners, he should have a long leash given his contract and track record. Though the Phillies appear not to be contending this year, they say they aren't considering dealing Papelbon or their other expensive players.

Early Trading Block

Major League teams aren't likely to be making trades for almost another month, but fantasy owners need to be quicker with the trade trigger. After all, when a closer is traded into a setup job in the real world, his fantasy trade value pretty much hits zero. Any closer on a non-contending team is a good candidate to get traded away, though teams with 2014 ambitions are more likely to hang on to their relievers if they're young and inexpensive. Right now, two closers are generating the most trade buzz.

Marlins

Shockingly, the Fish aren't contending this year for anything but worst team in baseball. They might even beat the Astros for that one. Steve Cishek has been pretty good for them as their closer, but a team playing under .300 doesn't need a good closer. Expect Cishek to get dealt to a contender. Unfortunately, he's unlikely to close for any of them. If you've got him, it would be a good idea to deal him early, even for a mediocre return.

Twins

Glen Perkins is a little more complicated than Cishek, as there are contending teams for which he might close. Like the Tigers. The Red Sox could hypothetically be interested in his ninth-inning services too, but if he is dealt, he's most likely going to set up. He should command more than Cishek on the trade market, but he's also a good one to deal. 

Dont' forget to check out @CloserNews on Twitter for all up-to-the-minute updates on closers around baseball.



Shutdown Corner: NL West Closer Roundup

Welcome back to the (sixth and final) divisional closer roundup here at Shutdown Corner. It's taken us a long time to get here (and out AL West and NL East roundups need a little updating by now), but we're here! We're finally ready to roll out the division that's home to the defending World Series Champions -- the NL West. And, to acces any of the previous round ups, follow the following links: AL East, AL CentralAL WestNL East, and NL Central.

If you haven't been following along at home, here's our closer tiering system for the pre-season:

  • Tier 1: World-class reliever, capable of putting up a season for the ages.
  • Tier 2: Very good closer, both stable and effective.
  • Tier 3: Average closer, may be lacking either stability or effectiveness.
  • Tier 4: Poor closer, either completely ineffective but stable, or very unstable.

Arizona Diamondbacks: J.J. Putz

Aside from a lost year in New York, J.J. Putz has quietly been one of the more consistent late-inning options in baseball over the past seven seasons. Last year, Putz sparkled in the Arizona sun, posting fine alphabet-soup rate stats (2.82 ERA, 2.38 FIP, 29.8 K%, 1.03 WHIP) while logging 32 saves. He rolls into 2013 with a firm grip on the closer spot in Arizona, despite strong relievers behind him in David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler, and Heath Bell.

Putz's Achilles heel is his durability, as he's usually only able to throw between 50-58 innings per season. Given his injury history, a short DL stint is likely during a season, and an extended one certainly isn't out of the question -- meaning you should have a backup plan ready to go for when he goes down.

I recently had a discussion on Twitter with someone who firmly believes that David Hernandez is going to be the closer when J.J. inevitably hits the DL or needs a n extended break. I'm not entirely sure that's going to be the case. New addition Heath Bell is one of those guys who has the "proven closer" label, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he gets first shot to close when Putz goes down. For this reason, it's a little tough to predict who should be your handcuff if you want to grab a backup for Putz ... but remember that Hernandez projects to have much better rate stats than Bell.

Projected Tier: Tier 2 (great numbers, doesn't pitch much more than 50 innings per season, serious injury risk, good competition)

Next in line: Heath Bell or David Hernandez

Colorado Rockies: Rafael Betancourt

If you really want to talk about consistency, though, the first second name on your lips (after Mariano Rivera) should be the Rockies' Rafael Betancourt. Betancourt is a rare pitcher who has thrived pitching for the Rockies, using a simply two pronged philosophy: (1) strike everyone out and (2) don't walk anyone.

Revolutionary, I know!

At any rate, 2012 was a bit of a down season for the purple-clad closer, as both his K% (24.2%) and BB% (5.1%) slipped a bit from his stellar stats in the previous few seasons. With Rafael entering his age-38 season, I think that we should temper our expectations for him in 2013. He's certainly still a good closer to draft, but signs point to him entering a decline phase.

Projected Tier: Tier 3 (good stats, starting to decline, age is an issue, younger competition in the bullpen)

Next in line: Matt Belisle or Rex Brothers

Los Angeles Dodgers: Brandon League

I'm not gonna lie, this is a weird one. The Dodgers already have a weapon of mass destruction in their bullpen: the heater-tastic Kenley Jansen. But because the team is flush with cash, they made a huge investment in League which seems to indicate that he'll be given the ninth-inning duties. League doesn't have the strikeout rate of a top-tier closer (17.9% in 2012), but he improved upon arriving in L.A. and has a legitimate out pitch. Nevertheless, strikeouts are the most important thing in my eyes, and anyone with that much trouble getting Ks isn't a safe bet. No matter how much the Dodgers are willing to spend.

