Quick! Name a starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
If this comes as a struggle, fear not. The team’s rotation is a rather unknown bunch to the casual baseball fan. The five starting pitchers share a combined 130 career wins, a relatively low number for a team sitting in second place in the NL West. Joe Saunders and Texas native Zach Duke own the bulk of those wins, and even though they have yet to turn 30, they have provided the team with veteran leadership.
One name on the pitching staff that should ring a bell is J.J. Putz. Best known for his time as a Seattle Mariner, Putz has provided Arizona with a reliable closer, something they have been missing since Jose Valverde’s departure in 2007.
With an average age around 28, the Diamondbacks are one of the younger teams around, and that youth has played a major role in the team’s early success this season.
The D-Backs’ high-powered offense is as hot as the Arizona sun, and shortstop Stephen Drew has led the way thus far. Stephen, shortstop and younger brother of long-time major leaguer J.D. Drew, leads Arizona in many statistical categories such as batting average, RBIs and on-base percentage. The younger Drew has been with Arizona since he was drafted No. 15 overall by the team in 2004.
Another young player that has seen his role become more clearly defined is right-fielder Justin Upton, who also has an older brother in the bigs — Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton. Justin has a team-leading 62 hits, great speed and surprising power. Selected by the Diamondbacks with the top pick in the 2005 Draft, the team has invested a lot of time into Upton’s development, and that’s beginning to pay off. Only 23 years old, Upton will only continue to grow with the organization.
With a 33-29 record, the Diamondbacks should challenge the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants in a division that has a reputation for being one of the weakest in all of baseball. Picked by many analysts to finish dead-last in the NL West, they have proved many wrong in the early stage of the season. With the help of an unheralded but talented pitching rotation and a group of surging stars, the Diamondbacks are a legitimate dark horse to make a push for their second World Series trophy.