Colorado Rockies: 3 up and 3 down

The Colorado Rockies are both blessed and cursed. They possess two of the best in-their-prime players in the game in Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. Few teams wouldn’t trade their two best offensive players for these guys if they had a track record of staying healthy. And therein appears the curse. Neither superstar talent can seem to suit up week after week without fail.

The Rockies rolled up their 3rd straight losing season in 2013 and 2nd straight last place finish with a 74-88 record. The good news is that represented a 10-win improvement from 2012. More bad news though is that the NL West is tough. The Dodgers, Giants, and D-backs all boast better talent on paper and San Diego is a quietly improved team this offseason. And even worse, but to nobody’s surprise, CarGo and Tulo combined to miss 88 games in 2013.

The Rockies’ offseason answer to trying to beat up their big brothers was a few moves that could pay dividends, but likely nothing that will shake the foundation of the division. Drew Stubbs and his swiss cheese bat is in town to add to the outfield rotation and Justin Morneau was lured in to anchor first base in the absence of Todd Helton.

GM Dan O’Dowd brought a few young arms over to the mountains in his ongoing attempt to create a stable and viable starting rotation. Jordan Lyles is in via Houston and has a lot of upside. Talented lefty Brett Anderson should fit right in on this roster as he simply can’t stay healthy. If he could though, man oh man the potential…

Troy Tulowitzki

Troy Tulowitzki

3 Up

Best Case Scenario for 2014

This team won’t sniff the playoffs unless everything comes together perfectly, and with the uncertainties that surround the pitching staff, don’t bet on a miracle season. But really, nobody knows what this team is capable of with a healthy Gonzalez and Tulowitzki. With NL batting champion Michael Cuddyer and talented youngsters Nolan Arenado and Wilin Rosario in the mix, the offense should be solid. Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin had nice rebound seasons in ’13 and Tyler Chatwood provided a lift to the rotation. If Anderson could get his arm healthy then who knows, maybe the Rockies climb to 3rd in the standings and hang around in the wild card conversation into September.

Most Important Rockies

This team goes as Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez go. Their 162 game averages are off the charts but it’s a teaser stat because neither guy ever goes the distance. CarGo hasn’t played more than 145 games ever, and that season was way back in 2010. Tulo has average a mere 115 games/season since 2008. Every October Rockies faithful are left to wonder “what if?” At some point it seems the stars would have to align and these guys would finally lace ‘em up for 160 games each. And if that ever happened we could be talking about a combined 70 homers and 240 RBI’s. They’re that good. Could this be the year? Probably not.

On the mound, and when he’s healthy, Jhoulys Chacin has proven to be a legitimate anchor for the Rockies’ rotation. Last year he posted 14 wins, a 3.47 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and a 126:61 K to walk ratio in 197.1 innings. He may not be the ideal ‘ace’ but he can help pave the way for a talented but unproven rotation with another strong season.

Potential Breakout Players

Not many rookies go all Gold Glove on us, but that’s exactly what Nolan Arenado did in 2013. His bat left much to be desired however as he hit .267 with a weak .301 on-base % and just 10 home runs. He may not be a mega power-hitter but at age 22 it’s reasonable to expect more here. In his three full minor league seasons he averaged 36 doubles and 15 homers. It’s not a stretch to assume that some of those doubles turn into homers as he matures physically. He did rip 29 doubles over 133 games as a rookie. In 2014 I’d expect to see something more along the lines of a .280 hitter, .320 on-base %, 30 doubles, and 18 homers.

At age 23, Jordan Lyles is a bit of a poor man’s Rick Porcello. He came up super early, has logged a bunch of big league innings at a young age, relies too much on the fastball, but should figure it out soon. The Rockies don’t have a ton of quality starting pitching depth as the Jon Gray’s of the world aren’t quite ready for major league action so if Lyles doesn’t make the Opening Day roster then he’ll still register a bunch of starts. Lyles has to find a way to keep hitters off balance better than he has so far. He allowed 165 hits in just 141.2 innings in 2013. He has the talent and the arm to figure this thing out despite Coors Field being a tough venue in which to do so. Don’t expect a sub-4 ERA and a bunch of K’s just yet but reasonable growth is enough at this point.

Carlos Gonzalez

Carlos Gonzalez

3 Down

Worst Case Scenario

The Rockies have essentially been experiencing their worst case scenario for a few years now. It involves a lot of injuries and few wins. More of the same is certainly reasonable given the track record of their stars and the histories of their veteran core. A last place finish wouldn’t surprise anyone, would it?

Areas of Concern

The starting five could be good if it stays healthy. If they falter and hit the DL like most of them have been known to do then the lack of starting pitching depth could cripple this team. The bullpen has been bolstered with LaTroy Hawkins and Boone Logan coming in and could develop into a solid unit but the starters have to find a way to get them the ball with a lead.

And of course, it’s not just the starters that need to stay on the field. Tulo and CarGo almost owe it to Colorado fans to give them a full season at this point. If they do, and Morneau and Cuddyer can stay upright, then this offense could be special. That’s a lot of ‘ifs’ though.

Who Needs to Bounce Back From a Down 2013

It seems like Drew Stubbs, who will likely split time with Charlie Blackmon in the outfield, is always in need of a rebound season. He did perk up a bit in Cleveland last summer as he nudged his average up to .233 and his on-base % back over .300 (.305). At age 29, knee-deep in his supposed prime, could he possibly rebound to the guy with middle-teens power, a .320 on-base %, and 30+ steals impact on the bases? If he performs anywhere near those levels then this offense would rise to another level.

And on the mound, if you’re going to give your team 31 starts like Juan Nicasio did in 2013, then you need to produce at a higher level. A lack of stiff competition might keep him in the rotation but it’s time to get out of the 5’s in ERA and 1.4’s in WHIP. If he doesn’t figure it out soon he’ll likely lose his slot altogether and either find himself in the bullpen or on another roster.

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