Don't be fooled, though -- Kenley Jansen is coming for this spot. Jansen strikes out guys with authority (39.3% strikeout rate in 2012) and would be a lockdown option in the ninth if it weren't for continued medical worries about his heart. If you're going to pick one setup man to handcuff at the start of the season, make it Jansen, as his strikeouts will play in almost any league, and he could be closing again by June.

Projected Tier: Tier 4 (too few strikeouts, too many walks and meltdowns, good competition in the bullpen)

Next in line: Kenley Jansen

San Diego Padres: Huston Street

If you could be sure that Huston Street would pitch a full season, I'd have you draft him in the top 5-10 of all closers in baseball. Both recently, and over the life of his career, he's proved an ability to strike guys out, limit walks, and he pitches in the hurlers' haven that is PetCo park.

Of course, you can't ever be sure that Street will be healthy for a full season. Last year, Street only logged 40 appearances, but still recorded 23 saves for an unremarkable Padres squad. His injury risk hasn't kept him out of action for a full season yet during his career, but all the "minor" injuries he's sustained over the past three years are painting the picture that if health is a skill, it's one Street doesn't quite have.

Luke Gregerson will probably get first chance to close when/if Street succumbs to injury, but don't sleep on Brad Brach, who strikes everybody out and has only the slightest idea of where the strike zone begins and ends. If Brach can get the ball over the plate with a bit of regularity, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Padres bail on both Street and Gregerson, and hand the ninth over to the youngster.

Projected Tier: Tier 3 (good numbers, good situation, moderate injury risk)

Next in line: Luke Gregerson or Brad Brach

San Francisco Giants: Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo's 2011 was about as good as a late-inning reliever could hope for. While no one would expect that 1.50 ERA and 40% K-rate to hold up, Romo's 2012 was pretty awesome as well. The ERA jumped all the way up to 1.79, and the strikeouts still came in bunches, though not as often as in 2011. With Brian Wilson long gone, Romo has inherited the coveted ninth inning role for the defending champs, and looks to hold it down with authority.

Everything would be great ... if it weren't for the fact that the Giants still treat Romo with kid gloves. Romo relies on a wipeout slider, and considering how much it taxes his elbow, the Giants tend to use Romo sparingly throughout the season. In 2012, Romo made 69 appearances, sure, but only logged a little more than 55 innings. There's a pretty fair chance that, while Romo will be the guy for the Giants, he may not be available on back-to-back days in some instances, and that other relievers will vulture some save chances. Nevertheless, the good signs are too many to ignore, and he should be considered a Tier 2 closer for the 2013 season.

The Beard is dead. Long live The Beard.

Projected Tier: Tier 2 (fantastic stuff, injury / workload remains a risk, good competition)

Next in line: Santiago Casilla

As always, check out @CloserNews on Twitter for up-to-the-minute closer updates, and find me at@bgrosnick for everything baseball. Next week we'll write about something other than closers by division ... so get excited!

All data from FanGraphs.



Offseason Injuries: To Stash Or Not To Stash?

There is no bigger wildcard throughout a season than injuries. A bad hamstring or a sore elbow can sink an entire fantasy season almost instantly, so there's always a lot of finger-crossing going on. At the same time, fantasy owners always try to take advantage of their DL spots early in the season by drafting an injured player and stashing him until he's healthy. Carlos Quentin, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Mike Morse, Salvador Perez, Brett Anderson, and Drew Storen were among the most popular "draft-and-stashes" a year ago. Some worked better than others, obviously.

Spring Training will surely bring a wave of injuries that carry over into the season, but there are already plenty of players who we know will miss the start of 2013. Some are worth grabbing late in the draft and hiding on the DL for a few weeks while others are just a waste of time. It's the same story every year. Here are a few players who will miss the start of next season and could prove useful in the second half.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Daniel Hudson
Hudson, 25, battled elbow trouble last April and May and it eventually blew out in late-June. He had Tommy John surgery and is expected to return sometime after the All-Star break. Hudson became incredibly homer prone last summer (1.79 HR/9), which can be atrributed both to the injury and simple regression -- only 6.4% of his fly balls left the yard in 2011, which is very low for a fly ball pitcher (career 39.1% grounders) who makes half his starts in Chase Field. In 2012 that jumped up to 16.7%, which is a bit high but more in line with expectations. His strikeout (7.35 K/9) and walk (2.38 BB/9) rates barely changed, however. When he returns with a healthy elbow, Hudson is someone worth carrying because he'll keep his ERA down and chip in some strikeouts. I'd go ahead and stash him if he's sitting there in a late round.

Atlanta Braves: Brandon Beachy
Like Hudson, the 26-year-old Beachy blew out his elbow in June and required Tommy John surgery. Unlike Hudson, Beachy was absolutely dominant before getting hurt: 2.00 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 81 innings. The Braves have plenty of starting pitching depth but they'll surely clear a spot when their young right-hander is healthy and ready to rejoin the rotation. Beachy is definitely someone worth stashing on the DL in the first half, no doubt about it.

