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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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PRETENDER OR CONTENDER: ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

By Joe Nelson
Posted 08/15/2013 at 01:52 PM

It may be a foregone conclusion that the Los Angeles Dodgers will win the NL West, having gone a truly remarkable 40-8 in the last 48 games and losing just three times so far since the All Star break. The Arizona Diamondbacks surrendered a once comfortable lead in the NL West without much of a fight but Arizona has been keeping within range with a solid recent run, sitting at 62-57 and 7.5 games back. With recent slides from St. Louis and Cincinnati the Diamondbacks are also only 5.5 games out of the wild card picture and this is a team capable of getting closer in the race even if they are still likely a long shot. Arizona has shown signs of throwing in the towel but this is a team that may be able to stay in the race even with the passive moves recently made and the youth movement seemingly taking over.
 
Arizona traded their most well known pitcher in Ian Kennedy at the trade deadline in a clear sign of surrender and recall that Arizona traded its best player in Justin Upton prior to this season. Arizona is certainly keeping an eye on its finances but the Diamondbacks do have some talent on the roster and the future does look bright for the lineup. Paul Goldschmidt has lived up to the hype and is a clear MVP candidate even if this team does not make the playoffs. While the early returns have been inconsistent Adam Eaton looks like a major contributor down the road. Injuries and slumps have forced a few new names into the lineup and there may be room on this team next year for players like Matt Davidson and Tuffy Gosewisch and Didi Gregorius certainly is a defensive wizard. The lineup still has Aaron Hill who has been hot of late and Martin Prado and Gerardo Parra have also both been productive.
 
The pitching staff does remain a question mark however. With Kennedy, Trevor Cahill, and Brandon McCarthy all disappointing this season it is a surprise that this is still a winning team. The bullpen has been above average despite not getting a lot of attention as Arizona is 27-14 in games decided by relievers though they also own a near MLB worst 23 blown saves. Patrick Corbin is clearly a future star that has had amazing results this season and after a slow start Wade Miley is proving that his rookie season was not a fluke. Randall Delgado, who was acquired in the Upton deal has shown a lot of recent promise as well and Tyler Skaggs is certainly still considered a high end prospect even if he proved not quite ready this season. The future looks somewhat promising for this rotation but so far Arizona has misfired on the veteran acquisitions in the starting roles in recent years and the group will need more stability moving forward.
 
Can Arizona actually compete for a playoff spot this season? They get seven games with the Dodgers in September and while playing on the road has not been much of a detriment for Los Angeles, the Dodgers do have a road heavy final month. While Los Angeles does have an interleague set with Boston coming up they also draw Philadelphia, Miami, and the Cubs outside of the division as the remaining slate is not overly challenging. The two series with the Dodgers are the only two among the final 12 series for Arizona against a team that would be in the playoffs right now but Arizona faces perhaps its most critical stretch this weekend and early next week, playing seven games in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The best hope for Arizona may be tracking down one of the NL Central teams and that is a possible result as those three teams will play each other a lot and it is likely that one of the teams could slip off the current pace. With McCarthy back in action and Cahill soon to return Arizona’s pitching could keep them in the mix longer than most expect and if they stay hot on the upcoming road trip they may find themselves right in the thick of the wild card race.

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