Arizona finished in 3rd place in the NL West last season, going 81-81. This was just 1 year off a NL West title and 94-68 record under manager Kirk Gibson. The 2012 decline mirrored the decline of star RF Justin Upton, who hit .289, 31, 88 in 2011 and .280, 17, 67 in 2012. He saw his 2Bs decrease from 39 to 24 and his SLG % from .529 to .430. That and character flaws led to his trade to the Atlanta Braves. Top RHP pitching prospect Trevor Bauer was traded because of similar character issues to the Indians in a deal that brought SS Didi Gregorius from Cincinnati Reds.
The strength of this team will be their pitching staff, both starters and relievers. Ian Kennedy (15-12, 4.02) is a year removed from winning 21 games. Trevor Cahill (13-12. 3.78) and Wade Miley (16-11, 3.78) give the team a solid first three. Brandon McCarthy (8-6, 3.24 in 18 starts with Oakland) signed as a free agent and can easily be a number two starter. Daniel Hudson was injured last season, finishing 3-2, 7.35 in 9 starts. Like many others in 2011, Hudson shined, finishing 16-12, 3.49. Younger pitchers like Tyler Skaggs, Randall Delgado and Patrick Corbin all have high expectations, but can take their time. The Diamondbacks have a lot of depth in their starting rotation.
The bullpen should be just as good this season. JJ Putz (1-5, 2.82, 32 saves in 57 games) has re-established himself as a dominant closer. David Hernandez (2-3, 2.50, 4 saves, 72 games) and Brad Ziegler (6-1, 2.49, 77 games) are two of the more underrated set-up men in the game. Heath Bell is coming off a horrible season (4-5, 5.09, 19 saves, 73 games for Florida), but is expected to rebound. Matt Reynolds (3-1, 4.40, 2 saves in 71 games with Colorado) replaces Craig Breslow as the team's lefty set-up man, as Breslow is off to Boston. Josh Collmenter (5-3, 3.69, 28 games, 11 starts, 90 1/3 IP, 80 Ks) will probably be a full time reliever this season. He won 10 games in 2011 as the team's 4th starter.
Offensively, some can say they do not lose much with Upton, especially with his down power numbers in 2012. I disagree with that assessment. Upton's ceiling is worth having on this team and Cody Ross, signed as a free agent, is coming off his best season by a mile. Adam Eaton will likely be the team's CF, with Jason Kubel and his 30 2012 HRs will be in LF. Paul Goldschmidt (.286, 20, 82 with 43 2Bs) will be at 1B with Aaron Hill (.302, 26, 85 with 44 2Bs) at 2B. Miguel Montero (.286, 15, 88) will be the catcher with newcomers Cliff Pennington (.215, 6, 28 with Oakland) and Martin Prado (.301, 10, 70 with Atlanta) playing SS and 3B, respectively. Gerrardo Parra, Eric Chavez, Willie Bloomquist and Rod Barajas round out a strong bench. I would set this lineup like this: Prado 3B, Hill 2B, Goldschmidt 1B, Kubel LF, Ross RF (.267, 22, 81), Montero C, Eaton CF, Pennington SS.
Overall, I like a lot of things about this Arizona team. The rotation, bullpen and bench are all very deep. However, it is a lot to ask for this team to replace Upton. Like I said, not Upton of last year, but Upton of 2 years ago. Justin is more like the 2011 player. Ross will help but will be exposed at Chase Field and against good RHP. Vegas gives their over/ under at 81 1/2, just over their 2012 win total. I see them finishing with the under, at 78-84, 4th place in the NL West.