Kansas City Royals: Danny Duffy
Duffy, 24, had Tommy John surgery in late-May and is expected to return a few weeks before Hudson and Beachy. He showed big strikeout ability (9.1 K/9) in six starts before getting hurt, which is on par with his minor league performance. Assuming the uncharacteristic walk problems (5.9 BB/9) stemmed from the elbow injury, Duffy is an intriguing young starter with whiff potential for next season. I don't believe there's enough track record here to warrant a DL stash in typical 12-team mixed leagues, however.

New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez & Michael Pineda
It has been five years since A-Rod made it through a full season without visiting the DL, and that streak will reach six years following his left hip surgery later this week. He's expected to be out until the All-Star break, though Dr. Bryan Kelly recently acknowledged it could be even longer. They won't know the extent of the cartilage damage until they actually cut him open. A-Rod, 37, is no longer the best fantasy producer in the game, but he's not useless either. He hit 18 homers in 122 games last season and has consistently produced a batting average in the .270s over the last three seasons, plus the lineup around him ensures plenty of RBI opportunities. I'm on the fence about this one, I can see the argument to both stash and not stash New York's third baseman.

Pineda, 23, has yet to throw a pitch for the Yankees after being acquired from the Mariners one year and one day ago. He had shoulder surgery in May and is expected back in June, but the club has admitted they will play things very carefully. Pineda wasn't far off from a fantasy ace in 2011 -- 3.74 ERA with a 9.1 K/9 and 1.09 WHIP -- but labrums are not UCLs. If he had Tommy John surgery instead of shoulder surgery, he'd be a slam-dunk draft-and-stash. Because his trademark velocity may never return, the uncertainty is much greater. Factor in the tough division and hitter friendly park, and Pineda is someone who is more worth a midseason waiver pickup than a draft slot. I'm watching this one play out from afar.

San Diego Padres: Cory Luebke
The 27-year-old Luebke starred after moving into San Diego's rotation in late-June 2011, pitching to a 3.31 ERA with 9.9 K/9 in 17 starts to close out the season. Expectations were fairly high coming into last year, but he instead lasted just five starts (2.61 ERA) before undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery. He's due to return in late-May/early-June and will be expected to get back on the path he appeared to be carving 12 months ago. Luebke misses bats, has a history of limiting walks, and pitches half his games in a super-friendly ballpark (even with the walls coming in at Petco Park). He's definitely someone I'm looking to stash for a few weeks, no doubt about it. He and Beachy are the gold standard.

Texas Rangers: Joakim Soria, Colby Lewis & Neftali Feliz
The Rangers have three pitchers due to return from elbow surgery at midseason, with the 28-year-old Soria likely to join the bullpen before Lewis and Feliz rejoin the rotation. The presence of Joe Nathan means Soria is unlikely to see save chances, but he would be a prime holds candidate as Mike Adams' replacement. It's worth noting that he's coming off his second Tommy John surgery, which is much more risky and unpredictable than the first. I wouldn't expect the Royals version of Soria, at least not right away.

Lewis, 33, is more of a solid fantasy option than a standout, but he is guaranteed a spot in the Texas rotation when healthy. Feliz, 24, could wind up back in the bullpen depending on how Soria and Lewis recover. GM Jon Daniels has already hinted that a return to relieving could be in the cards, if not likely at this point. With Nathan entrenched in the ninth inning, Feliz's fantasy value would take a hit with a move back into the bullpen. I don't think I would stash any of these three Rangers, but I'd prefer Lewis over the other two given his role and playing time certainty.



The Next Big Thing: Waiting On Top Prospects

The 2012 season was the year of immediate impact. All across the league we saw rookie players come up and contribute more than expected, and it started right in April with reigning Rookies of the Year Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. It extended far beyond those two, of course. Wade Miley was an All-Star for the Diamondbacks, Rob Brantly hit .290 with a .372 OBP in a month's worth of games for the Marlins, Manny Machado hit two homers in his second game with the Orioles, the division-winning Athletics had an all-rookie rotation at one point, the list goes on and on. Todd Frazier, Yoenis Cespedes, Will Middlebrooks, Anthony Rizzo ... there were impact rookies everywhere.

Fantasy owners are looking for that next big thing every season, and that search figures to be a little more intense in 2012 after the banner rookie class of a year ago. Top prospects are always a great place to start, but some are blocked or simply two far away from the majors to have real fantasy value. Some are the victims of their own success as clubs will keep them in the minors in April and May to ensure an extra year of team control down the line. Here's a look at some of the game's best up-and-coming big leaguers who could be this season's Trout or Harper.

Arizona Diamondbacks: LHP Tyler Skaggs
The D'Backs have a strong rotation fronted by Miley, Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, and Brandon McCarthy, but that fifth spot is up for grabs. Patrick Corbin handled himself well enough last year (4.54 ERA in 107 IP) and Josh Collmenter is lurking, but the 21-year-old Skaggs will get a chance to make the team out of Spring Training as well. He got hit pretty hard in six late-season starts (5.83 ERA and 1.50 WHIP) but that's not the end of the world. His minor league performance is dynamite (2.87 ERA and 8.5 K/9 in 2012) and his curveball is a true out-pitch. The trade that sent Trevor Bauer to the Indians removed one fifth starter candidate from Arizona's equation, but my guess is Corbin will get the first shot with Skaggs waiting in Triple-A for someone to get hurt or underperform.

