Where They Stand: Arizona Diamondbacks | Sharapova's Thigh

The Diamondbacks hope 21-year-old outfielder Justin Upton has a quick rise to stardom.

Since we're all huge baseball fans here at the Thigh, we've decided to examine each MLB team and where they currently stand. We'll look at how the team did last year, changes that happened or could happen with the team this offseason, and how it looks like the team will do in 2009 as of now. We'll even toss in the hottest thigh associated with each team. In this edition, we look at the Arizona Diamondbacks.

2008 Outcome: 82-80, finished 2nd in the NL West, 2 games back of the Dodgers.

What They've Lost: OF Adam Dunn(Signed With Nationals), SP Randy Johnson(Signed With Giants), RP Brandon Lyon(Signed With Tigers), 2B/SS David Eckstein(Signed With Padres), RP Wil Ledezma(Signed With Nationals), RP Connor Robertson(Traded To Mets), RP Edgar Gonzalez(Signed With A's), IF/OF Chris Burke(Signed With Padres), OF Jeff Salazar(Signed With Pirates), C Robby Hammock(Signed With Orioles), Likely 2B Orlando Hudson.

What They've Added: Signed SP Jon Garland(1 Year, $6.25 Million), Signed IF Felipe Lopez(1 Year, $3.5 Million), Signed RP Tom Gordon(1 Year, $500 K), Acquired RP Scott Schoenweis(From Mets), Signed P Travis Blackley(1 Year, $500 K).

Needs: They must figure out the bullpen, with potentially three spots up for grabs. Another lefty out of the pen would be nice, currently Scott Schoenweis is the only one penciled in there. Most importantly, they have to get much better offensive production. They were near the bottom of the league in many offensive categories. They only hit .251 as a team, and had five guys with over 100 strikeouts(Mark Reynolds of set the single-season strikeout record with 204).

The Talk: It's going to be difficult to make up for all of the players they've lost this offseason. Offensively, Adam Dunn and Orlando Hudson are major losses.

Yes, Dunn was acquired in August from the Reds and only played in 44 games. It's possible, even likely that they had no intentions of signing him to an extension when they made the deal. They were hoping his tremendous power could help them out for a couple months and get them into the playoffs. Unfortunately it didn't work out that way. Dunn's hit at least 40 homers in each of the last five seasons and has a career OPS of .899. With the Diamondbacks' offensive struggles, many of their fans are surely upset that Dunn isn't still with the team.

Orlando Hudson's just an all-around solid hitter, especially for a second baseman. You can mark the switch-hitter down for a .285+ batting average, 10+ homers, and an .800+ OPS every year. He's also arguably the best defensive second baseman in the game and a very well-respected clubhouse guy.

Felipe Lopez was signed to take over for Hudson at second base, and after struggling in the first half of the season with the Nationals, he was outstanding in 43 games with the Cardinals. Lopez hit .385 with 4 homers and a .964 OPS in 169 plate appearances with St. Louis. Arizona only stole 58 bases as a team last year and Lopez stole at least 20 bags from 2006-2008. He can also play just about anywhere on the diamond.

The Diamondbacks have an abundance of young talent on offense such as shortstop Stephen Drew(26 when the season starts), center fielder Chris Young(25), third baseman Mark Reynolds(25), and and right fielder Justin Upton(21). Rather than go out and sign a few top free agents to help the offense, the Diamondbacks are hoping these young players start becoming the players everybody thinks they will be.

Drew is the furthest along of the bunch as a hitter. Last season he hit .291, with 21 home runs, and a .836 OPS. Expect his power numbers to grow.

Young saw his power and speed numbers take a big in his second full season in the bigs. After hitting 32 homers in 569 at bats in 2007, Young hit just 22 homers in 625 at bats in 2008. He stole 27 bases in 2008, but only 14 in 2008. He also struck 165 times and needs to improve his patience.

As I mentioned earlier, Reynolds struck out an MLB record 204 times last season. Yikes. He has prodigious power though, as he hit 28 homers and drove in 97 runs. I've heard this dude puts on unreal batting practice performances. The problem is he swings and misses too much at real fastballs, especially the ones letter high or above. He's also the worst third baseman in baseball right now. He committed 34 errors for an MLB-worst .904 fielding percentage in 2008.

Justin Upton is the one that has the best chance at being a superstar, and I think he will be. It's more of a question of when than if in my opinion. He was just 20 years old for most of the 2008 season and still hit 15 homers in 356 at bats with an OPS of .816. The ball jumps off his bat like few hitters I've ever seen, and he's only going to get stronger. The #1 overall pick from the 2005 draft can hit the ball a mile. Like Young and Reynolds though, he's struggling to make contact. He struck out 121 times last year. He'll fix that problem though, but it might take awhile.

