Here is a re-post of an article I posted to my short-lived Tumblr account back in October. I’m hoping newcomer Greinke will take the roster spot of Ian Kennedy.
The D-backs finished up a sub-.500 season, though it was a bit of a turnaround from the previous year. They were, as best as I can describe, watchable. Great hitting and defense but the pitching was pretty bad. But it got me thinking – what were the best D-backs teams?
Of course, there was the Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling team that won it all in 2001, and there were a couple teams that made it to the postseason several years ago. But they’ve been rather inconsistent in fielding even .500 level teams.
Well, I decided to consult BaseballReference.com to see what would be the ultimate 25-man roster composed of players from the past 18 seasons. Beyond Johnson, Schilling and Luis Gonzalez, I wondered who would best field each position. What additional starters? Who’d be in the bullpen? I went with a few of BR’s stats that best tell a player’s value and assembled a team that would be some kind of threat. The primary caveat is that each player had to play for the D-backs at least three years. See below the lists for further explanation of the other parameters.
So, here it is. First, the pitchers.
- Randy Johnson (L)
- Curt Schilling
- Brandon Webb
- Omar Daal (L)
- Ian Kennedy
- Jose Valverde
- Brad Ziegler
- Greg Swindell (L)
- David Hernandez
- Matt Mantei
- Miguel Batista
The first three starters were easy. After that, I went with Omar Daal because he was quite effective in the few years he pitched for the D-backs. Plus, it’s nice having another lefty starter – quite the opposite from the other lefty in Johnson, as Daal was more of a finesse pitcher. In truth, as I looked through the rosters, the D-backs haven’t had solid, consistent pitchers outside the first three. Ian Kennedy was really good until he wasn’t and was shipped off. The D-backs haven’t acquired any big-name pitchers since maybe Dan Haren, who pitched well for them a couple years before being traded. Too bad they sent off Max Scherzer before he came into his own, who last week pitched his second no-hitter of the season.
Relievers were more difficult to pick from, as there were some single-season standouts. Valverde was their best closer for a few years before being traded to shore up cash. Mantei pitched as a closer for a couple years too before he was replaced by Byun-Hyun Kim, who I omitted from my roster because he’s similar to Brad Ziegler, who was more effective. Plus, Kim did his best to lose the World Series to the Yankees in 2001, and if not for Gonzo’s series-winning hit, I wouldn’t have found it in my heart to forgive Kim. Swindell was their best lefty reliever, while Batista would be a great long man. He started well for them at times too.
And now the hitters.
- A.J. Pollock – CF
- Orlando Hudson – 2B (S)
- Paul Goldschmidt – 1B
- Luis Gonzalez – LF (L)
- Justin Upton – RF
- Miguel Montero – C (L)
- Mark Reynolds – 3B
- Stephen Drew – SS (L)
- Damian Miller – C
- Aaron Hill – IF
- Jay Bell – IF
- Craig Counsell – IF (L)
- Steve Finley – OF (L)
- Gerardo Parra – OF (L)
Now, Pollock has had two great seasons and one injury-shortened season. But I chose him over Finley because he has the defensive edge. Hudson was their best second baseman for several years and a fun player to watch. Hill had a couple great offensive years and would be a force off the bench.
Could you imagine Goldy with Gonzo hitting behind him? And then Upton after them? Only problem is, Pollock would have to cover a lot of ground to make up for the poor defense of Gonzo and J-Up.
Montero was easily their best offensive catcher over the years, but he was traded at the right time, as he’d started to decline. Miller, while not a great defensive catcher, was a rather good hitter too. Mark Reynolds, I was surprised to learn, had some pretty good years. I just remember him for his 200+ strikeout seasons, but he didn’t do too badly. Before looking at the numbers, I thought for sure Matt Williams would make the team, but by the time he joined the D-backs, he was in the twilight of his career.
Stephen Drew was their most consistent shortstop. Decent hitter and not a bad fielder. Jay Bell played mostly second but short at times. He wasn’t great, but he was a good hitter and could easily slide in the two-spot in the order with his bat skills. Counsell, a fan favorite, could play second, third and short. He was a great bat off the bench too. Parra was one of their better outfielders, capable of playing all three spots. He struggled at times to get on base but he’s a good choice for a defensive substitution in the late innings.
The only problem with these picks is that there isn’t much speed, outside of Pollock and Finley. But then stolen bases aren’t necessary with the power of this lineup.
This was fun, looking at the possibilities. The 2016 campaign doesn’t look too bad for the D-backs if some of their pitchers can make strides. A full season of Patrick Corbin, who had Tommy John last year, would land him on this list, replacing Kennedy or Daal. But the D-backs may need to acquire another arm or two. Who knows, maybe they could surprise us as they did in 2007 and 2011. More than anything, I’d love to see them build a consistent team.