I'll admit it: At the start of last season, I believed that the Diamondbacks could compete in the NL West. The team was hit hard by the loss of Richie Sexson after trading four quality major leaguers for him. Now the Diamondbacks have undergone a complete makeover, and while it's unlikely they'll challenge any of the California teams in the division, they should be much improved.
Worth Every Penny
The Diamondbacks three best offensive players could have monster seasons ... if they stay healthy. Troy Glaus, Luis Gonzalez, and Shawn Green are all risky propositions. Russ Ortiz and Javier Vazquez are much safer bets, although only as third or fourth starters for your team.
About to Blossom
Brandon Webb was third to Dontrelle Willis and Scott Podsednik in Rookie of the Year voting for 2003. Webb impressed most observers, including Braves manager Bobby Cox, who said that Webb had one of the best sinkers he'd seen. However, last season, the Arizona team crumbled around him and his record took a big hit. With a better infield defense behind him, Webb's ERA should sink back down to the low 3.00's.
Royce Clayton had an outstanding year at the plate last season, posting his highest average since 1999. But that was while playing in spacious Coors Field, where lots of singles that would be outs in other parks fall. Don't expect more than a .250 average and 40 RBIs.
Do You Feel Lucky?
Chad Tracy was one of the Diamondbacks top prospects when he was recalled last season. A great contact hitter, he never batted below .320 in any full season before 2004. Now, the favorite to play first base and having gotten used to the idea of being a full-time major leaguer, Tracy could challenge the batting leaders while driving in 75 runs or so. He will likely be one of the last first basemen selected, but is worth a look if you want to dedicate your picks to other positions.
Looking for someone who will provide speed and come at a cheap price? Craig Counsell fits the bill. He won't hit home runs, he won't drive in runs and he'll hit for a poor average, but Counsell will run. However, you might be better off taking a chance on Luis Terrero, scheduled to be the fourth outfielder. Terrero stole 25 bases combined with Class AAA and the D'backs last season, and will likely get 400 a- bats again this year.
If Something Should Happen To Greg Aquino
Aquino is in competition with Chin-Hui Tsao for the title of least-desireable NL closer, although he was 16-for-19 in save opportunities last season. The players he beat out last season (Jose Valverde, Mike Koplove, and Oscar Villareal) are still his biggest competition and should see some save opportunities throughout the season. A darkhorse candidate is Brian Bruney, who saved five games for Tucson last year.
Don't Forget About
Jose Cruz Jr., Shawn Estes, Alex Cintron, Koyie Hill
Don't Bother With
Scott Hairston, Matt Kata, Kelly Stinnett
David Sabino is the associate editor in charge of statistics at Sports Illustrated and the author of the book, Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball League (Muska & Lipman/Premier-Trade).