Baltimore Orioles: RHP Dylan Bundy
The Orioles made a bold move late last season by calling up baseball's best pitching prospect for the stretch run in September even though he was still a teenager at the time. Bundy, who has since turned 20, made two short relief appearances and is slated for more time in the minors in 2013. He has just 103 2/3 total minor league innings under his belt, only 16 2/3 have come above the Single-A level. Baltimore has already shown a willingness to use Bundy in the big leagues, but I highly doubt using him as a starter right out of Spring Training is in the cards. If anything, the young right-hander is a second half call-up.

Houston Astros: 1B Jonathan Singleton
No team is rebuilding quite like the Astros, though they recently signed Carlos Pena to caddy with Brett Wallace at the first base and DH spots. The first base seat is just being kept warm for the 21-year-old Singleton, who hit .284/.396/.497 with 21 homers in Double-A last season. He followed up the season with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League. Houston has every reason to play the service time game with Singleton, who they acquired from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade two years ago. After a few hundred Triple-A at-bats to start the season, expect to see he young left-handed hitter in the middle of the big league lineup.

New York Mets: RHP Zack Wheeler & C Travis d'Arnaud
Matt Harvey deserved a mention in my quick list of impact rookies in the intro, and he figures to have some running mates in 2013. Like the Astros and Singleton, the Mets have every reason to manipulate Wheeler's and d'Arnaud's service time next season. Wheeler, 22, is arguably the second best pitching prospect in the game but I do not think the team will want to keep him in Triple-A Las Vegas very long. It might the best hitter's environment in professional baseball and could wreck a pitcher's confidence over the full season. Since he needs a challenge after overwhelming the Double-A level this past season (3.27 ERA with 8.5 K/9), expect to see the right-hander in New York's rotation come June.

D'Arnaud, 23, was the centerpiece of the R.A. Dickey trade. He hit a stout .333/.380/.595 with 16 homers in Last Vegas last season (the Mets and Blue Jays swapped Triple-A affiliates this offseason) but did not play after late-June due to a knee injury. After another few hundred at-bats in Triple-A, expect to see d'Arnaud replace John Buck behind the plate at the big league level. He, Wheeler, and Harvey are the team's high-end battery of the future.

Seattle Mariners: RHP Taijuan Walker, LHP James Paxton & LHP Danny Hultzen
Perhaps no club has as many high-end pitching prospects as Seattle, especially if you want to factor in closeness to the majors. Walker, 20, is the best of the bench despite some hiccups at Double-A in 2012 (4.69 ERA). He did skip right over High-A High Desert to avoid the hitter friendly California League, so we'll cut him some slack. There is true ace potential in the young righty, but he's unlikely to see a meaningful amount of big league innings this coming season.

Paxton, 24, is probably first in line of the big three after pitching to a 3.04 ERA (9.3 K/9) at Triple-A last season. He'll get a long look in Spring Training and at the moment, his main competition for a rotation spot is the right-handed trio of Blake Beavan, Erasmo Ramirez, and Hector Noesi. I would expect to see Paxton sooner rather than later in 2013, perhaps even as a member of the Opening Day rotation. Hultzen, 23, has quite a bit of work ahead of him after walking 43 batters in 48 2/3 Triple-A innings last season, including 14 walks in his final 7 1/3 innings of the year. I wouldn't count on him for fantasy purposes next season.

St. Louis Cardinals: OF Oscar Taveras, RHP Shelby Miller & RHP Trevor Rosenthal
The Cardinals have arguably the best farm system in baseball, and they seem to produce productive players at an extraordinary rate. Jaime Garcia got hurt? Here's Joe Kelly (3.53 ERA in 107 IP). Need a versatile bench player? There's Matt Carpenter (.828 OPS while playing five positions). Rafael Furcal blew out his elbow? Don't worry, Pete Kozma will save the day (.952 OPS late in the season). I wouldn't count on Kozma ever doing that again, but the point stands. The Cardinals are an exceptional player development club.

Taveras, 20, is arguably the best pure hitting prospect in the minors. He managed a .321/.380/.572 line in Double-A a year ago and following up with a dominant winter ball showing. He's slated to open the season back in Triple-A and although St. Louis has a superb big league outfield, Taveras figures to make his debut in the second half either as an injury replacement or by simply forcing his way into the lineup a la Allen Craig. Miller and Rosenthal, both 22, made their MLB debuts late last year and pitched well enough to earn at least a real shot at making the team out of camp. Rosenthal in particular dazzled in relief, especially during the postseason (15 strikeouts and four baserunners in 8 2/3 innings). The Cardinals have rotation depth with Garcia, Kelly, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Lance Lynn, but Garcia and Carpenter are injury concerns at this point. I believe Rosenthal will open the year in the bullpen (and be a force) while Miller bides his time as a starter in Triple-A.

