MLB Preseason Evaluation Series: 2013 Colorado Rockies
This series will evaluate one team per day, starting on Jan. 23 and ending on Feb. 22 (the first game of spring training). It is based on last season's performance, the offseason changes since then and the author's outlook for the team in 2013. Please keep in mind that rosters can, and will, change before Opening Day. We started in the American League East, worked across to the National League, tackled the Central divisions, knocked out the AL West, and now finish with the NL West, going in alphabetical order. Next up, the Colorado Rockies.
2012 finish: 64-98 (5th place, NL West)
RHP Chris Volstad, RHP Wilton Lopez, RHP Manny Corpas, SS Reid Brignac, C Yorvit Torrealba
LHP Matt Reynolds, RHP Alex White, RHP Guillermo Moscoso
Why they will improve this year
It's hard to judge a team that had such a multitude of injuries a season ago. On the one hand, they are clearly better than the 98 losses indicate. On the other, they still don't have any pitching. That being said, having a couple big bats healthy again should improve this team mightily.
Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer combined to play in 148 games a season ago, meaning the Rockies basically missed a full season of their two biggest power threats. Presuming they both come back for at least a mostly-full season, the Rockies' lineup is immediately much more dangerous.
But the Rockies have never had questions surrounding their offensive output. It's been the pitching staff that hamstrings them every single season. Even though the group in 2013 isn't fantastic, it is one of the better-looking rotations at Coors Field in recent memory. Headed by Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio, they at least have some high-potential guys to look forward to.
Even if the pitching staff stays at its league-worst level from last year, it's a pretty crazy thought that the team with the best average in the NL and the third-most runs scored a year ago is getting back Tulowitzki and Cuddyer.
I do think the pitching staff will improve a bit, but not enough to make it "respectable," whatever that means. The bullpen should be decent, but the rotation will probably still struggle. Luckily, the offense has so much firepower that the Rockies should definitely win more games this year than in 2012.
Why they will regress this year
Does it matter if the Rockies score 10 runs a game if the pitching staff allows 11? Exaggerations aside, there is a point to be made. Pitching and defense win championships, and the Rockies were dead last in both categories last year. And it really wasn't even close.
Even with the Rockies returning two of their best hitters from injury, it's very possible that they could exceed triple digits in losses. Why? Because the front office continues to ignore its team's most glaring need. A year ago, the Colorado starters combined for an ERA that almost topped 6.00.
Give the Rockies a bullpen full of historic closers, and chances are they still would have finished in last place. The reason they won any games was because their lineup was so productive, they were able to get out to big leads and hold off the other teams, or put together huge comebacks of their own. But on those off-days, they are almost guaranteed to lose when the starters are giving up six runs each outing.
Out of the seven starters who will be battling for the five rotation spots, they combined for 23 wins last year. They COMBINED for 23 wins. The Major League leader in wins last year, Gio Gonzalez, almost accounted for that number by himself in Washington D.C. Admittedly, Jim Tracy's 75-pitch limit on starters last year may have played a part, but I'm not convinced it changed that number by a lot.
We know the Rockies' already-great offense will improve when Tulowitzki and Cuddyer return, and their defensive numbers will probably rebound a bit, too. But with such a weak rotation, there is a very good chance that Colorado can lose 100 games in 2013.
The outlook for 2013
Colorado will be better. How much better, remains to be seen. They are a team of extremes, in that the offense is unmatched in the National League, and should get even better in 2013 with healthy seasons out of their star sluggers.
On the bad side of the spectrum, their starting rotation last year was laughable and nearly canceled out what the offense was doing. Until the Rockies either develop some of their young pitching talent, or make a few moves in free agency (why bring in Cuddyer when that money can be spent on a bona fide ace pitcher instead?).
The lineup, on paper, is pretty ridiculous. But I'll take the softer-hitting Padres with a deeper pitching staff and better defense to finish above the Rockies any day. So for me, this Rockies season is about a lot of home runs and developing the pitching staff to be competitive in a couple years. They have the offense in place, but need to focus on the rotation to get them where they want to be while they still have their big hitters under contract.
With Cuddyer and Tulowitzki back in the lineup, I could see the Rockies just peaking above 70 wins this year, but I'd be shocked if they approached .500 or even sniffed at contention. They have proved me wrong in the past, but this dismal pitching staff will definitely hold them back in 2013.
It's my opinion that the Rockies occupy the NL West cellar for the second straight season, and just miss hitting 70 wins. It's going to be a painfully long season if you're a Rockies' fan who likes pitching, but success is on the horizon if the young guns start progressing.
Potential changes before Opening Day
The only news I can dig up on the Rockies right now is that they reached out to—and were rejected by—veteran starting pitcher Derek Lowe. They do need to find more depth in the rotation if they want any chance of contending this year, so where do they turn?
Chien-Ming Wang is still a free agent, and Kyle Lohse would only cost them a contract, given that their draft pick is protected. But adding Wang to an already-long list of mediocre pitchers would do no good, and you would think they already would have Lohse tied up if they wanted him. If I'm Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd and I want to keep my job, I'm signing anything with a wind up to a contract here soon.
Biggest surprise: Dexter Fowler
Biggest disappointment: Jhoulys Chacin
Bold prediction: Wilin Rosario hits 40 home runs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Josh Rutledge, 2B
3. Carlos Gonzalez, LF
4. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
5. Michael Cuddyer, RF
6. Todd Helton, 1B
7. Wilin Rosario, C
8. Chris Nelson, 3B
2013 Rockies Season Outlook?
1. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
2. Jorge De La Rosa, LHP
3. Jeff Francis, LHP
4. Juan Nicasio, RHP
5. Drew Pomeranz, LHP
Projected finish: 69-93, 5th place
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You can follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman.
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