Major League Baseball teams have already reported for Spring Training and the exhibition games will be underway soon. The regular season will be here before we know it, and there are still many things that need to be decided. We came up with eight of the most important questions for the upcoming season, and provided our answers to those eight burning questions.
1. Can Patrick Corbin be the ace, and who will step up as the number two pitcher?
Derek: Corbin will be the best pitcher the Diamondbacks have this year but he is not ready to wear the ace label. An ace will consistently carry the team and someone you expect to go eight or more innings a game. While Corbin is good and pounds the strike zone, I don't think that he is ready to be an ace.
As for the second best starting pitcher, I think Trevor Cahill will step up and have a great season. For stretches of last year, he was pitching better than anyone on the roster. If he can be consistent with his sinker and keep his focus while on the mound, he can become someone to rely upon.
Josh: I think Corbin will have another good season, probably the best of any of the starters, but I don't expect another All Star campaign from him. To me he's better suited as a number two, but he'll have to step up and be the ace of the staff again this season.
Bronson Arroyo will fit in nicely as the number two starting pitcher. He will bring experience and durability, which is exactly what the staff needs. He has big game experience, and should the team make it to the post season I would not be surprised if he took the ball in Game One.
2. How soon should, and will, we see Archie Bradley?
Derek: I think it depends how well Archie pitches at Double A. I personally think that if he comes up at all this year, it should only be in late August/September. I also am afraid that if he comes up before he is ready and doesn't pitch well that General Manager Kevin Towers will then want to trade him. We have seen this before with Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs.
Josh: If this question would have been asked a couple weeks ago, I would have said we had a good chance to see Bradley make the big league squad out of Spring Training. However, with the signing of Arroyo I doubt that happens. I think we will probably see him sometime mid-season, perhaps once a starter goes on the DL.
3. Will Paul Goldschmidt have another MVP caliber season?
Derek: Yes. He is the best hitter on the team and at his age is just entering his prime. He should have better protection this year with an improved Miguel Montero and hopefully a productive Mark Trumbo. It's hard to say what other players will do, but I'm sure Goldy will figure into the conversation. As with last year, how well the team performs will impact his MVP chances.
Josh: Yes. Goldschmidt was fantastic last season and there's no reason to think he won't be equally as good this season. Last year was not a fluke, as he has steadily progressed each season in the big leagues. Plus, the addition of Mark Trumbo should provide him more protection in the batting order. If the team makes the playoffs, Goldschmidt will be the National League MVP.
4. Who will win the battle to be the starting Short Stop by the end of the season?
Derek: I think it will be whoever can hit. If Didi Gregorious starts the year the way he ended last season then it will be easy for Chris Owings to take over the position. I think that Owings will impress in Spring Training and will be given the first shot to succeed at the starting position.
Josh: I believe that Chris Owings is the better all around Short Stop between him and Didi Gregorious. He has a solid glove, maybe not as flashy as Gregorious, but he is definitely a better hitter. However, it doesn't matter what I think and Kevin Towers really likes Gregorious so there's a good chance Owings gets traded.
5. What can we expect from Miguel Montero this season?
Derek: A return to form. He should be able to return to the production from the two previous seasons. I would imagine a .280 batting average, 25 doubles, 15 homers and 85 RBI. Last year was an aberration and the team will benefit from Montero’s return.
Josh: Montero should have a bounce back season. He couldn't get much worse last year, so this year has to be an improvement. He's still a leader of this ball club and when healthy can be very productive. He is still in his prime and other than last season, has been a lock for a .280 batting average, 15 to 20 home runs and 75 to 90 RBI.
6. What is our best outfield combination?
Derek: Right to left: Justin Upton, Adam Eaton and Gerrardo Parra. Oh wait, we traded two of those players? In the matter of two years this has gone from an area of strength to one of our biggest weaknesses. The best combination now is probably (left to right): Trumbo, A.J. Pollock, and Parra. It likely doesn't make you as sick as it does me, but there are two question marks and a Gold Glover. I'm hoping Trumbo can have a defensive season a la Jason Kubel 2011; average at best but good effort and accurate, quick throws in. Trumbo does have a better arm (the Angels once toyed with the idea of having him pitch) so maybe that will translate to outfield assists.
Josh: Trumbo, A.J. Pollock and Gerrardo Parra in left, right and center fields. Trumbo doesn't have the greatest glove as an outfielder, but you can't take his bat and power out of the lineup. We may see some late inning defensive replacements for him this year. Pollock was statistically one of the best Center Fielders in the entire league last season, and Parra won another Gold Glove so I feel like the combination of Trumbo's bat and Pollock and Parra's gloves make this our best outfield.
7. Will Mark Trumbo be worth the hefty price paid?
Derek: This won't really have an answer for a few years, but I think this could be another loss for the Diamondbacks. Big moves that address a short term need don't often seem to meet the expectations or price. It reminds me of the move for Richie Sexson, and that clearly worked out amazing for the Diamondbacks. I do expect Trumbo to play more than the 23 games Sexson did though.
Josh: Overall, if the team gets to the postseason, then yes the price paid for Trumbo will be worth it. I think Trumbo will have a solid season and if he can raise his average and lower his strikeout rate, it will be better than expected. He'll provide good protection in the lineup for Goldy and will hit 30 to 40 bombs. Tyler Skaggs will be missed, but he was still just a prospect and unproven for the most part at the Major League level. Losing Adam Eaton might come back to bite the team if he has a breakout season in Chicago.
8. Can the bullpen have a successful season, and will the closer keep his job all year long?
Derek: I think this bullpen is finally one that lives up to the Towers reputation. There are a few legitimate closer options and a bunch of other solid arms. I think that out of the gate in Australia, J.J. Putz will be the closer. However, as the season progresses I expect the job to belong to Addison Reed. It will be tricky for Kirk Gibson to manage the egos and usage in order to maximize production.
Josh: The bullpen should be much improved this year without Heath Bell. Adding Addison Reed, who picked up 40 saves last season, will be a boost. Hopefully Daniel Hernandez can get back to being the on-point flamethrower he was two seasons ago as well.
I think Reed should be the closer and J.J. Putz should be the setup man. Based on recent history of this team it isn't smart to think the Opening Day closer will finish the season in the same role, however I believe that whoever wins the job will have a good season based on the other pieces around him and keep the job all year.
What are your answers to these eight questions for the upcoming season? What other questions do you think will be major story lines throughout the season? Leave a comment and let us know.