Tampa Bay Rays: OF Wil Myers, RHP Jake Odorizzi & RHP Chris Archer
The Rays play the service time game as much as anyone, though they didn't play it well enough with David Price. He qualified for Super Two status by approximately two weeks. Desmond Jennings, Matt Moore, and Jeremy Hellickson all had to wait their turn in recent years. The most notable exception is Evan Longoria, who was recalled a handful of days into the 2008 season only to be given a long-term contract extension (giving the team cost certainty) a few days later.

Myers, 22, was the centerpiece of the James Shields trade and could easily be in line for a Longoria-esque quick promotion and extension, but a return trip to the minors to start the season after striking out 140 times in 2012 seems like a safe bet. Tampa has enough outfield depth with Jennings, Matt Joyce, Ben Zobrist, Brandon Guyer, and Sam Fuld to cover. The 24-year-old Archer and 22-year-old Odorizzi are at the mercy of the team's rotation depth. Even after moving Shields and Wade Davis, they still boast a starting staff that includes Price, Hellickson, Moore, Alex Cobb, Jeff Niemann, and possibly even the recently-signed Roberto Hernandez. Archer made six big league appearances last season (4.60 ERA) and is a) first in line for a promotion, and b) more fantasy useful given his elite strikeout rate (11.0 K/9 in MLB and 9.8 K/9 in the minors).

Texas Rangers: 3B Mike Olt & SS Jurickson Profar
Baseball isn't fair some times. Quality players at shortstop and third base are in short supply these days, yet Texas boasts an elite left side of the infield both at the big league level (Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre) and in the upper minors (Profar and Olt). I'm convinced the 24-year-old Olt will be traded before the season (Justin Upton?), especially since Lance Berkman will take most, if not all of the DH at-bats. Depends on where he ends up, Olt could either open the season in the show or back in Triple-A. That's a situation worth monitoring given all of the current injury-prone and unreliable fantasy third base options.

Profar, 19, is baseball's top prospect, and GM Jon Daniels recently told Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas that he doesn't envision using him as a bench player. "It doesn't necessarily make sense ... I don't see (Olt and Profar) as bench players. It doesn't make sense," said the GM. There had been some rumblings Profar could open the season with the MLB club as a second baseman with Ian Kinsler sliding over to first (or the outfield). Either way, he's the only prospect in the minors with a chance to have a Troutian level of impact, meaning power and speed and run-production. That's impossible and unfair to expect from any prospect however, especially someone so young. Profar will definitely play in the big leagues next season after receiving a September call-up last year, but the "when" part is a total wildcard right now.



The Best Fantasy Starting Pitcher Of 2012

Two weeks ago we voted on the best non-Mike Trout fantasy position player of the season, with Yoenis Cespedes beating Todd Frazier and Bryce Harper by no small margin. The Athletics' outfielder has contributed in all five traditional scoring categories, so it wasn't the most difficult choice.

The crop of rookie starting pitchers is surprisingly strong, strong enough that preseason top megaprospect Matt Moore won't even garner much Rookie of the Year consideration. The left-hander hasn't been bad by any means, but expectations were (unrealistically?) high. Matt Harvey had as good a big league debut as anyone, but he was unable to accumulate a meaningful amount of innings. Wei-Yin Chen had a fine first season in MLB, but he basically a league average producer. With all due respect to Mike Fiers (only 121 1/3 innings) and Lance Lynn (technically not a rookie due to service time), here are the three best fantasy starting pitchers of the year...

Yu Darvish | Rangers | 16 W | 3.90 ERA | 214 K | 1.27 WHIP | 184 2/3 IP

I don't love the idea that veterans of the Japanese league are considered rookies, but the rules say they are and that's all that matters. The 26-year-old Darvish has lived up to the hype this year, particularly of late. He owns the third highest strikeout rate (10.4 K/9) among qualified starters and has pitched to a 2.13 ERA with a 60/14 K/BB in his last seven starts (50 2/3 innings). His early-season walk problems -- 5.05 BB/9 as late as mid-August -- have been assuaged, bringing his WHIP down to respectable levels. The ERA is still dangerously close to the 4.08 league average, however.

Wade Miley | Diamondbacks | 16 W | 3.32 ERA | 134 K | 1.20 WHIP | 187 IP

Few teams can match the upper level pitching depth that Arizona has, but it was 25-year-old Miley who broke out of the Trevor Bauer/Tyler Skaggs/Patrick Corbin crop to became an impact pitcher as a freshman. The southpaw ranks 21st out of 91 qualified starters in ERA, though his strikeout rate (6.5 K/9) hardly stands out. Miley came into the season with relatively little hype and has exceeded all expectations, even earning a trip to the All-Star Game. In a world where pitcher wins and ERA are so important, he reigns supreme among rookies.

Jarrod Parker | Athletics | 12 W | 3.44 ERA | 134 K | 1.26 WHIP | 175 1/3 IP

Parker, 23, was another one of those high-end pitching prospects in the D'Backs system before they traded him to Oakland in the Trevor Cahill deal before the season. He stepped into the rotation in late-April and carried a flat 3.00 ERA into late-July. August wasn't very kind (4.71 ERA), but Parker has since rebounded in September (2.31 ERA). He doesn't have the one or two real standout categories to his credit like Darvish (strikeouts) or Miley (wins and ERA), but he has been a rock solid contributor in all non-save scoring categories. It's worth noting that his teammates share some of the blame on the low win total, as Parker has left a game either tied or trailing despite allowing two runs or fewer on seven occasions.



