Byrnes led the Diamondbacks in both homers and stolen bases last season. In doing so, he became the first Snake to hit at least 25 of each in one season. No one predicted that Byrnes would have that kind of a impact, most viewing him as simply a placeholder for Chris Young in center. And yet, there are still major concerns about whether Byrnes can handle his new role with the club.
Certainly, more offense is expected out of the left fielder than the center fielder on most teams. As a career .234 hitter after the All Star Break, Byrnes may not have the stamina to put up good numbers throughout the year in left. Also, his .313 OBP last year did not fit his role as a table-setter for the team. For Eric to succeed in 2007, he's going to need to drop to sixth in the batting order and get plenty of days off.
Chris young is going to prove to be a defensive upgrade over Byrnes in center field. The question is whether he hits like he did in the minors, or struggles as he did in his first 70 major league at bats.
The most impressive aspect of Young's 2006 season was the fact that he cut down his strikeout rate nearly in half from previous seasons. A high strikeout total was the only thing holding Young back from truly reaching elite prospect status. Now that he has virtually no holes in his game, expect a 20/20 season out of him this year, and 30/30 shortly down the road.
At FutureBacks, we couldn't be any higher on Carlos Quentin. We knew that he'd hit, but even we couldn't have guessed that he'd hit this well this soon. Although he did not display the plate patience that typified him in the minors, Quentin actually hit major league pitching for more power than he did with minor league hurlers. Draft him high in your fantasy leagues and get ready to punch his name on your All Star ballots, because this kid is only going to improve.
Sometimes lost among his gaudy offensive numbers is the fact that Quentin knows what he's doing in right field. He already has plus range and a plus arm, but he's learning when to dive for a ball and when to play it on a hop. He's learning when to hit his cutoff man and when to go for the baserunner kill. For a player with as much natural talent as Quentin to be developing these baseball instincts at such an early age is a very good sign.
Scott Hairston and Jeff DaVanon are the forgotten members of the outfield, but they each enjoyed fine seasons before landing on the disabled list in the summer. Their return to success will be key for 2007, since Quentin and Young have never faced the rigors of a 162-game schedule, and since Byrnes has never appeared in more than 143 games in a season. There should be plenty of at bats for all five members of the outfield, but also enough time off for rest. Bob Melvin's ability to juggle these guys, playing matchups and giving rest without bruising any egos, will go a long way towards determining the overall success of this outfield.
Health will play a large role as well. Should there be an injury among those five outfielders, Jarred Ball looks to be first in line to grab the hypothetically vacant fifth outfielder's spot. Ball had been the fastest player in the entire organization before he was slowed by injuries last year. He probably strikes out too much to ever contribute everyday at the big league level, but his speed and defense make Ball ideally suited to that fifth outfielder's slot.
Good thing too, since there really aren't many other Diamondbacks outfield prospects who have played any significant time above A-ball; most that had done so last season are among those now at the major league level. For better or for worse, this organization is sticking with its horses in the outfield. The potential for greatness is there, but an injury here and a slump there could also easily spell trouble for the major league squad over the next two years.
Positional Grade: B
As exciting as an outfield that features Quentin and Young may seem, it pales in comparison to what lies a couple of years behind. Premium subscribers can read about the pearls of the organization -- the lower-level outfield prospects -- by clicking here.
Read more from Keith Glab at BaseballEvolution.com