The Arizona Diamondbacks closed out the Cactus League season with a dramatic 12-8 victory over the San Diego Padres courtesy of a walkoff grand slam by top prospect Justin Upton, at Chase Field. Upton now has the memory of the grand slam hit in a major league park to fuel his next season in the minors.
The Diamondbacks ended up with a 20-12 record in the spring. That was the best in the Cactus League and the best among National League teams. We remember that last year a strong spring record did not translate into a winning regular season. But we’ll enjoy it and hope for the best at least for a few days.
Congratulations to Robby Hammock, who completed his comeback from near career-ending injuries and was named to the Opening Day roster by manager Bob Melvin on Sunday. Congratulations also to Brian Barden, who captured the last bench position, and to Micah Owings, who was named the fifth starter a few days ago.
Eric Byrnes had an even stronger spring than he had last year, hitting .300. (He hit .286 last spring). This year, he was 18-60 and 9 of his 18 hits were for extra bases: 4 homers and 5 doubles. He struck out 10 times, but also took 6 walks, for a K/BB ratio of 1.666. We’ll gladly take that ratio for the whole year! My one concern coming out of the spring is that he had only 7 RBI. He needs to get a faster start on RBI and homers this year. But all in all, Eric had an encouraging spring.
Now play ball for real!
If Bob Melvin is a thinking man, he knows he has a decision to make that he might not have been expecting at the beginning of spring training. As of now, Byrnes, Young, Quentin, Hairston and DaVanon are the Diamondbacks outfield. But what of Dave Krynzel? He’s out of minor league options and he’s had a very good spring. With DaVanon, and possibly Quentin, starting the season on the DL, there should be a spot for Krynzel on the Opening Day roster. But when one or both of the injured players come back, Krynzel may find himself squeezed out.
Now it makes no sense at all for the Diamondbacks to have gotten him at all if they weren’t going to be able to use him. So there are two possibilities as I see it: a trade or a displacement of one of the other outfielders.
There’s a lot to be said for keeping Krynzel. First of all, he’s left-handed. Of the current outfielders, only Jeff DaVanon can bat lefty. But who knows when he’ll be back? Then there is Krynzel’s aforementioned lack of options. The problem with trading such a player is that the other teams know the situation and will not want to give up anyone of substance for a player they can claim on waivers. And then there are the spring performances.
As of today Krynzel is batting .333; his on-base percentage is .404, and his slugging percentage is .564. He has also stolen four bases without being caught. On the other hand, Chris Young is batting .242, with an on-base percentage of .299 and a slugging percentage of .387. He has stolen 2 bases and has been caught once. Young has had the most plate appearances of anyone on the team: 68. (Hairston has had 64). Krynzel has had 47. Clearly, Bob Melvin’s interest has been in getting Chris Young on track. But Young hasn’t had nearly the spring that all the other outfielders, except DaVanon, have had.
It would make sense to send Young, who still has options, back to Triple-A and keep Krynzel. Krynzel can play both the corner outfield positions; Quentin plays right and Hairston plays left. That would mean moving Eric Byrnes back to centerfield, which is his favorite position. And it makes a lot of sense to have the veteran Byrnes there as the captain of the outfield, positioned between two rookies.
There is one "problem" with this scenario. Krynzel is a young man trying to remake his career after falling from a motorcycle and from grace with his former team, the Milwaukee Brewers. There is a lot of hype surrounding Chris Young, who being young, black, and wearing number 24 in centerfield, has been compared to the young Willie Mays after he made a couple of circus catches late last season. The Diamondbacks had him pegged for centerfield this year from before the start of last year, which is why they only signed Eric Byrnes for one year; they needed a rent-a-centerfielder. But Byrnes gave them more than they were expecting, and now I think Krynzel has, too. Young may be very talented, but it would be a grave disservice to the man to rush him to the big leagues because of hype, as well as a disservice to Krynzel, Byrnes, and the Diamondbacks as a team.
Eric Byrnes went deep his first two times up in the Diamondbacks’ 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Hi Corbett Field. He also walked once in his four trips to the plate, raising his batting average to .294 for the Cactus League season.
Byrnes had been in a slump since a two-day, 6-for-6 streak lifted his batting average to .522. He went into today’s game batting .271, and by his own admission, not swinging the bat well. But he led off the game with a fly ball homer to deep center field. He followed that up the next time up with a line-drive homer to left field.
Chad Tracy batted in the 3rd run and Edgar Gonzalez pitched well.
Byrnes producing in the lead-off role after slumping in the 3 and 4 holes makes me wonder if he’s just of the temperament to be a table-setter. Historically, his highest batting averages are in the lead-off and second positions. One would like to see someone with his power batting in the heart of the order. But he seems to be more successful at the top of the lineup. Last season, his numbers were comparable to Johnny Damon’s stats; the Yankees lead-off hitter considers himself to be the best lead-off hitter in the Major Leagues and he’s paid like it.
Damon 24 HR; 35 2B; 80 RBI; 25 SB in 593 AB
Byrnes 26 HR; 37 2B; 79 RBI; 25 SB in 562 AB
Yeah, I want to see Eric be the big bopper with 122 RBI, and that still might happen. But hey, whatever works, so long as Byrnesie develops an identity as a hitter and fulfills his potential. One can hit 40+ homers and steal 40+ bases from the lead-off position. Just ask Alfonso Soriano who batted lead-off a lot last year.
"Regardless of where he hits, Byrnes is optimistic about the season ahead. Asked if he had any magic numbers in mind at the plate for 2007, Byrnes modestly said he’s shooting to hit .407, hit 74 home runs and drive in 192 runs.
"’Figure you might as well shoot for the top, right?’"
Man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
or what’s a heaven for?
If Byrnesie is really aiming that high and falls a bit short, we should get .327 with 44 HRs and 122 RBI. It all depends on something he’s working on this spring that I’ll talk about later.
Eric Byrnes continues to step it up in the second week of Cactus League action. Batting leadoff in today’s split-squad "A" game versus the San Diego Padres, he got the D’Backs off to a fast start by homering. He also hit two singles, giving him his first homer AND his first 3-hit day of the spring.
Way to go, Byrnesie!
The D’Backs won 10-7.
It was a line in the box score I hope to see a lot more of during the regular season. Byrnes 2-4 1R 2RBI 0SO 0LOB. Admittedly, it could have just as easily been 1-4 0R 0RBI. But some days, it’s better to be lucky than good.
After going 0-2 his first two times up, Byrnes hit a double to left. The ball was sharply hit and relayed back into the infield quickly. The runner coming home would have been a dead duck but for the fact that Prince Fielder had a brain cramp and cut off the throw. Catcher Johnny Estrada threw up his hands in disgust. Obviously, he hadn’t called for the throw to be cut off. But it was, and Byrnesie has his first RBI of the spring.
Byrnesie owes his second double, second RBI and the R to the fact that minor leaguers were in right and center when he batted the last time. He swung at the type of low and away pitch he needs to learn to take. (Yeah, the D’Backs were on TV, so I got to see it). He lofted it into right center and the two outfielders, who had been playing deep out of respect for the pop in Byrnesie’s bat, gave chase. However, as they both neared the ball, neither of them took charge and the ball fell between them. In the blink of an eye, Byrnes was on second and a run scored. Later, he scored.
He’ll take it, and so will I. But I wish he’d lay off those pitches wide of the plate. When the big boys are in the outfield, they won’t misplay a shallow fly into a double.