With the Rangers’ upcoming day/night doubleheader against the Diamondbacks on Monday in Arizona, followed by a two game set against the Diamondbacks in Texas, Tom Lynch from Venom Strikes and I got together to ask each other questions about how each respective club is fairing heading into the series. My responses to Tom’s questions can be seen here on Venom Strikes.
Mike: Despite trading away many key pieces during the offseason, the Diamondbacks find themselves right in the thick of things in the NL West. How is Arizona winning ballgames?
Tom: Pitching. The staff is 5th in baseball with an overall ERA of 3.38. It starts with Patrick Corbin, penciled in as the fifth starter when the season began, who is 7-0 with a 1.44 ERA. He is starting to get some love from the media, which is nice to see. Paul Goldschmidt has been a one man wrecking crew at times. He has ascended into the upper-teir level of first baseman and should be the starter at first base at the All Star Game. Gerardo Parra has been a stabilizing force in the outfield while the projected starters have all been on the DL at one point or another.
MG: The Diamondbacks have shown very strong pitching thus far (3.58 FIP/3.81 xFIP through 449.2 IP). Aside from Patrick Corbin, who has been Arizona’s biggest contributor in the starting rotation?
TL: Believe it or not, Trevor Cahill has had the best numbers outside of Corbin so far this season. The record is 3-5 but his ERA is a nice 2.81. He has been a victim of poor run supoport. In those five losses, the D’backs have scored a total of two runs. Granted, not every start was great but he has given up three earned runs or less in eight out of ten starts. Wade Miley has struggled lately but early on, he looked alot like the guy who finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2012. A special shout out goes to Matt Reynolds. Yes, he is a member of the bullpen but he began the season with 17 consecutive scoreless innings.
MG: When the trade deadline nears and teams begin either buying or selling, what do you expect will be the Diamondbacks’ biggest area of need?
TL: The team needs a bat. This offense has struggled mightily at times and now there is no timetable for the return of Aaron Hill and Adam Eaton. Last weekend in Florida, they put up nine runs in game one. In game two, Parra hit a home run on the first pitch and then the team did not score again until the 9th inning in game three. Miguel Montero and Martin Prado, who were expected to have big offensive numbers, have been way down. Miggy is great behind the plate so I can’t be too upset at him but Prado needs to be much better. He has to be pressing because he was the big piece of the Justin Upton trade.
MG: Didi Gregorius has surprised many people with the way he has swung the bat thus far (153 wRC+ in 111 PA). Is there any way that Gregorius can sustain this unexpectedly high level of production?
TL: No. The word on Gregorius was that he was excellent in the field but that his bat needed a little bit of work. I think it is fair to say we expected about .280 with some lighter numbers. No one, not even GM Kevin Towers could have seen this coming. He won’t continue at .350 but it is not unreasonable to assume he stays above .300. He has shown more pop that advetised as well so if he plays every day, a .305, 10 HR 50 RBI season is not out of the question. He doesn’t seem to be intimidated by facing Major League pitching.
MG: The Diamondbacks have a solid farm system. Are there any prospects that appear to be ready to play at the MLB level in 2013, and if so, where will they be used?
TL: If a starting pitcher goes down, you could expect Tyler Skaggs to be called up from Triple A. He was looked at by many to win the #5 spot out of Spring Training but had issues with control and lost out to Corbin. He is ranked as the #1 prospect in the D’backs’s system. Former first round pick A.J. Pollock is in Arizona having started a number games in the outfield so far. The only other guy that could come up before September is infielder Chris Owings but that is only if Hill and Willie Bloomquist are not back yet from the DL and another infielder goes down. When rosters expand later, Archie Bradley could be brought up although that is not in the plan at the moment. He is only 20 but has the makings of a dominant starter for a long time.
A big thanks goes out to Tom Lynch of Venom Strikes for setting up this Q & A. Be sure to check out my answers to Tom’s questions over at VenomStrikes
Tags: A.J. Pollock Aaron Hill Archie Bradley Arizona Diamondbacks Chris Owings D'backs Didi Gregorius Gerardo Parra Justin Upton Martin Prado Matt Reynolds Miguel Montero MLB Nolan Writin' Patrick Corbin Paul Goldschmidt Rangers Texas Rangers Trevor Cahill Tyler Skaggs Venom Strikes Wade Miley Willie Bloomquist