If you're looking for a good time, try figuring out the starting rotation of the Diamondbacks, the Tucson Sidewinders, or the Tennessee Smokies. Much of Spring Training will be spent doing the same, and the fun part is that right now, you've got just as good an idea as they do.
The Diamondbacks rotation, barring another series of trades, is close to being set.
Russ Ortiz and...
Well, four of the five spots are set, and that's about three more than most figured would be set right now. So in the spirit of Oscar season the Nominees are...
Mike Gosling--Young lefty debuted with the D'Backs last year with mixed results, but his big league experience has put him squarely in the mix.
Edgar Gonzalez--Forget the 0-11 record last season, the D'Backs like the kid's intensity and feel he can bounce back, if he doesn't this year he might be a lost cause.
Brad Halsey--Acquired in the Randy Johnson trade, he's got Major League Experience, playoff experience, and the Yankee pedigree. Probably the front runner for the #5 slot, assuming he has a solid Spring Training, because the D'Backs will want to show they got more than just Shawn Green for Randy.
Ramon Pena--The long shot, but the stuff might be the best of the four. Because of his re-adjusted age, the D'Backs seem more likely to give him the shot, but he might need another half season at Triple-A.
Oscar Villarreal--This youngster has had impressive numbers with the Diamondbacks as a set up guy, but came up the ranks as a starter, and the Diamondbacks have apparently told him he'll have a shot to win the job. Problem is, he's had such success in the bullpen, unless he blows the other candidates away the Diamondbacks will likely move him back to where he has already had success, the set up role.
The odds on favorite is Halsey, if he's not in the rotation he'll be in the bullpen. Gosling could steal the spot from Halsey, but will probably head to the bullpen, unless Halsey ends up there, in which case Gosling is likely headed back to Triple-A. Gonzalez will land exactly where his Spring Training play sends him. A great Spring and he'll get the #5 slot, an average Spring and he'll be in the bullpen, a weak Spring and he'll head down to Tucson. Unless he's ridiculously good, Villarreal is headed back to the pen. Pena is the only special case. It seems doubtful the Diamondbacks would put him in what will already be a very young bullpen, so if he doesn't win the #5 slot, expect him to start the season in Tucson.
Which brings us to the next level. The Tucson Sidewinders motto is "Next to the Majors" but last year it very well could have been "See You Next Week In the Majors." The Sidewinders sent more than half a team to the big leagues last season, and suffered for it. Barring injury, expect this squad to stay much more intact this season.
Pena will be the #1 starter here, and my gut tells me Gonzalez will get the opportunity to build confidence in the #2 spot before getting recalled after a couple of months for a spot start or bullpen duty. Three to go, and the Nominees are...
Jesus Silva had an impressive '04, and finished it in Tucson. A hard thrower who's still learning how to be consistent, he got tagged a bit in Tucson, but many felt that had more to do with a tired arm than his stuff. He'll could start '05 in Tucson, and barring injury or a rash of mid-season trades he should definitely finish it there.
Phil Stockman--Stockman might have been challenging for a spot in the Diamondbacks rotation, but he made only six starts last year at Double-A El Paso because he was pitching in the Olympics for the Australian National team, picking up a Bronze Medal in the process. Still, the Diamondbacks were excited my the adjustments he made in '04, most notably taking a few miles an hour off his fastball, and using the natural sinking motion instead. He seems poised for a Triple-A start this season.
Casey Daigle--Daigle didn't appear mentally or physically ready for the big leagues last year, and like Gonzalez, will probably get the opportunity to build up his confidence at Triple-A for most of a season. Though Stockman and Silva might ultimately have brighter futures, Daigle will be much more likely to get a spot start here and there with the Diamondbacks simply because he's already been there before.
Dustin Nippert--Big, hard throwing right hander was impressive last season in El Paso after coming back from surgery to remove a benign tumor. The Diamondbacks love this kid, and he's a lock to start the season in Triple-A, and could be one of the hottest pitching prospect in the organization coming out of Spring Training.
Others will challenge, but expect the rotation in Tucson to go
And then there was one. The Double-A Tennessee Smokies will start their first year as a member of the Diamondbacks organization with an absolute boatload of pitching.
Assuming Silva doesn't stay in Triple-A in a bullpen role, expect him to anchor the rotation in Tennessee.
The left-handed three headed monster of Matt Chico, Clint Goocher, and Billy Murphy finished the year in Double-A last season, and seem likely to start there this season. Goocher and Murphy are almost locks, and while Chico struggled when he first made the jump from Lo-A South Bend to Double-A El Paso, he settled down to finish strong.
Enrique Gonzalez is young, but he lit up the box scores at Hi-A Lancaster last season to the tune of 13-6 with a 3.22 ERA and a fantastic 110 strikeouts to 44 walks. He started the season in the bullpen and made the transition to starter with impressive results, winning seven straight starts at one point. He seems ready to make the jump and the Diamondbacks will want a couple of right handed pitchers at the Double-A level.
Adam Bass, Chris Kinsey, Sam Smith and Chad Scarbery will compete for the spots also, but with only so many rotation spots around Bass and Smith seem likely to return to Hi-A Lancaster, and for Kinsey and Scarberry Lancaster will still be a promotion. Smith in particular has a chance to still bump up, but it seems as if it will be in a bullpen role.