D'Backs Turn To Skaggs As Latest Rotation Aid

The Diamondbacks came into the season with perhaps more high-end young pitching than any other team in baseball, and they've had a chance to cycle through pretty much all of it this year. Right-hander Archie Bradley is still several years away, but Patrick Corbin has settled in as a solid rotation fixture while the mega-hyped Trevor Bauer got a brief four-start audition earlier this summer. Yesterday Arizona turned to 21-year-old left-hander Tyler Skaggs to start game one of a doubleheader. He, like Corbin, was part of the Dan Haren trade, and yesterday's MLB debut featured two runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Marlins despite more walks (five) than strikeouts (four). Apparently it wasn't a one-start deal either...

Skaggs, 21, was considered the 13th best prospect in baseball before the season and the seventh best prospect at midseason by Baseball America. In their subscriber-only scouting report, they mention that he sits anywhere from 88-93 mph with the fastball and backs it up with two offspeed offerings: a sharp curveball "that's a true swing-and-miss pitch" and a changeup that is "at least an average pitch." PitchFX data from yesterday's game (available at Brooks Baseball) confirms Baseball America's report while noting that he also threw a handful of cutters as well.

Prior to being recalled, Skaggs pitched to a 2.87 ERA with 8.5 K/9 (23.1% of batters faced) and 2.7 BB/9 (7.4%) in 122 1/3 minor league innings. He made 13 starts with Double-A Mobile before moving up and making another nine with Triple-A Reno. This was the first year of his career in which he struck out fewer than a batter per inning, though few top prospects maintain their minor league 9+ K/9 in the show. Yesterday's five-walk, four-strikeout showing can be chalked up to jitters at this point, I see no reason to believe it's indicative of a long-term problem.

The D'Backs bounced Corbin back and forth between the rotation and bullpen and few times earlier this season, and right now Skaggs' role with the club is undefined. Veteran southpaw Joe Saunders is on trade waivers and prime candidate to be moved, so that could free up a rotation spot. The only left-hander in Arizona's bullpen at the moment is the shaky Mike Zagurski, who was designated for assignment and outrighted to Triple-A earlier this month only to be recalled when Takashi Saito was placed on the DL. If Saunders is not dealt, Skaggs could wind up working as a reliever for the next few weeks.

I like Skaggs quite a bit and think he could really help both the D'Backs and fantasy owners down the stretch. Certainly more than Saunders will, anyway. If they keep their young southpaw in the rotation, his next two starts figure to come on the road against the Dodgers and Padres, and those are two pretty decent matchups. If they stick him in the bullpen, then he's not worth a roster spot. It's not like he's going to usurp J.J. Putz or anything. Bauer's performance was disappointing given the hype, but I believe Skaggs is a better bet to have immediate impact given his lack of control and walk issues in the minors.



Four Prospects To Watch In The Second Half

As we come out of the All-Star break, we're going to see a number of top prospects join their big league club down the stretch as they push for a playoff spot. Some may have a huge impact like Mike Trout has already had for the Angels while others may just be complementary pieces shoring up the bench or bullpen. Here's a look at four high-end prospects who could assume important roles in the second half and have real fantasy value. I've including their ranking among Baseball America's Top 50 Prospects midseason update for reference.

Matt Harvey | SP | Mets | Baseball America: #34

The Mets got some unfortunate news earlier this week when right-hander Dillon Gee had to be placed on the disabled list after feeling numbness in his fingers. He was diagnosed with a blood clot in his shoulder and may still need surgery. The team has yet to announce his rotation replacement, but right now it seems like the immortal Miguel Batista will be a temporary solution. With Harvey tearing up Triple-A, he becomes the prohibitve favorite to fill Gee's spot if he misses an extended period of time.

Harvey, 23, has pitched to a 3.39 ERA in 18 starts and 98.1 innings for the club's Triple-A affiliate this season. His strikeout (9.3 K/9) and walk (3.8 BB/9) rates are very good, though they're better measured in terms of percent of batters faced -- he's struck out 24.2% while walking 10.0% of the hitters to step in the box against him this year. The walks are a bit of a concern because they will boost his WHIP, but Harvey can miss bats and that will cure a lot of ills. Throw in a pitcher friendly ballpark and you're looking at a potential fantasy weapon down the stretch.

Wil Myers | OF | Royals | Baseball America: #3

The 21-year-old Myers has had a busy week, first starring in the Futures Game before winning the Triple-A All-Star Game MVP Award last night. He's hit a combined .327/.403/.676 with 27 homers in 363 plate appearances split between Double and Triple-A this season, and in reality he probably should have been up a few weeks ago. Lorenzo Cain is just coming back from a groin strain and Jeff Francoeur has been unable to replicate last season's success, so the Royals can make room for Myers if they really want to get him in the lineup. Either way, expect him to rake and become an instant fantasy starter as soon as he's recalled and given an everyday job.

