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Pressing Questions: The Arizona Diamondbacks

Brad Evans
Roto Arcade

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Matt Williams, big-head racing legend. (USAT)

Though many of you are still buried under the white stuff, spring training, believe it or not, is just around the corner. To get you caught up on what happened this winter and preview the upcoming season, the Roto Arcade team will break down a team each day leading up to pitchers and catchers reporting. Our ceremonial first pitch, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

For the Desert Snakes, 2013 ended the same way it began, at .500. Though blessed with a MVP-caliber season from Paul Goldschmidt, a dysfunctional bullpen, inconsistency in the leadoff spot, injuries and limited pop outside of the first baseman turned the NL West contender into a pretender, a lukewarm result that left GM Kevin Towers very unsatisfied.

To wash down the bitter aftertaste of last season, Towers logged serious minutes on the blower this winter. In a blockbuster three-team deal with Anaheim and Chicago, he acquired hammer Mark Trumbo and fixed the closer problem by adding Addison Reed. Additionally, he re-signed reliever Brad Ziegler and shipped out ERA headache Heath Bell. Still in need of a top-of-the-rotation arm, the huckster may yet trade for Jeff Samardzija or acquire another high-profiled starter, potential moves that would certainly make waves in Fantasyland.

Because everything always comes back to fantasy, what are the club’s most pressing questions entering spring training? What unheralded D’Backs should you highlight on your cheat sheet? Who’s waiting down on the farm? Here’s a rundown:

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The D’Backs made waves in December dealing Tyler Skaggs to LAA and power prospect Matt Davidson to CHW in exchange for Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed. How will the recently acquired duo fair in their new digs?

Sound the horn. Trumbo is on the verge of a career year.

For most players, the transition from the hitter-friendly AL to the pitcher-centric NL spells statistical decline. However, the favorable ballpark, abundant matchups at Coors Field and guaranteed playing time in left could unlock the 40-45 home run monster trapped inside Trumbo. He must improve against righties, but he cracked 34 homers last year with the Angels despite posting a fly-ball rate equal to Pablo Sandoval’s. More specifically, according to Fangraphs, his hard-fly rate was nearly half of Chris Davis, a player similar in style and substance. If he can cut-back on the Ks and drive the ball with more vigor, his odds of finishing in range of .260-40-110-90-5 are better than you think, making the 1B/OF’s 77.1 ADP (per Mock Draft Central) very palatable.

As for Reed, Kirk Gibson hopes the former Chi-Sock is the reliable closer he so desperately needed a year ago. In 68 appearances last summer, he wasn’t exactly a rock. In 48 save chances he imploded eight times. Overall, he posted a rather bland 3.79 ERA.

The stopper is a fly-ball pitcher, which is slightly concerning given the home environment, but his underlying data should squash doubts. His 3.13 K/BB, attractive 0.76 HR/9 and 76.7 contact rate allowed last year were quite good. Ziegler and J.J. Putz are just over his shoulder, but the 26-year-old’s leash should be very long. Currently the 19th drafted RP in average drafts, he’s the 10 billionth reason why you shouldn’t reach for Craig Kimbrel (or any top-level closer). If his underlying performance parallels what he accomplished last season, Reed is a strong bet for 35-40 saves, 65-plus Ks and an ERA in the low 3s.

Is Goldy a legitimate top-five pick in 12-team mixed leagues coming off a monster 2013?

Goldy was the Schmidt last season, posting strong numbers across multiple categories. His .303-36-125-103-15 line over 601 at-bats ranked only behind Chris Davis among eligible first basemen and No. 5 overall. Many will immediately assume it will be extremely difficult for him to replicate that success, but, believe me, this is only the tip of the statistical iceberg.

Under the hood, the slugger made significant improvements in several key categories. He clobbered off-speed pitches with regularity, sharpened his eye, made better overall contact and solved his problems against righties (’12 vs. RHP: .257 BA, ’13: .307 BA). He also took advantage of RBI opportunities, tallying a .338 BA with men in scoring position. Entering his age 26 campaign and with two-plus seasons under his belt, he’s a strong candidate to break into the 40 homer run class. If Gerardo Parra and Aaron Hill offer consistency atop the lineup, it’s also possible he sets the pace in NL RBIs. Throw in his ability to steal bases and he’s essentially what Albert Pujols used to be, a multicategorical machine.

Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen and Robinson Cano are in the conversation, but outside Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera there is no better bat to build a virtual roster around. Fall in love.

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Jay Bell, '01 Keebler Cookies

Shhhhhh! What sleeping Diamondback should you sound the alarm for this spring?

Numerous teams inquired about the availability of top pitching prospect Archie Bradley this winter. Towers' consistent response: He isn't going anywhere. The GM's refusal to surrender the youngster shows how highly the organization values his talent. And they should. Over 152.0 innings between High-A and Double-A last year, he posted a sparkling 1.84 ERA and 9.59 K/9.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound righty is an imposing figure on the mound who's drawn comparisons to Justin Verlander. His strong build and fluid mechanics fuel his best pitch, a mid-90s fastball with deceptive downward movement. Additionally, his nasty 12-to-6 curve rates as a plus pitch. Bradley's change is still a work in progress, but many scouts believe it will eventually become a relied upon pitch, possibly as soon as this year. If he can harness his command (4.08 BB/9 in '13), he's destined to make his MLB debut sometime in June. That happens, and the power arm will be highly sought after even in shallow mixers. Likely to open the season at Triple-A Reno, he should be monitored closely as the season unfolds.

Conversely, what avoidable Snake will pack dangerous levels of venom?

Miguel Montero is about as exciting as 'scoring' front-row tickets to a One Direction concert. After rock solid campaigns in 2011 and 2012, his production fell off precipitously last year. A frigid April/May combined with a month-long back injury sapped his numbers. His resulting .230-11-42-44 line over 413 at-bats ranked No. 24 among eligible catchers (400-plus at-bats) in per game average.

Many will pin the blame on his back problems, but thoughts of Montero suddenly morphing into a 20-25 HR, 90 RBI beast are delusional. His underlying stats, particularly his lack of growth in HR/FB percentage and downturn in contact rate, give no indication a power spike is on the horizon. At age 30, he's simply an average fantasy option at a position with better-than-usual depth. Invest your dollars in a Mike Napoli, Salvador Perez or Wilson Ramos instead.

PITCHING HAY ON THE FARM: Middle infielder Chris Owings muscled up, made consistent contact and totaled mouth-watering stats last year in his first season in the PCL (546-.330-12-81-104-20). Because Didi Gregorious is a superior defender, he could shift over to second base, especially if Aaron Hill were felled by major injury. However, if Owings flashes an improved glove early on and continues to rake, he could press the incumbent for PT by midseason ... Righty Zeke Spruill, acquired from Atlanta in the Justin Upton deal, should reach the Bigs at some point this season. The projected middle-of-the-rotation starter is a classic high-contact sinkerballer who induces ample groundball outs ... University of Washington product Jake Lamb is the organization's third baseman of the future. In his pro debut last year, he cracked 13 homers in 231 at-bats in the Pioneer League. A reliable defender with above average raw power, he's expected to start the season at Double-A. Unless the injury bug bites Martin Prado and Eric Chavez and expedites his trip to the Show, he should earn a cup of coffee come September.

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