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Venom Needed: An Arizona Diamondbacks preview

A look ahead at our second NL West opponent

"Nice one, Paul!  Just a few more homers and we'll be right back in this game!"
"Nice one, Paul! Just a few more homers and we'll be right back in this game!"
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Offense: Gerardo Parra - RF, Martin Prado - 3B, Paul Goldschmidt - 1B, Miguel Montero - C, Aaron Hill - 2B, Cody Ross - LF, A.J. Pollock - CF, Chris Owings - SS

Sabermetric darling Gerardo Parra finally eclipsed the 600 plate appearance plateau in 2013. The truth is, this was long overdue. Although Parra struggles to hit lefties, he needs to be on the field every day for his defense. He's one of the best defensive corner outfielders in history, in part because outfielders with as much range as Parra are typically asked to play center, and also because he has one of the best throwing arms in the game.

The versatile Martin Prado landed in Arizona as a result of the Justin Upton trade. Prado usually makes a lot of contact but has less power than you'd like for a corner player. While third base is Prado's primary position, he can handle any infield position in a pinch and has logged time in left field as well. In 2014, he has been striking out more than he ever has, walking even less than usual, and is still looking for his first home run. He's one of the culprits for Arizona's horrid start to the season.

Last season, Paul Goldschmidt broke out in a big way, leading the National League in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, and OPS+. There really aren't any significant weaknesses in his offensive game. He hits the ball with authority to all fields, erased a previously troubling platoon split, and has improved significantly against off-speed pitches. If he does have a hole, it's the low and away pitch. Pitchers seem to be aware of this, because Goldschmidt's zone profile skews that way more than most.

Miguel Montero spent a couple seasons as one of the better catchers in baseball before things took a dive off a cliff in 2013. Part of it was likely due to some rough luck, but Montero's strikeout rate had been creeping up for a few seasons. This season, Montero has reversed that trend by making more contact and raising his batting average. He takes his walks, is excellent at controlling the opposing running game, and is a plus pitch framer. The total package is a pretty valuable player.

Aaron Hill has built himself a nice, if uneven career as a power-hitting second baseman with good on-base ability. He can be inconsistent from year to year, but he always has the potential to unleash a star-caliber season. Hill has very good power for a middle infielder and has topped 25 home runs three times in his career. If he's healthy enough to stay on the field, his current contract with the Diamondbacks will look like a huge bargain.

Mark Trumbo has a stress fracture in his foot, so former Giants postseason hero Cody Ross is filling in for him. Ross is a journeyman lefty masher who's a bit stretched when pressed into everyday duty. He's scuffled so far this year in a limited sample, but even if he's finished as a starting regular, he'll always have that magical 2010 playoff run. It was Ross' only postseason appearance, but he made it count with a .294/.390/.686 line and a World Series win.

It has been a pretty rough start to the season for Arizona, but you can typically pick out bright spots even when a team is losing lots of games. Chris Owings has been one of those bright spots for the Diamondbacks. Owings has hit for a high average and drawn enough walks to maintain a good on-base percentage. The power hasn't shown up yet in the majors, but he smacked 51 extra-base hits last season at Triple-A Reno, culminating in Pacific Coast League MVP honors. Owings is just 22 years old, so there's plenty of hope that he'll eventually hit the ball with authority at this level.

The Diamondbacks' willingness to trade Adam Eaton to the White Sox was likely in part due to A.J. Pollock's strong performance in 2013. Pollock is a good defensive center fielder with an offensive game that grades out roughly average across the board. He has decent on-base skills against both righties and lefties, with better power against the latter.

Bench: - Tuffy Gosewisch - C, Cliff Pennington - SS, Eric Chavez - CI, Ender Inciarte - OF, Alfredo Marte - OF

Pitching: Starting Rotation: Brandon McCarthy - RHP, Wade Miley - LHP, Chase Anderson - RHP; Closer: Addison Reed - RHP

The Diamondbacks' lineup has one legitimate star in Goldschmidt and plenty of good complementary cogs, so you must be wondering just how they wound up in the cellar of the NL West. Well, they've allowed the most runs in baseball, and they aren't particularly close to second in that category. Though their bullpen hasn't exactly been great, the starting pitching has been an unmitigated disaster. Brandon McCarthy's 4.67 ERA is the second-best of the six Arizona pitchers that have started at least four games. McCarthy hasn't really pitched all that poorly. He's allowed a home run per start, but has generally kept the ball on the ground thanks to increased reliance on his hard sinker. His velocity is higher than it has been in recent years and he's getting more strikeouts than usual. All signs point to a good season from McCarthy on the mound and on Twitter.

Wade Miley is struggling through the second trip through opposing lineups this season and is getting absolutely bludgeoned in the third. The lefty is relying more on his slider and less on his changeup this season, which may be contributing to a slight uptick in walks. More gopher balls than expected are contributing to sub-par results and Miley has one of the league's lowest strand rates. xFIP thinks that Miley is still the same guy he was during his last two good seasons, so as is the case for McCarthy, there's reason to think better times are ahead.

The Diamondbacks have yet to officially name a starter for Sunday's game, but the consensus seems to be that Chase Anderson will be on the mound making his first major league start.  The right-hander was promoted to Triple-A Reno last season and was smacked around until ultimately being demoted to the bullpen.  He began this season in the rotation at Double-A and has been very effective through six starts, with an ERA of 0.69.  Anderson's control has been very good this season and his best pitch is his changeup.

Our old friend Addison Reed is closing out games for the Diamondbacks and he's done just fine so far, with the exception of the gopheritis that's infected the entire pitching staff.  Reed's allowed four homers in just under 18 innings of work, but his strikeout rate has been great and he's shown good control.  He looks to have completely abandoned his changeup this year.  Per Brooks Baseball, every pitch he's thrown has registered as a fastball or a slider.  The heater is Reed's best pitch, and he's using it about 80 percent of the time.

Outlook & Prediction: The Diamondbacks' roster really isn't all that bad, but injuries and a catastrophic start to the season for the pitching staff have mired them in a deep hole.  They probably won't be able to dig themselves out.  Predicted record and finish: 72-90, fifth place, NL West