Mike Olt | 3B | Rangers | Baseball America: #11

Olt, 23, has had a huge year - .292/.403/.574 with 22 homers in 348 Double-A plate appearances this summer - and he doesn't figure to need much Triple-A time before being big league ready. The problem is that there's no obvious opening for him in Texas with Adrian Beltre manning the hot corner, though they've had him work out at both first base and right field this season. Of course that also makes Olt one of the very best pieces of trade bait in the game. The Rangers could go big game hunting - Zack Greinke? Cole Hamels? Justin Upton? - with their top third base prospect going the other way. That could land Olt in the big leagues down the stretch and third base is a sneaky shallow position. Keep an eye on Texas and their trade deadline dealings, because they could have big fantasy implications for more than the obvious reasons.

Tyler Skaggs | SP | Diamondbacks | Baseball America: #7

The arrival of Trevor Bauer has been a little underwhelming so far, but he's not the only high-end pitching prospect the D'Backs have on the cusp of the show. Skaggs, a 21-year-old southpaw, pitching to a 2.84 ERA in 13 Double-A starts before jumping to Triple-A and making two starts. His strikeout (8.7 K/9 and 23.2% of batters faced) and walk (2.6 BB/9 and 7.0%) rates are excellent, it's just a matter of making room for him in the rotation. Daniel Hudson's injured elbow opens a starting job that will likely be filled when Joe Saunders comes off the DL (Josh Collmenter is filling in for the time being), but the veteran southpaw always seems to be involved in trade rumors. Skaggs probably has the most to overcome to reach the show in the second half, but he has fantasy impact potential once he does arrive.



Diamondbacks Finally Free Trevor Bauer

Before the season started, fantasy owners were counting down the days until Mike Trout and Bryce Harper joined the Angels and Nationals, respectively. Matt Moore of the Rays was a hot target on draft day and the Mariners' Jesus Montero was a sleeper at the catcher position even though he didn't have catcher eligibility yet. The fifth megaprospect everyone was waiting on was Trevor Bauer, the eclectic right-hander taken third overall last summer by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Having drawn Tim Lincecum comparisons because of a unique delivery (here's video) and workout/conditioning routine, Bauer was the Next Big Thing after those other four Next Big Things.

Ranked as the ninth best prospect in baseball by Baseball America coming into the season, the Diamondbacks sent Bauer to Double-A Mobile when they broke camp. He struck out 60 batters and allowed just nine earned runs in 48 1/3 innings across eight starts before Arizona decided hey, we have to promote this guy. Bumped up to Triple-A Reno, Bauer went on to whiff 56 batters while allowing 14 earned runs in 44 2/3 innings across eight starts. In 16 minor league games this season, he owns a 2.23 ERA and an 11.2 K/9, or better put he's struck out 29.4% of the batters he's faced. The league average is somewhere around 19.0-19.5%, just for perspective. Bauer leads the minors in wins (11) and strikeouts (116) as of right now.

Unfortunately -- I'm not sure for who, really -- he won't get a chance to pad those totals. Arizona is calling Bauer up to make his big league debut against the Braves in Atlanta tonight, replacing the injured Joe Saunders. It sounds like Saunders will be back sooner rather than later, but Daniel Hudson's torn UCL means Bauer is in the rotation to stay. His stuff is excellent and his arsenal includes a mid-90s fastball and a "plus-plus curveball" to go with a solid slider, changeup, and splitter according to Baseball America (subs. req'd). Dan Syzmborski's ZiPS system pegs the Bauer as a 4.18 ERA pitcher at the moment, albeit one with a fantastic strikeout rate (9.2 K/9). In a subscriber-only piece at Baseball Prospectus, Kevin Goldstein says the right-hander from UCLA is "among the best fantasy rookie pickups from here going forward," and I think that goes without saying.

As for the drawbacks, Bauer is known to be pitch inefficient, give out walks, and surrender some homers. He's averaged 101 pitches per six innings according to Goldstein, walked 60 batters in 118 2/3 minor league innings (4.6 BB/9 and 11.7% of batters faced), and given up eight homers during that time. That last number isn't scary, but Bauer has admitted to preferring fly balls to ground balls -- fly balls are more likely to turn into outs -- and not being afraid of the long ball on Twitter (@BauerOutage). Since he'll be playing his home games at the hitter friendly Chase Field, expect Bauer to serve up a few dingers. Given his propensity to walk people, more than a few of them will be multi-run shots as well.

Despite that, I still believe Bauer can outperform that 4.18 ERA projection and settle in as a 3.50-ish guy with a strikeout rate near one batter per nine innings, although his WHIP figures to be a little high given his walk issue. That puts his performance in line with guys like Jonathon Niese and Yu Darvish, though his ability to rack up wins will not be the same given the different teams these guys play on. Following his outing against the Braves tonight, Bauer lines up to make starts against the Padres and the Matt Kemp/Andre Ethier-less Dodgers (both games at home in Chase Field) before the All-Star break. Needless to say, fantasy owners should be salivating. He's a long-term fantasy star that figures to be among the highest drafted pitchers in the coming years, but for 2012 and he's a very good rotation option that might hit some bumps along the way.



