Only four games out of the division lead the Diamondbacks have high hopes for the rest of the season. Rumors of trading Justin Upton swirl but the D-backs management is too smart to give up on a 24 year old former number one overall pick, so it is highly unlikely he will be dealt. He will however have to pick up his play in the second half if another playoff run is going to happen. This leads us into the most important factors in the Diamondbacks getting back to the playoffs.
- Justin Upton: Whether the current rumors are real, a media embellishment, or just a ploy to light a fire, it really doesn’t matter. Without a doubt he is the most important player for the D-Backs in the second half. If the strikeouts continue and home runs don’t start flying out of Chase Field then you can put a fork in their playoff chances.
- Ian Kennedy: 2011 may have been a career year but he still needs to show that he can be an ace and anchor the rotation. The loss of Daniel Hudson makes Kennedy’s return to form that much more important. While Wade Miley has been very impressive the rest of the starting staff has been mediocre. When your number one pitcher hits the mound every five days, confidence that the game will end in handshakes is key for teams gunning for the playoffs.
- JJ Putz: One of the biggest reasons for the D-Backs success last season was the improvement of the bullpen, led by JJ Putz. He was one of the most consistent closers in the league in 2011 but has had his ups and downs this season. There have been 10 blown saves already this year while the bullpen blew only 13 games all season in 2011. In his final six outings he didn’t allow a run while lowering his ERA by over a run, hopefully he can use that to get back to elite closer status for the stretch run.
- 3rd Base: The box score for any D-Back starting at 3rd this year has been an eyesore for those who don’t like zeros. Most of this can be attributed to Ryan Roberts, but Cody Ransom (who is no longer with the team), Josh Bell, and Jeff Blum haven’t fared any better. Whether one of these players step up or this is a spot where the D-Backs look to acquire a player through a trade, the hot corner needs a hot bat.
- Trevor Bauer: While we may have to temper our high expectations in his first shot in the big leagues there is no doubt he has all the tools to be a front line starter. Probably the most highly touted prospect in the organization since Upton, Bauer will have to cut down on his walks in order to pitch longer into games and have the success expected of him. In his final outing before the break he managed to get through 6 innings allowing only 2 hits and a walk. This is by far the best of his three major league starts and leads to optimism the rest of the way.
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