Season Preview: Colorado Rockies
Projected MLB Rank: 13th — NL Rank: 8th — NL West Rank: 4th — Record: (85-77)
The Colorado Rockies were the story of 2007. They ran through September and the playoffs until they hit the wall in the World Series, also known as the Boston Red Sox. One year later, October 2008, they were sitting at home and watching eight other teams. They had harnessed a 74-88 record. Only four other NL teams did worse last year.
This season, the Rockies will attempt to recreate the two month magic they generated at the end of the 2007 season. This time, they need that magic for seven months.
This offense is one of the most potent in the league, even after trading away keystone Matt Holliday. Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, and veteran Todd Helton will be looked to to make up for that production. Helton had a very down year last year. Last year he played only half a season and still only hit 7 homeruns and drove in 29 RBIs. Even more concerning is the .264 average he posted in those games. Helton had hit for over .300 for the ten seasons before. The lifetime .328 hitter is 35 years old, but I do believe he can rebound from a low 2008 and regain his status as a consistent hitter.
Atkins, who had been rumored to be traded this offseason, seems to be staying in Denver for his contract year. He will post big production numbers and expect him to be traded if the Rockies are out of the race early. Brad Hawpe is a great ballplayer. He has the potential to hit 30 homeruns and drive in 100 runs now that Holliday isn’t there to take the production. He also has a cannon from rightfield.
Shortstop Troy Toluwitzki should continue to tear it up as he did last year at the end of the season as he hit .327 in the second half. Chris Iannetta did a great job in the WBC and should continue his rampage at Coors Field. In only 333 at bats last season, he hit 18 homeruns and drove in 65 RBIs.
Seth Smith, is a great hitter but has yet to show it at the major league level. Once he starts getting consistent time in Colorado, he will become a .300 hitter (I saw this kid hit for the cycle when he was with AAA Colorado Springs). There is a lot of competition for the starting centerfield spot. Ryan Spilborghs leads the way as he batted .313 in 89 games last season. Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez are also in the competition for the job, but I expect it to go to Spilborghs.
The pitching staff last season had a rough one. They had the second worst ERA in the NL (4.77) and gave up the third most runs per game (5.07). Losing Jeff Francis certainly hurts so now it starts off with Aaron Cook. The righty won 16 games last season with a 3.96 ERA. He’s a great pitcher for the thin Colorado air because he’s a sinkerballer, so expect more success from Cook in Colorado. Ubaldo Jimenez, who is the projected number two, is dirty. His stuff is phenomenal but he has control problems as he walked 103 batters last season. He had a good BAA last season (.245) so look for him to develop into a possible all star if he can get off to a good start.
Jason Marquis is the projected number three, coming over from the Cubs where he was the fifth starter. He’ll win you ballgames, but he won’t put up huge strikeout numbers and he will let guys get on base. Jorge De La Rosa’s stats don’t look too pretty last season but don’t be decieved. In the second half, he posted a 3.08 ERA with about a strikeout per inning. 23-year old Franklin Morales should compete for the last rotation spot along with Greg Smith and Jason Hirsh.
The bullpen is underrated. Manny Corpas and Huston Street are duking it out for the closer role. Corpas’ shaky 2008 might make him the eigth inning man and the experienced Street would get the closer role. Taylor Buchholz had a fine season last year posting a 2.17 ERA in 63 games. Jason Grilli had a great strikeout rate last season while compiling a 3.00 ERA. Alan Embree and Ryan Speier will also get a bunch of appearances out of the bullpen.
This is probably my biggest stretch of a prediction having the Rockies do 11 games better than they did last year. Especially finishing fourth in the division. I have the NL West as a strong division this year (another bold prediction). This division did get better though. I hear everyone that’s saying .500 could win the division, but I don’t feel like that will be the case this season with the west. It’s improving, and so are the Rockies with it.
The World Baseball Classic rosters are set. The United States roster looks more promising than last time. The US is in Pool C with Canada, Venezula, and Italy and opens up the tournament playing in Toronto.
The tournament runs from March 5th-23rd in anywhere from Tokyo to San Juan and ending in Los Angeles. (http://mlb.mlb.com/wbc/2009/schedule/brackets.jsp) You can find the official WBC bracket there.
The US roster consists of players from 21 different MLB teams and is one of only two rosters that are made up of all MLB players. Here is how I think the lineup should be:
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Grady Sizemore
LF Ryan Braun
DH Chipper Jones
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF Brad Hawpe
3B David Wright
C Brian McCann
2B Dustin Pedrioa
However, I am not Davey Johnson and I’m almost positive that Derek Jeter will start at shortstop. Curtis Granderson would be the first pinch runner most likely and Mark DeRosa looks like he will be the infield utility guy. Chris Iannetta backs up McCann behind the dish. The starting pitchers featured on the roster are Jeremy Guthrie, Ted Lilly, Roy Oswalt, and Jake Peavy. The rotation may shape up to look something along the lines of Peavy, Oswalt, Lilly, then Guthrie.
The bullpen is probably one of the strongest in the whole classic. The US boasts established closers like Brian Fuentes, Joe Nathan, JJ Putz, and BJ Ryan. The bullpen features emerging closers like Jonathan Broxton, Matt Lindstrom, and Brad Ziegler. It also contains guys like JP Howell, Scot Shields, and Matt Thornton. In the ninth I would hand the ball to Fuentes to face lefthanded hitters and Nathan to face righties.
I am most excited to watch the US play and to see how Brad Hawpe plays among all stars and how Johnson utilizes the extremely talented bullpen he has.
In other notes, how great is it to see mlb.com with the games of the day on the left side bar again? I am so relieved to hear that everyday we are getting closer to the season. The first spring training games start tomorrow with most of them at 1pm or 3pm. However at 7pm the Twins take on the Red Sox as Tim Wakefield takes the mound.
In honor of the first spring training games, I will start to release my projections for this season (as I mentioned in the previous post). I will start from who I think will finish last in the league working my way up to the best record previewing the teams’ seasons along the way. Tomorrow I’ll release who I think will be at the bottom of the barrel and here’s a clue, it’s one of these four teams…