Position Battles: Diamondbacks First Base/Left Field

Last week, I analyzed the battle for the Baltimore Orioles' closer job in the first edition of the 'Position Battles' series. Today, I'll examine two starting spots, first base and left field, for the Arizona Diamondbacks and five players who will be competing for the jobs in Spring Training. An archive of over 50 position battles that I have identified are accessible over at MLBDepthCharts.com. I'll be highlighting some of the more interesting competition's here at RotoAuthority. 

Xavier Nady vs Juan Miranda vs Gerardo Parra vs Brandon Allen vs Wily Mo Peña

Tale of the Tape

Nady: 32 years old, $1.75MM salary 2010 stats: .256 BA, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 13 2B, 17 BB, 85 K in 317 AB's 2011 Outlook: Regular playing time400-500 PA's between 1B/LF

His one season with the Cubs in 2010 was disappointing as he posted the lowest OPS (.660) of his career. To be fair, he was coming back from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for a majority of the 2009 season. The previous season, he posted career-highs in BA (.305), OBP (.357), SLG (.510), HR's (25), RBI's (97), 2B's (37), and BB's (39) between the Pirates and Yankees. If he can rebound and stay healthy, he has the type of straightaway and opposite field power that plays well at Chase Field. New GM Kevin Towers, who was the Padres' GM when they drafted Nady back in 2000, sees him getting 400-500 plate appearances and believes he can bounce back but needs regular playing time in order to do so. Of course, Towers won't be filling out the lineup card everyday but it is an indication that they will give the right-handed hitter every chance to be in the lineup on a regular basis. 

Miranda: 27 years old, est. $440,000 salary 2010 stats: .285 BA, 15 HR, 43 RBI, 15 2B, 52 R, 33 BB, 71 K in 295 AB's (AAA) 2011 Outlook: Favorite to be starting 1B, out of options

The former Yankee has nothing left to prove in the minors, having put together four consecutive solid seasons (one with Double-A Trenton and three with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), posting a combined .845 OPS. Out of options, the D'Backs will risk losing him on waivers if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster. He doesn't appear to have the same offensive ceiling as Allen but he might be a more polished hitter at this point in his career and could benefit from playing in hitter-friendly Chase Field. 

Parra: 23 years old, est. $440,000 salary  2010 stats: .261 BA, 3 HR, 30 RBI, 19 2B, 6 3B, 23 BB, 76 K, SB in 364 AB's 2011 Outlook: Underdog to win starting job, likely fourth outfielder

After a solid rookie season at age 22 (.290 BA, 5 HR, 60 RBI, 21 2B, 8 3B), Parra regressed in 2010. His .679 OPS was the lowest of any starting left fielder in the big leagues aside from Juan Pierre. But Pierre had 68 SB's while Parra stole just one base. Without great home run power or blazing speed, he'll have to make his living by hitting for a high BA, OBP, and a good amount of doubles and triples. He'll have to prove early on that he's going to provide more offense or he's likely destined for reserve outfielder duty. 

Allen: 24 years old, est. $414,000 salary 2010 stats: .261 BA, 25 HR, 86 RBI, 18 2B, 3 3B, 72 R, 83 BB, 95 K, 14 SB in 371 AB's (AAA) 2011 Outlook: Underdog at 1B and LF, minor league options remaining

In 145 Triple-A games since being acquired from the White Sox in July 2009, Allen has 37 HR's, 118 RBI's, 26 2B's, 103 BB's, and 20 SB's. Like Miranda, he has nothing left to prove in the minors. However, he'll come into Spring Training as an underdog to Miranda for the 1B job and Nady for the LF job. He began playing left field while in Triple-A last season and made a handful of starts at the position when he reached Arizona as a September call-up. With Chris Young and Justin Upton manning the other two outfield spots, Allen wouldn't have much ground to cover. If he can carry over what he did in the minors offensively, his bat should be enough to make up for any inexperience in the outfield. 

Peña: 28 years old, minor league free agent 2010 stats: .324 BA, 9 HR, 34 RBI, 6 2B, 28 R, 15 BB, 45 K in 142 AB's (AAA) 2011 Outlook: Extreme long shot for LF job, AAA depth, lots of BP home runs

I just couldn't ignore Peña, who showed in a brief late-season stint with the Padres' Triple-A team that he can still hit the ball a long way. The former Reds, Red Sox, and Nationals outfielder has been out of the big leagues since 2008. Prior to then, he hit 71 HR's in 1212 big league AB's from 2004-2007. Unlike me, the D'Backs will probably ignore Peña when evaluating starting left field candidates so he'll need to have a big camp to put himself on the radar. 

Final Word

Miranda and Nady will enter camp as the front-runners but Allen is right behind them and could win a starting job with a good spring. While Nady could see regular duty in the middle of the lineup, Miranda, Allen, and Parra would likely hit near the bottom of the lineup where the pressure is lower but RBI opportunities are fewer. 





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