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SAN FRANCISCO – Last week’s tour through the NL West looked at the arms race between the five division rivals, with the Dodgers emerging as the strongest on paper ahead of the experienced Giants.
This week it’s all about the O.
The Padres, who scored the fewest runs among NL West clubs last year, checked in at No.5 in our rankings. The road-woeful Rockies, now in the post-Helton era, came in at No.4. The Giants, who welcome Michael Morse and his flashback-lunch walk-up music, fall in the middle of these rankings.
We’re continuing the countdown with the projected No.2 offense in the division:
Who’s new: OF Mark Trumbo
Who’s gone: CF Adam Eaton, OF Jason Kubel, IF Willie Bloomquist, C Wil Nieves, 3B Matt Davidson
- 2013 average (NL rank): .259 (5th)
- 2013 on-base percentage (NL rank): .323 (4th)
- 2013 slugging (NL rank): .391 (9th)
- 2013 runs/game (NL rank): 4.23 (5th)
- 2013 home runs (NL rank): 130 (12th)
Projected lineup: CF A.J. Pollock, 2B Martin Prado, 1B Paul Goldschmidt, LF Mark Trumbo, 2B Aaron Hill, C Miguel Montero, LF Gerardo Parra, SS Didi Gregorius.
It should be obvious why power has become such a rare and coveted commodity in today’s game. It isn’t readily available in vial, pill, cream, syringe, tongue drop or troche form any longer.
So the Diamondbacks have something exceptional in the middle of their order: A legitimate 40-homer threat, followed by another legitimate 40-homer threat. In addition to Paul Goldschmidt, who was the NL’s best offensive player last season if not the MVP, Arizona added another masher by acquiring Mark Trumbo from the Angels.
Trumbo isn’t Miguel Cabrera by any stretch. He’ll give away outs in left field, where the Diamondbacks plan to stash him, and his batting average won’t look pretty at year’s end. But in a lively park, he will load the fireworks cannons. And he’ll provide the protection that Goldschmidt, a true impact player, lacked last season.
The Diamondbacks have plenty of good hitters to keep the rest of the lineup moving. Aaron Hill is a 50-doubles guy who missed two months with a broken hand last season. Miguel Montero has a reputation as a terrific clutch hitter in addition to being one of the game’s most durable catchers, although a series of nagging injuries led to a lost year at the plate. (His average fell from .286 to .230, and his OBP plummeted from .391 to .318.) It’s fair for Arizona to expect more out of both everyday players this season.
The same should be true for Martin Prado, who rivals Marco Scutaro as one of baseball’s top hit-and-run artists in the No.2 slot. Prado hit .253 in a disappointing first half last season, but after getting moved down in the order, he hit .324 after the break.
Arizona showed a lot of faith in leadoff man A.J. Pollock when they traded center fielder Adam Eaton to the White Sox as part of the three-team deal that netted Trumbo. Pollock has a clear path to everyday playing time and a spot atop the order. Pollock has just a .320 OBP over parts of two seasons, but even reaching base at that clip, he could score 100 runs with Goldschmidt and Trumbo hitting behind him.
The Diamondbacks haven’t been shy about trading young players (pitcher Tyler Skaggs also went to the Angels in the Trumbo deal), but Arizona has more coming on the farm. Shortstop Chris Owings is their top hitting prospect, and he’ll challenge Gregorius for the opening-day job at shortstop.
Cody Ross underwent hip surgery and will try to be ready by Opening Day, but a mid-May debut is more likely. Whenever he’s able to contribute, he’ll be a right-handed complement for Gold Glover Gerardo Parra and add depth to the outfield.
ANALYSIS: Remember when the Diamondbacks had guys like Mark Reynolds and Chris Young? They struck out so often that stadium personnel could turn off the air conditioning in Chase Field. Arizona had a different identity last season, when their 1,142 strikeouts were the third fewest in the NL. But they were woefully inefficient on the bases (65 steals and 41 times caught), making their shortage of power all the more glaring. They shouldn’t have a problem in that department this time.