October 01, 2011
As you read in David Brown's Star power: 20 players capable of dominating fall headlines piece, the Arizona Diamondbacks roster isn't exactly packed with star power or impact players. In fact, only Justin Upton(notes) represented Arizona on that list, which is exactly how I would have written it as well.
I'm sure a valid argument could be made for 21-game winner Ian Kennedy(notes) to join Upton. Maybe even catcher Miguel Montero(notes) or outfielder Chris Young, but they're only sure bets if the list was 25-30 deep.
But therein lies the beauty of the Diamondbacks in 2011. Few households names. Player-for-player, possibly the least talented team in these playoffs. But they're a well-constructed, well-prepared squad that will outwork you and make you earn what your keep.
Because of that, they're easy to root for. But likeability and grindiness won't win you too many playoff games. They are going to need contributions from a number of role players to advance past the Milwaukee Brewers in the LDS. I believe I've identified the four role players who will provide those contributions.
Paul Goldschmidt(notes), first baseman: Goldschmidt made a name for himself early in spring training, and continued right on raking, launching 30 home runs at Double-A Mobile before his Aug. 1 callup.
His immense power is a difference maker. Just ask Tim Lincecum(notes), whom he homered against in his second big league game. And he didn't stop killing the San Francisco Giants there. It was his two-run triple last Friday that all but sealed their fate, and clinched the NL West for Arizona. Had they called him up sooner, they may have clinched the division well before that, and might be hosting this LDS.
He will strike out his fair share. He may look overmatched early in the game and late against the specialists, but if he can fit a couple good swings in between, Arizona's in good shape.
Gerardo Parra(notes), outfielder: Parra is a player I've liked since the moment he debuted in 2009. He's not a five-tool guy, but he's a solid all-around player that could be a breakout performer in these playoffs.
I'm not saying he'll make as much noise as Cody Ross(notes) did in last year's playoffs — there's not enough pop in his bat to continue turning games around like that — but he's a left-handed hitter than can handle the bat well, and his .357 on-base percentage shows he can reach base ahead of Upton.
With Yovani Gallardo(notes), Zack Greinke(notes) and Shaun Marcum(notes) on tap, and Milwaukee's bullpen heavy on right-handers, Parra will be relied on even more to provide offense. And don't overlook Parra's defense, either. He can really cover the ground, and his cannon left arm helped tie him for the NL lead in outfield assists. So be on the lookout for something special in outfield.
Ryan Roberts(notes), third baseman: Roberts (pictured) was essentially Arizona's 25th man coming out of spring training, making the roster only as the result of an injury to Geoff Blum(notes). Since then, he has more than earned his place, providing a little bit of everything for skipper Kirk Gibson.
Roberts, or the "Tat"man, as he is affectionally known in the desert, has started game at third base (his primary position), second base, and even shifted to the outfield on a couple of occasions. He's also started a game in every spot in the batting order, except fourth.
Needkess to say, his versatility is valuable and gives Gibson the luxury of moving other pieces into favorable positions and matchups. But even more imporant than that has been Roberts' productivity. He finished the season with career highs in home runs (19), RBI (65) and SB (18), which more than adequately covered for the loss of Stephen Drew(notes).
In case you missed it, that 19th home run was a walk-off grand slam in Tuesday's remarkable comeback victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. That shows that whether it's a spark or knockout punch that's needed, he's capable of providing both.
Joe Patterson, left-handed reliever: Neutralizing Prince Fielder(notes) will be a high priority for Kirk Gibson, especially from the seventh inning on. That's where Paterson will come in. In 62 games, the 25-year-old rookie posted a 2.91 ERA, while holding left-handed hitters to a .205 average with zero home runs allowed in 91 plate appearances.
Note: In four at-bats this season, Fielder was 1-for-4 against Paterson with a single and three strikeouts.
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