SLEEPER Chris Young can be a fantasy star right away. He's got the speed to steal 30 bases, the power to hit 20 homers this season, and the center-field gig is his.
BUST Stephen Drew hit .316 as a rookie, but doesn't have the batting eye to repeat it. He's a sophomore slump waiting to happen.
HITTER TO WATCH: Carlos Gonzalez, OF Gonzalez has tremendous tools, but is undisciplined and tends to let his game get out of control on him.
PITCHER TO WATCH: Micah Owings, RHP
Owings has just average stuff, but has been a durable starter with excellent control. He'll need to work on keeping the ball down to succeed in Arizona.
MLB Preview 2007
FIXED Arizona pitchers, especially Brandon Webb and Livan Hernandez, love throwing to Chris Snyder, who replaces Johnny Estrada. There's nothing more comforting to a pitcher than a catcher who can call and run a game. "Chris is a stud," says Bob Melvin. Snyder spent the winter kickboxing and extreme fighting to improve the strength and flexibility of his lower half. "At the beginning, I couldn't go two rounds," he says. "My shins were so swollen I had to lie on a couch with a bag of frozen carrots on one shin and a bag of frozen peas on the other." Fresh legs won't be a problem this season for Snyder; fresh vegetables are another story.
NEEDS FIXING Closer Jose Valverde tore through the league early in 2006, but a teammate says, "We couldn't believe he was getting people out. He was right down the middle. It was smoke and mirrors." That smoke became a fire, Valverde was sent to the minors, and the D-Backs fell out of contention. He gets another chance, because he has dumped a cutter that didn't cut, and he's going with his two best pitches: fastball and splitter. Now about that location.
Top prospect Justin Upton is only 19. But Carlos Gonzalez, also a five-tool outfielder, had a huge winter in Venezuela and could force his way into the picture with a fast start.
You can label D-Backs ownership "incompetent" (fans seem to), but they're not hypocrites. As payroll slashing continues -- managing general partner Ken Kendrick recently admitted to $98M of deferred salary owed on top of a $200M debt -- at least the front office doesn't ask fans to outspend them. The seventh-cheapest cost-per-season tab in baseball ($2,787.33) reflects savings being passed on to fans.
"If this pitching staff stays healthy, Arizona wins the division. Alberto Callaspo will force himself into the everyday lineup and could win rookie of the year or the batting tittle."