As the 2009 season fast approaches, questions abound the mile-high city and the Colorado Rockies. After loosing all-star outfielder Matt Holliday to Oakland, and closer Brian Fuentes to the Angels, the keys to a second October miracle are a little different than they were in 2007.
5. Seven, Eight, and Nine
The Rockies currently have a pretty strong bullpen, and have their seventh, eighth, and ninth innings guys. They just don't have them in order yet, and in recent years have failed to keep them in order.
Taylor Buchholtz is likely to man the seventh at this point, but has the ability to take on the set up role, and even the closer's job if he ever came together all at once.
Manuel Corpas and Huston Street will compete for the ninth. Corpas has the higher upside, and if he can come on as he did in 2007, and hold that from through to September, things could be looking nice come the fall.
Regardless of what order they throw, these three need to be "the three" when all is said and done, or chances are many games were lost in the last third of the game, which with all of the Rockies' other issues, is not acceptable.
4. A consistent Ubaldo
Here lies the biggest wild card to the Rockies' 2009 season. If you were to ask Colorado brass, just a consistent outing from Jimenez would be great this year, but everyone from fans to coaches to players knows he is capable of so much more.
While simply building on what he accomplished in 2008 is essential, coming on as the dominate right-hander which hides deep within him, could provide so much desperately needed slack for the rest of the rotation and bullpen.
3. A different Tulo
Obviously Troy Tulowitzki has to have an '09 campaign different than that of his 08 outing, but it must also differ from that of his stellar 2007 contribution. With Holliday gone and Helton aging, Troy is slowly becoming the face of the franchise.
Not only will his numbers need to be up this summer, but if the Rockies are going to go anywhere in '09, they will need to be able to depend on Tulowitzki on a way they haven't before.
2. Jeff Francis' Health
It appears highly unlikely at this point that Francis will start the season in the rotation. This by itself doesn't speak well to the Rockies' chances in '09, but the eventual health of Francis could be enough if No. 1 can pan out as well...
1. Aaron Cook
Although Cook appears to be the best lock for solid contribution in '09, his performance will still dictate the outcome of the Rockies final record more than any other player on the roster.
With Jeff Francis' shoulder ailing, and uncertainty surrounding the remainder of the rotation, it is imperative that Cook play the role of ace, and to an even greater level than last season.
Although a 20-win season from Cook is a tall order to ask from Aaron, it may be the performance required to compensate for issues below him in the order, and prevent the lengthy loosing streaks which doomed Colorado in 2008.