As for the pitching staff, the 45-year-old Randy Johnson is a bigger loss than you'd imagine. He took the mound 30 times in 2008, compiling an 11-10 record with a 3.91 ERA. His 3.93 K/BB ratio was third in the NL. The Diamondbacks searched hard for a replacement and finally found one in right-hander Jon Garland. The 29-year-old is coming off arguably his worst full season in the majors. He had a 14-8 record, but he can thank that to the terrific Angels team he was on since he had an ERA of just 4.90 and allowed an OPS of .815. If the sinker-baller can pitch like he's capable of, he'll be a fine #3/#4.

The rotation is the strength of the Diamondbacks. Aside from Garland, they'll have Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Doug Davis, and likely Max Scherzer(as I'll talk about below) in the rotation. Webb of is ridiculous, winning 22 games in 2008. Haren's not too shabby himself and won 16 games with a 3.33 ERA last season. You won't find a better 1-2 punch in baseball.

The bullpen however is a cause for concern. Chad Qualls figures to be closer and has never been in the role for a whole season in his career. He was terrific in the role in September though when he took over for Brandon Lyon, as he went 7/8 in save opportunities and didn't allow a run in 13 innings. The 6'11" Jon Rauch was pathetic after coming over from Washinton at the trade deadline, so he's no lock to have a late inning role. Left-hander Scott Schoenweis was a nice addition. He put up a 3.34 ERA for the Mets last season. How the rest of the bullpen looks seems to be anybody's guess.

They just signed veteran reliever Tom Gordon, but he's 40 years old and was pretty bad the last two seasons. There's no guarantee he makes the team. There's been talk of bringing back free agent reliever Juan Cruz who was great the last three years in the Diamondbacks bullpen, but it sounds like that's a longshot. They feel good about some of the arms they'll bring into Spring Training to compete for a bullpen job, but look for them to consider bringing in another proven arm.

The main topic surrounding the Diamondbacks right now is the recent departure of Jeff Moorad who was the CEO and part owner of the franchise. Moorad left to buy the NL West rival San Diego Padres. It will be interesting to see how this effects the operations of the ballclub.

Free Agent Signing/Trade Prediction: Will Ohman.

Most of the talk about the free agenty lefty reliever Will Ohman has him landing in the NL East where he was in 2008 with the Braves. However, I've got a hunch he's going to end up in Arizona.

As of right now it would appear the Diamondbacks only have one lefty in the bullpen in Scott Schoenweis. Ohman's coming off his best season where he had an ERA of 3.68. He's always been terrific against left-handed hitters(allowed a .603 OPS in his career), and finally had a solid year against right-handed hitters as well(.695 OPS allowed). Although the Diamondbacks feel they have a lot of capable arms for a few of the bullpen spots available, Ohman gives them a second left-hander in the bullpen which is a necessity in my opinion with plenty of solid left-handed hitters in the NL West.

Young Player(s) To Make 2009 Impact: P Max Scherzer.

The 24-year-old right-hander was very impressive in 54 innings in 2008. He struck out 66 batters in 56 innings, and had an ERA of 3.05. He has an incredible arm with a fastball that is consistently in the mid to upper 90's, but needs to develop more consistency in his offspeed pitches.

Expect him to be at or near the top of the rotation down the road, but for right now it appears he'll be the #5 starter. That's assuming his arm is feeling good, as he's experienced some discomfort in it of late. The Diamondbacks seem to think he'll be good to go soon though.

2009 Outlook: At the moment I don't know how you can say this is a better team than last year's. PECOTA disagrees, projecting the Diamondbacks to win 92 games, ten more than last season.

The Dodgers aren't as good as they were last year at the moment so that helps, but if/when they sign Manny, I'd probably predict they win the NL West. The Diamondbacks can easily win this division though, especially if even just a couple of their talented young hitters breakout. With a rotation featuring Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, they'll be in the race all season even if the offense disappoints again. The bullpen could very well be the key and we don't know enough about it yet to make any projections.

This team has so many "if's" outside of the rotation. I could see them winning up to about 93 games if everything goes right, and be under .500 if some things don't go their way.

Hottest Thigh Association: Jennifer Lopez.

First off, thanks to Fanster.com for this tip. Some of these thigh associations aren't easy to find.

THIS is the Jennifer Lopez people should be talking about, not that huge-assed one. She's the wife of new Diamondbacks second baseman Felipe Lopez. That's all I know.

BallHype: hype it up!
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