A brief look at an opponent we play this weekend.
Offense: Ryan Roberts-3B, Kelly Johnson-2B, Justin Upton-RF, Stephen Drew-SS, Chris Young-CF, Miguel Montero-C, Juan Miranda-1B, Gerardo Parra-LF. Bench: Henry Blanco-C, Willie Bloomquist-AMAZINGNESS.
The D-Backs are six games over .500? That can't be right. Their offense has been quite the bright spot so far, with 5 players having already reached at least 2.0 WAR and all but one regular having an OPS+ above 100. Ryan Roberts has been rewarding Kirk Gibson and Kevin Towers' faith in him by getting off to a very solid start. The 30 year old has claimed the hot corner for himself and should finally reach 500 AB in a single season. The man with more tattoos than Max Cady won't ever hit for a high average, but he has an eye for walks (11% career BB rate) and has shown improving power numbers (10 homeruns and 10 doubles thus far). He'll steal around 20 bases this year, meaning he'll probably have a field day with A.J. Pierzynski and his patented "throw it weakly to the third base side" technique. Kelly Johnson had a career-year after joining Arizona last season, establishing new career highs for every major batting statistic other than batting average. His rough start this season will ultimately ruin his chances of repeating last year's magic, though any time your second baseman is on pace for 20+ homeruns and it's mid-June you're probably not too upset. Johnson is very vulnerable to the strikeout though, a big reason (along with a depressed BABIP) that his OBP is still below .300. He's good defensively and should be more than capable of stealing at least two bases against us this weekend. Justin Upton (whom the Upton parents must have loved far more as evidenced by not giving him a name common with fellatio) appears to living up to the hype in his fourth full season. He's currently sporting a .393 wOBA with above-average defense to boot. Upton has already hit 12 homeruns and stolen 12 bases, so it's not ridiculous to think that he'll record his second 20-20 season this year (I'm hoping for 30-30). Justin owns fastballs, so it would be a pretty good idea to not throw him too many that he can actually hit.Stephen Drew (yet another baby brother) will probably never be the superstar he was once hyped to become. I guess Arizona will just have to settle for an All-Star caliber shortstop who just won't reach the All-Star Game very often due to fellows like Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowtizki, and Jose Reyes. Drew is very good defensively, which is primarily what allowed Arizona to carry him with the team even when his bat was merely pedestrian. Drew has learned to draw walks over the past few seasons though. And while this seems to be coming at the expense of some of his power, his becoming a more well-rounded player has been helping the franchise to move back out of the cellar of the N.L. West. Chris Young has always been a strange player to me. He's essentially Mike Cameron, but with only slightly above-average defense as opposed to spectacular (I especially like the Cameron comparison since both were originally ours). The centerpiece to the Javier Vazquez trade, Young has been inconsistent. He seems to be figuring it all out and could possibly have his second 30-20 season this year. He still strikes out a lot, but the worries of him reaching Adam Dunn territory with his K totals is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Like most of the team, Young is quick and good defensively. Miguel Montero is being trusted with the starting catcher's gig for the whole season this year, and it's paying off very well. He's no Brian McCann, but an .854 OPS from the behind the backstop is nothing to sneeze at (that's a weird expression). Recently Montero has been drawing more walks and striking out less, which is always nice to see but especially nice from a catcher with power potential. He throws out around a quarter of the runners who steal on him, so the White Sox should pick their battles wisely.
Juan Miranda (who needs to adopt some new AB music) is basically a filler first baseman. He doesn't have the power for 20 homeruns and he doesn't have the eye for an OBP above .360. He'll hold down the fort until something better comes along, but to ever expect anything more than average production seems like a pipe dream at best. Gerardo Parra will at least wind up sticking with the team longer. He won't be a starter once another outfield prospect is ready for the show (Marc Krauss, I look to thee), but his plus-plus defense should keep him on 25-man rosters for years to come.
Yup, I'm only covering the three starters we'll see and the closer. Expect this for every non-Cubs N.L. opponent. Got a problem with that? There's going to be a lot said about Daniel Hudson over the next few days, so I'll just stick with some stats. The National League has been very good to Mr. Hudson. Either that or his small American League sample size shouldn't have been viewed as big enough to trade him away. But back to the numbers. Daniel-san has shown both good command and good control, striking out just shy of eight hitters per nine innings while keeping his K/BB above 3. His HR/9 can't stay that low with how few groundballs he actually gets. Hudson has the makings of an All-Star pitcher. He lives off of three pitches: a low to mid-90's four seam fastball, a changeup, and a slider. The slider and the changeup have been very good, while the fastball has worked well in the past. It goes without saying that he'll be the toughest starter they throw at us. Zach Duke is a grand old retread. I feel like I get to write about him each year, despite having only pitched in the NL and never for Chicago. Shortly after his second season, every hitter seemed to figure the Duke out (so much for being A-1). There really isn't anything he does too well other than using his left-hand instead of his right. Duke uses a four seamer in the mid to high-80's, a two seamer in the same range, a changeup, a slider, and a curveball. The curve and the changeup have shown promise in the past.
Josh Collmenter wasn't much of a prospect. He's fairly nondescript other than his kind of awkward throwing motion. He's been successful so far this year thanks in large part to a .205 BABIP and somehow not walking hitters at the rate his minor league numbers suggest he should be. His minor league numbers are nothing impressive, but he's got the fact that the Sox have never seen him working for him. Collmenter throws a cutter, a mid to high-90's fastball, a changeup and a curveball. Matt Thornton's brother in arms J.J. Putz is closing for the Diamondbacks this year. Putz has been masterful in his 30 innings so far this year, striking out 29 while walking only 6 and giving up a mere 2 homeruns. He's already earned this year's salary and we're not even at the All-Star Break. Putz tosses a mid-90's fastball, a sharp splitter, and a nice mid-80's slider. And of course, he uses all of them well.
Outlook: Arizona is probably the best NL team we've seen over the past two seasons (although one could argue for Atlanta). That being said, they're still an NL team and we happen to feast on those. 2-1 series record.