"That's what we have to rely on," manager Bob Melvin said on Saturday. "You know, we kind of spent our bullets on Haren and we're not in a position to go out and sign a Mark Teixeira or something like that. The whole basis for us getting better offensively is going to happen incrementally as a group. We think everybody has a chance to get better offensively."We're probably ahead of where everybody thought we were last year. Now, all of a sudden, the expectations are raised because of what we accomplished. But we still have to stay on track with our guys." Chris Young in center, for instance, is 24. Justin Upton in right is 20. Third baseman Mark Reynolds is 24. Shortstop Stephen Drew is 25. First baseman Conor Jackson is 25. There might be one other team in the Major Leagues with this much talent and this much youth simultaneously, and that would be the Milwaukee Brewers. But they haven't won anything. The D-backs' greatest problem is not of their making. It's the quality of the competition. The NL West goes four deep with genuine postseason contenders, including the very same Colorado Rockies, who swept Arizona from the NL Championship Series in October. There may be no other division in baseball with this much depth. "Every single one of them you could see potentially as a favorite in this division, depending on what scribe you read or who you're talking to," Melvin said. "You know the Dodgers have upgraded considerably, and they have the resources. The Padres are the Padres. Their pitching does it, and their team is very well-suited for their ballpark and they're always there, every year. And then the Rockies, you saw what they accomplished last year." If you were looking for something else to worry about with the D-backs, you had 3 hours, 49 minutes to think about it on Saturday, the time it took them to lose, 12-11, to the Rockies. The new closer, Brandon Lyon, gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning, bringing his spring ERA to 16.20. But Melvin was not particularly perplexed by this, noting that Lyon was still trying to find the command of his fastball and that this will not be a permanent problem. But this remains an organization with far more plusses than minuses. The D-backs have a manager who has emerged as one of the best in the game. When Melvin deservedly won the 2007 NL Manager of the Year Award, he immediately, modestly and typically, categorized the award as an organizational victory. "It's because you have good players," he said on Saturday. "You have a great coaching staff that prepares the players each and every day, and we have good symmetry from the front office all the way down." When prodded to name a leading attribute that he had as a manager, Melvin said, "Maybe it's communication with my players," but then added that this was probably a common strength for Major League managers. Melvin may be understated, but he's bright, he's driven to win and he's supremely organized. Plus, he never stops trying. Last year, he utilized 146 different lineups. "We had to match up some," Melvin said. "We tired to create a bit of a momentum wave, by getting everybody involved where you really have that team feeling. Then whoever gets plugged in on a given day feels like he's going to get it done, and the rest of the team feels like he's going to get it done." Overall, the future is genuinely bright in Phoenix. This doesn't mean that the Arizona Diamondbacks are going to win all the time, but it does mean that they're going to be in the hunt for a long time.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.