Colorado Rockies' 2009 Season Preview

Tom FroemmingCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2009

*From Protect the Plate

After winning 90 games and riding a hot streak all the way to the World Series in 2007, the Rockies fell to 74-88 last season.

Now that the center piece of their lineup is gone, it's starting to look like the Rockies are destined to endure their eighth losing season in nine years.

With manager Clint Hurdle on the hot seat and an impressive group of young players, however, anything's possible. Just look at the 2007 Rockies.



In 2007, Matt Holliday won a batting title, hitting .340, was the runner up in MVP voting and led Colorado to the World Series after being named the NLCS MVP. This offseason, the Rockies traded Holliday to the Oakland A's for Huston Street, Greg Smith and Carlos Gonzalez.

With Holliday gone, it's up to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, one of several Rockies to have a disastrous 2008, to carry this lineup into the future.



Thanks to his dominating fastball, Ubaldo Jimenez racked up 172 strikeouts in his first full season. A product of the Dominican Republic, Jimenez led all starters in average fastball velocity (94.9 mph).

The 25-year-old was one of eight NL pitchers to make 34 starts, and posted a 12-12 record despite pitching for a sub-.500 team. On the downside, Jimenez has control issues, ranking second in the majors with 103 free passes issued in '08.



After playing in a career-low 83 last season, Todd Helton will try to resurrect his career in his 13th season with Colorado. From 1999-2004, Helton was a virtual lock to hit at least .320 with over 30 homers and 100 RBI.

In the four years since, Helton's power numbers have plummeted, as he has failed to hit more than 20 homers in a season. Now 35-years-old, Helton is a huge question mark, but can still hit over .300 if healthy.



Huston Street, who came over from Oakland in the Matt Holliday trade, is expected to close with former closer Manny Corpas is to set up. Street has 94 career saves and 271 strikeouts in 269 innings pitched. Corpas has 23 saves in his career.

Taylor Buchholz, who will miss at least the first month of the season, had a 2.17 ERA and 0.95 WHIP last year. Veteran lefty Alan Embree joins the 'pen after seven-straight seasons with at least 65 appearances.



Prospect Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez expect to break into the bigs at some point this season. With a knack for getting on base and good speed, Fowler looks like a prototypical leadoff hitter.

In 334 minor league games, Fowler has a .299 average, .393 on-base percentage 79 doubles and 100 stolen bases. Gonzalez has already been a center piece in two huge trades, going from Arizona to Oakland in the Dan Haren trade, and now going from Oakland to Colorado in the Matt Holliday trade.

He struggled in 85 games with the A's last year, hitting .242, but has a .813 OPS in the minors. Both players will be 23-years-old on Opening Day, and both are expected to start the year in Triple-A. Second baseman Eric Young Jr., another impressive 23-year-old, could also be with the big club before seasons end.



Jeff Francis is expected to miss the entire season after shoulder surgery...Brad Hawpe has averaged 25 home runs and 95 RBI while hitting .288 over the past three seasons...Ryan Spilborghs, a 29-year-old career reserve, is expected to get the first shot at center field.

He has a .302 average and .839 OPS in 254 career games...Though his numbers are still respectable (.286-21-99), Garrett Atkins has seen his average, homers, RBI, doubles and walks drop each of the last three years, and his strikeouts increase over that span.

Aaron Cook was one of few Rockies to have a career year, winning 16 games while posting a 3.96 ERA...Chris Iannetta led all NL catchers with a .390 on-base percentage and hit 18 home runs.

Colorado is hoping newcomer Jason Marquis can stabilize the rotation, as the veteran has started at least 28 games in each of the last five seasons.