Catching up with the Diamondbacks, AZ Snakepit

azsnakepitTo prepare for our series with the D-Backs, we sat down with Jim from AZ Snakepit, one of the top Diamondback blogs on the net.

The Nats Blog did a cross-interview with AZ Snakepit here.

Here’s what Jim had to say:

The Nats Blog: Mark Reynolds (A UVA boy) currently stands second in the Majors in home runs, yet is unknown by many fans across Major League Baseball. What do you think of this kids future?

AZ Snakepit: This season was his coming-out party, blossoming beyond just about all our hopes. He seems to have embraced his strikeout tendencies and become a better all-around player as a result. The homers are obvious, and it’s not just the sheer number of them, but also their distance that is impressive – he has the longest bomb in the majors this year (a 481-ft blast off Brad Lidge), and a lot more approaching that range. However Reynolds is also hitting .288, has stolen 20 bases and made some highlight-reel plays on defense. While it’s still only his second full season in the majors, so I don’t think he has reached his peak as yet, he looks set to be one of the leading sluggers in the league for quite some time to come.

 

TNB: Speaking of future, at only 21 Justin Upton is having a breakout year as his batting average is up above .300 and he’s getting on base at .370. How good do you think he can get?

AZSP: Before the untimely injury which sent him to the DL, he was on pace for a .300/30 HR/100 RBI season – something achieved only seven times by players his age. The two active players to have done it are Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez – of the other five, four are in the Hall of Fame: Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott and Ted Williams. That’s the kind of potential we are talking. It’s still raw – that’s most obvious in the field, where he will alternate brilliance and idiocy almost at random. But the raw talent on view is incredible, the most I’ve ever seen by a player in our division. Seeing him and Reynolds develop together the way they have, has been a privilege, and along with Dan Haren’s first-half, the highlights of what has otherwise been quite a disappointing season for Diamondbacks’ fans.

TNB: With the aforementioned hitters, as well as two aces in Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, do you think there is potential for the Diamondbacks to make a serious post-season run in 2010?

AZSP: Yes, the potential is there – we’ve seen it over the past month, with the team going 19-10. However, the starters beyond Webb and Haren [and Max Scherzer] are sketchy, with both Doug Davis and Jon Garland free agents this winter. We’ve seen the perils of a shallow rotation this season – the pitchers who have replaced Webb, due to his injury, have mostly found themselves shelled badly. We don’t have a regular second-baseman either, following the trading away of Felipe Lopez: Ryan Roberts has been good, but I’m not sure he has what it takes to become a full-time starter, having only played 85 major-league games [and he'll be 29 next month]. It’s going to take some careful management to fill the gaps with the resources available, but if Webb comes back strong – and assuming we exercise the team option on him – then we should have a formidable 1-2 punch.

TNB: The Diamondbacks recently hired a very young manager, A.J. Hinch (35). We recently fired a very young Manager in Manny Acta, are there any worries that Hinch is too young?

AZSP: Well, when we faced Jamie Moyer recently, it was startling to discover that Hinch had more at-bats against him, than anyone on the Diamondbacks’ roster! But it probably wasn’t so much his age which concerned a number of Arizona fans, as his lack of managerial experience, and the perception, fair or not, that he was just brought in there to be a ‘yes’ man for GM Josh Byrnes. I think there were some areas of conflict between Byrnes and previous manager Bob Melvin, which the hiring likely addressed, and I believe it also helps that Hinch was in charge of the farm system, through which many of the players progressed. We do have a very young team – 27-year old Josh Whitesell was our oldest starting position-player in the series opener – which I’d say makes it less of an issue. If this were a team of grizzled vets, I can see the potential issue, but after a few bumps along the way, Hinch seems to have found his feet.

TNB: Chris Young seemed like one of the more promising young outfielders in the game in 2007, now he’s flirting with the Mendoza line…what happened?

AZSP: Alien abduction and replacement with a pod player? A talent-ectomy? We’re as baffled as anyone – 32 home-runs two seasons ago, now he’ll be lucky to reach double-figures. And while he was never exactly going to win any batting titles, seeing his average start with a “1″ is bad beyond belief. It’s clear what the problem is – he’s getting under the ball, leading to a horrendous number of pop-ups and shallow outs. 30% of his fly-balls don’t get out of the infield: that’s more than twice the MLB average (13%) and a huge increase of his previous number, 17-18%. What can be done about it? That’s the $64,000 question, and better people than I have apparently failed to find the answer. The contract extension to which he was signed, buying out his arbitration years, now seems very questionable, even if the team has a credible back-up for this season and beyond, in Gerardo Parra, who’s batting .292 and is still only 22-years old. 

TNB: What is your favorite all time Diamondback memory?

AZSP: You will likely not be surprised to hear that it’s the 2001 World Series, beating the Yankees in Game 7, with a memorable comeback in the bottom of the ninth inning. But just to expand on that a bit, I proposed to my now-wife immediately after we won. I decided in the early innings that I would do so, but only if we won, and when we took the lead, started working out what to say. However, then the Yankees went ahead, and with three outs to go, it looked like I’d be remaining a single man. Of course, we all know how it ended and as bedlam ensued, I dropped to my knees and made my proposal. Her response? “Yes, it’s great, isn’t it!” She hadn’t heard a single word in all the noise, so I had to go through it all over again. I’m sure it wasn’t anywhere near as eloquent and poetic the second-time around!

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