Every year I half-expect Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley to patrol left and center field, but I know that's not the case. It hasn't been that long ago, but already it's possible that, like a narrator in a 1940s talkie, this could be the Arizona outfield … OF THE FUTURE.
Let's take a closer look.
CONOR JACKSON, LF — The move from first base always has to be a little insulting. Usually it means, "hey, I know your defense isn't great, but we have someone who's hitting for a little more power than you and we need the room" (way it like Bill Lumbergh for added flavor). In this case, Jackson moved to left field last season to make room for the maybe-not-injured-anymore Chad Tracy and will supplant Eric Byrnes' position. If he continues to hit .290/.370/.450, he'll be the above-average hitter everyone's accustomed to him being.
CHRIS YOUNG, CF — Yes, it's great that Young hit 32 home runs in his first full year, then 22 the next … but then again, what outfielder doesn't possess that kind of power? Young's strikeout numbers and pull-hitting tendencies are not going to get him very far in this league, but his goal has been to work on his hitting mechanics and hit to all fields. Provided he reaches base more, that would be the fifth tool in his arsenal, along with his power swing, arm, speed, and defense.
JUSTIN UPTON, RF — He'll be 22 in August, which means it's probably not fair to chastise him for having a wickedly good April and September and be abysmally absent in between. Since he was a No. 1 overall pick and is in the big leagues today, he doesn't appear to have "bust" written on his face, but it might take a couple years before he can translate his athletic ability into results. For now, if he can grow into the rightfielder position and avoid striking out just a bit less, that's probably all the D'backs can ask of him this year.
ERIC BYRNES, 4th OF — There are a handful of ballplayers (see: Pierzynski, A.J.) which fans of that team love and everyone else vehemently disagrees. Eric Byrnes might fit into that category, but not for being a dick or a wife beater or anything of the sort. Byrnes oozes this personality that reminds me of "Poochie" from The Simpsons. He's cool, but almost too cool. Still, every team needs a clubhouse character with Malibu-blonde hair. That way D'backs fans can separate themselves from the rest of the world based on their opinion of Eric Byrnes.
ALEX ROMERO, 5th OF — He's currently locked in an epic struggle for the final roster spot. He doesn't have much time to make his case, since he missed over a month with a broken bone in his right hand. Should he not make the team, he will be designated for assignment (traded, waived, released, or sent to minors). My guess is the only way that happens is if Byrnes or Tracy re-aggravate something, and I am not at all recommending Romero take matters into his own crowbar-wielding hands. (No matter how persuasive the voices in his head are.)
Conclusion — Except for Upton, nothing really excites me about this unit. And Upton's full potential may not be realized until 2010. However, there is no weak link in this outfield, it's just very vanilla. And I love vanilla. But the upside is that this unit could stay intact for a few years, which is exciting in and of itself.