In 2007 this team made it all the way to the NLCS, and we were led to believe that this was a franchise on the rise, with a full cupboard of minor league talent ready to step up in a big way, and that the future was all warm and rosy. The last two seasons have been a big disappointment, and the players have not developed as expected. On top of that injuries have taken their toll, and all that cost Manger Bob Melvin his job last May. Now the team is back, and while there is some optimism surrounding this club, expectations are a little lower.
The first thing, we have to ask is, is the middle of the lineup good enough? Justin Upton, Adam LaRoche, and Mark Reynolds will bat 3, 4, and 5. While Reynolds was awesome with 44 home runs and 24 stolen bases, but he has set records in each of the past two seasons with strike outs. That may be a big concern. Upton stepped up last year and was rewarded big time for it. He seems to be the most solid piece of this lineup. LaRoche joins them, and seems to be a perfect fit. He brings power at first the D-Backs have been lacking.
How good is the starting rotation? It should be better with the additions of Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy and the return of Brandon Webb. However all three face significant questions. Webb is coming back from shoulder surgery; Jackson was a 2009 All Star and should benefit from a move to the National League. However he faded down the stretch last year. Kennedy was also hurt for most of 2009.
Can Conor Jackson and Chris Young bounce back? Jackson missed most of 2009 with Valley Fever, but looked good through the spring. Young had a terrible 2009, but has a good mix of power and speed. The D-Backs will need both players to produce if they want to contend in their division.