After signing Aaron Heilman and Willie Bloomquist today, the 2011 Diamondbacks team is coming into focus. After trading away Mark Reynolds and letting Adam LaRoche walk, a new philosophy is being preached by GM Mark Towers. No longer will strikeouts be accepted and tolerated; this team will put the ball into play and hopefully score some runs while playing savvy defense.
KEY ADDITIONS: Melvin Mora, 3B; Xavier Nady, OF; Willie Bloomquist, UTIL; Geoff Blum, UTIL; Zach Duke, SP; J.J. Putz, RP; David Hernandez, RP; Juan Miranda, 1B
KEY LOSSES: Mark Reynolds, 3B; Adam LaRoche, 1B; Augie Ojeda, UTIL; Rusty Ryal, OF; Mike Hampton, SP; Brandon Webb, SP; Rodrigo Lopez, SP; Kris Benson, RP
When you look at the departures from the 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks team, it's mostly dead weight. Either they struck out too much, gave up too many home runs, or were hurt all season, it didn't matter -- these players screamed mediocrity. The only exception to that is LaRoche, who had an excellent season, eclipsing the century mark for RBIs for the first time in his career. LaRoche will suit up for the Washington Nationals in 2011.
With that said, here's how I think the 2011 starting lineup will look on opening day in Denver.
SS - Stephen Drew
2B - Kelly Johnson
CF - Chris Young
RF - Justin Upton
C - Miguel Montero
LF - Xavier Nady
1B - Brandon Allen
3B - Melvin Mora
P - Ian Kennedy
This is a lineup with a fair bit of potential - both for disaster, and for success. Most of it hinges on Upton and Montero. If they are able to hit over .285 and not strike out excessively, the Diamondbacks will score runs. Will their pitching staff be able to keep them in games, however? That's a different question entirely.
With zero legitimate aces on staff, Arizona will rely on Kennedy, Barry Enright, and Daniel Hudson to step up and have good 2011 campaigns. Joe Saunders and Zach Duke will provide the veteran savvy in the clubhouse.
Role players such as Geoff Blum, Willie Bloomquist, and Tony Abreu will all play very hard in an effort to get more playing time. Blum and Bloomquist are notorious for stealing playing time from overconfident veterans; Mora will certainly get plenty of rest this season.
While I don't anticipate a meltdown in 2011 from these Diamondbacks, I don't see the playoffs in their future either. Somewhere in the low 80s is what I expect from Arizona in terms of victories this season. More than that is just unrealistic when you factor in the pitching staff and lack of a huge home run hitter, but the bullpen is much improved and the team has a better chance this year.