D-backs Opening Day outlook

D-backs Opening Day outlook

The D-backs hope that the experience they got by reaching the National League Championship Series in 2007 will prove helpful in 2008. To win what would be the franchise's fifth NL West crown, though, the D-backs will need added production from their young nucleus of everyday players.

Calling card
The D-backs did what they had to do to win games last year. Their recipe for success was to get good starting pitching and score just enough runs to turn it over to the back end of their bullpen. The strategy worked because more often than not the starters gave the team plenty of innings, and the addition of Dan Haren, along with a healthy Randy Johnson, should only make the rotation better in 2008.

Achilles' Heel
The D-backs were 16th in the National League in runs scored last year and the offense was very inconsistent. They have the quick-strike capability as evidenced by their home run total, but will need to become more consistent from at-bat to at-bat if they hope to do better this year.

You'll know they're rollin' if ...
Young hitters like Stephen Drew and Justin Upton are swinging hot sticks.

Projected starting lineup
1. CF Chris Young
2. 2B Orlando Hudson
3. LF Eric Byrnes
4. 1B Conor Jackson
5. C Chris Snyder
6. 3B Mark Reynolds
7. SS Stephen Drew
8. RF Justin Upton
Projected rotation
1. RHP Brandon Webb
2. RHP Dan Haren
3. LHP Doug Davis
4. RHP Micah Owings
5. RHP Edgar Gonzalez
Projected bullpen
Closer: RHP Brandon Lyon
Setup: RHP Tony Pena
Setup: RHP Chad Qualls
Middle: LHP Doug Slaten
Middle: RHP Juan Cruz

Johnson
You'll know they're in trouble if ...
Johnson, Micah Owings and Doug Davis don't hold up their end of the bargain in the rotation.

Testing, testing
The D-backs and Rockies will square off 18 times this year, including a home-and-home series on the first two weekends of the season.

Interleague Play
The D-backs play host to the Royals and A's during Interleague Play, and travel to Minnesota and Boston. While the Red Sox are expected to be among the American League's elite once again in 2008, Arizona's other three opponents are all facing rebuilding seasons.

The Bottom Line
The D-backs have the potential to win their second straight National League West crown, but they had better not expect to do so if they are outscored again by 20 runs.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.