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PLAYER TO WATCH
If you ask general manager Josh Byrnes about Mark Reynolds's home runs, the first thing he mentions is not how many the third baseman hit last year (a career-high 44, fourth in the majors) or how far they traveled (an average of 415.7 feet, the longest in baseball according to hittrackeronline.com). Instead, it's the caliber of the pitchers that Reynolds took deep. The righthanded slugger homered off the Giants' Matt Cain (twice), the Royals' Zack Greinke, the Mariners' Felix Hernandez, the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez, the Dodgers' Jonathan Broxton and the Padres' Heath Bell—many of the best righthanded pitchers in the game. "The nastiest guys, he's gotten them all," Byrnes says.
Of course, the nasty guys, among numerous other pitchers, got Reynolds as well. His 223 strikeouts last season were the highest single-season total in major league history, breaking the record (204) set the year before by ... Reynolds. "I'm not proud of it," he says. "I work on it constantly."
While the Diamondbacks don't want the 26-year-old Reynolds to tinker too much with his 40-homer swing, he spent the spring trying to become more patient and get a look at more pitches in each at bat. That meant, he says, "taking some first-pitch heaters that I'd normally hit." Reynolds also regained the 20 pounds he lost late last season because of the flu. A stronger, more patient Reynolds—righthanded aces and closers, beware.
The Diamondbacks' average with runners in scoring position last year, the NL's worst. Despite that mark and an OBP below league average, Arizona was still able to outdo the league average in runs scored, thanks to the NL's fourth-highest home run total (173).
Chris Young fell so far from his breakout 2007 season that the Diamondbacks sent him back to Triple A for three weeks last August. At 26, the outfielder faces a make-or-break season, perhaps a last chance to show that he has enough power, speed and defense to make up for a hitting style that is low on contact. The Diamondbacks should fully commit to Young in '10 by batting him second in the lineup. Young almost never hits ground balls, so he's not a double play threat. He has the power to move runners along and the speed to take extra bases on hits by the middle of the lineup. There's a risk here, in that Young's career OBP is only .307; however, if he doesn't improve upon that number, the decision won't be whether to bat him second or seventh, but whether to release him or trade him.