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Snake Bites (from BDD)

Hey everyone, I have to work from 9:30 to 8 tonight today, so I don't have time to write for the site. Incase anyone has not seen this article at Baseball Digest Daily, I'll run it here today. I'll be back tomorrow or possibly even later tonight with something fresh.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, after spending their way to a World Championship in 2001 (don't fret; I'm not against it in the way they did it, just like I'm not against the 1997 Marlins for spending to win either) have taken a new approach to winning in some respects. Now that their farm system has had some time to develop it is starting to bear some excellent fruit. This is necessary for the D'Backs, who are still paying contracts of players long gone as well as the expensive slew of contracts doled out to Shawn Green, Russ Ortiz, and Troy Glaus this past winter. Let's review some of their farmhands, a few younger players, and a top draft pick or two from this year's class.

Brad Halsey
ERA: 4.22
DERA: 4.36
RA: 5.89
K/BB: 3.00
K/9: 5.33
K/PA: .135
BB/9: 1.78
H/9: 11.22
HR/9: 1.22
BABIP: .340
G/F: 1.11

Honestly, looking at these numbers, I'm not really sure how Halsey is pitching as well as he is. He gives up way too many hits and over one homerun per 9, while striking out few batters and giving up around the same number of groundballs and flyballs. His BABIP is high (league average is much closer to .300) and the defense (.6750 Defensive Efficiency, 14th in NL) is most likely to blame for a large portion of that. But there is something causing him to pitch effectively in a fluky sense I think. Let's look at his Grounded into Double Plays to see where he stands there:

Halsey
G/F: 1.11
GB: 120
FB: 108
GDP: 8

Derek Lowe
G/F: 2.88
GB: 196
FB: 68
GFP: 11

Brandon Webb
G/F: 4.21
GB: 181
FB: 43
GDP: 9

Halsey seems to be getting a good deal of double plays in his favor. Maybe his ratio is off because he gives up so many hits, but I think that at some point the double plays will stop saving him and he will suffer for it. His RA is extremely high, which is the defenses' fault in a lot of ways, but Halsey also has to share some of the blame. This is a pitcher whose numbers are most likely going to keep looking like they are if he can get a better defense behind him to stop giving up so many hits in order to even out the flukiness of his numbers. An interesting case in my opinion. Odd that teammate Brandon Webb, with all of his groundballs, does not get double plays at the rate Halsey does. Maybe it is the lack of baserunners he puts on in comparison to him.

Chad Tracy is manning first base this year with Shea Hillenbrand's departure, but he is starting to look like him in some ways:

Tracy 2004
.285/.343/.407
AB: 481
HR: 8
2B: 29
BB: 45

Tracy 2005
.291/.323/.471
AB: 206
HR: 7
2B: 12
BB: 9

The power is developing, but he appears to have forgotten how to take a walk. He is on pace for 26 walks in 650 Plate Appearances, a far cry from last year's 45. Even if Tracy develops, someone in the minors has something to say about production at first base:

Conor Jackson (AAA)
.381/.463/.594
AB: 239
HR: 6
2B: 29
BB: 40
SecAvg: .385
Iso: .213

Conor Jackson has some power coming his way, as those 29 doubles show. He does not appear ready for the show at this very moment, but considering he is 23 years old they have another year or two to wait on him to turn some of those doubles into homeruns. He is in the Pacific Coast League, which inflates offense, but his stats are very productive for any level anywhere. As for his teammate Carlos Quentin, one of the top prospects in the minors...

Carlos Quentin (AAA)
.303/.439/.524
AB: 208
HR: 10
2B: 12
SB: 6/6
BB: 39
SecAvg: .438
Iso: .221

He looks to be ready to take someone's outfield job very soon. Jose Cruz Jr. is injured at the moment, with Quinton McCracken filling in for him, so maybe Quentin could take the fourth outfielder job in the meantime if Arizona feels he is ready for The Show.

As far as the draft goes, thanks to a dreadful 2004 season the Diamondbacks had the first pick in the draft. They selected 17 year old Justin Upton out of Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Virginia. They selected him feeling he was the most talented player, against the sabermetric favorite Alex Gordon. Upton appears to be in line to become an excellent player, and he and his brother B.J. could enjoy long, productive careers. Here is the scouting report from Baseball America on Justin Upton:

Upton demonstrates excellent patience at the plate and a quick stroke. His well-defined and muscular upper body give a hint to his plus power potential, which he accompanies with equal amounts of speed. His 6.23-second time in the 60-yard dash at a Perfect Game showcase last year rates as the quickest in the scouting service's history. Upton moves well defensively and shows clean actions at shortstop, but again follows in his brother's footsteps because he has trouble harnessing the plus arm strength that has allowed him to hit 94 mph off the mound.

Arizona also took University of Massachusetts pitcher Matt Torra in the supplemental round. Torra was all over the first round projections, with Gammons thinking he could go to Pittsburgh at 11, the Red Sox taking him at 29 if they could not get Craig Hansen, and the Rockies taking him 32nd overall in the supplemental round. These tidbits should make D'Backs fans happy:

In the 2005 season, Torra led the A-10 in strikeouts (111), while his 1.14 ERA is tops in the nation. His ERA was the the lowest single-season mark by a pitcher in Atlantic 10 history. His honors in 2005 included Third Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, A-10 Pitcher of the Year and A-10 First Team honoree, as well as being a three-time conference Pitcher of the Week and two-time UMass/Dinn Bros. Athlete of the Week. He was chosen to play in Monday night's NEIBA Division I All-Star game as well.

Overall, after reaching what looked to be a place of no return thanks to a farm system not quite ready to develop major leaguers and exorbitant contracts everywhere you turned, the Arizona Diamondbacks appear to have turned a corner and are prepared to compete in the future. I still don't buy their success so far this year on the diamond (teams that allow more runs than they score are generally not teams that win in the long run) but as far as the future is concerned, I can't argue with what looks to be coming success.

The statistics are all as of Sunday I believe, so they are not accurate with todays. The main point rings true I hope though.