PEORIA, Ariz. -- While Paul Goldschmidt is the MVP candidate, Mark Trumbo is grabbing the headlines and Miguel Montero's value cannot be overlooked, the key to the Arizona Diamondbacks' season might be their second baseman.
When Aaron Hill has played for the Arizona Diamondbacks, he has played well.
Acquired late in the 2011 season in a trade from Toronto, he hit .315 with two home runs and 16 RBI down the stretch in a playoff run. Then, in 2012, Hill hit .302 with 26 home runs and 85 RBI in 156 games, posting numbers that were good enough to earn a Silver Slugger Award.
The second baseman got off to a good start again in 2013, but was hit by a pitch on April 9 by Pittsburgh's James McDonald. Hill tried to play through the injury, but after leaving a game nearly a week later with soreness it was revealed he suffered a broken left hand.
Hill missed more than two month's worth of games, and while he did return to the team, his prolonged absence had a substantial impact on the team.
"He's obviously been outstanding for us since he came over here from Toronto," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said prior to his team's spring training game with the San Diego Padres Tuesday. "He brings very good defense, he adds to our team offensively, he makes our lineup much stronger.
"We found out last year what it was like without him and it didn't work out for us."
Hill finished the 2013 campaign hitting .291 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI. He appeared in just 87 games, though, and while you could not exactly call it a wasted season, it certainly was not what anyone wanted or expected.
But it's not like Hill picked a fight with a baseball and lost.
"It happens, you get hit," Hill said. "It was just kind of unfortunate it broke a bone. But all you can do is just wait for it to get healthy. I tried to play through it, obviously it didn't work, but I took the time off, came back and felt good. I felt like I finished OK."
"Just take the offseason to get as strong as you can and prepare for the next season."
The next season is getting closer, and having Hill healthy for the duration would go a long way toward helping the D-backs improve from the 81-win total they've had each of the last two seasons.
Now 31 and likely the oldest member of the team's Opening Day lineup, the way Hill sees it, the team he's part of could do a considerable amount of damage.
"Just having protection with Goldy with Trumbo, and he's admitted he just doesn't feel like he's tapped into his full potential yet, and that's kind of scary," Hill said. "It's going to be fun. We've got guys who just want to learn to play the game better and better every day.
"It's going to be a sneaky good team."