The Colorado Rockies are near the top, but they will need more from their five best players in the season's second half before celebrating another National League West division win.
The Colorado Rockies have five players who could lead them to a National League West division title in the second half of the 2013 season.
Their best chances for division dominance come from the Rockies' best hitters and top pitchers in order to build momentum for the pennant race after the All-Star break.
Colorado's two active All-Stars, outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer, are carrying some of the team's expectations, but manager Walt Weiss has a wider arsenal of potential top performers to draw from in the months remaining before the playoffs.
Who will step up and inspire the Rockies to greatness in the final months of the National League West pennant race? Let's take a look.
Carlos Gonzalez leads the National League in home runs this season.
Advantages: NL All-Star Carlos Gonzalez (.303/.369/.622) is leading the National League in home runs, slugging and OPS this season. His current total of 24 home runs is well above the number he had at this same point in his 2010 season, which was the year CarGo hit his career-best 34 home runs.
Challenges: Nagging injuries have been plaguing Gonzalez this season. After a first-pitch foul ball in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 7, CarGo left the game with a sprained middle finger on his right hand.
He left the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 4 due to a back strain. After being struck by a foul ball on June 13, Gonzalez was forced to leave the game due to a foot injury. None of his injuries, however, have resulted in any significant DL time for the Rockies' slugger.
Jorge De La Rosa is the Colorado Rockies ace this season.
Advantages: Ace Jorge De La Rosa is leading the Colorado Rockies' rotation with an 8-5 record before the All-Star break. The 32-year-old left-hander has achieved a career-best 3.19 ERA so far this season. De La Rosa has the potential to lead the Rockies' rotation to a division title this year.
Challenges: In April, De La Rosa did not pitch past the sixth inning in any games. He showed improvement in May, but he still ran out of pitches before the seventh in three of his five starts. June showed more improvement for De La Rosa, but he still only made it to the seventh in one-third of his games.
De La Rosa is expected to make it through the seventh as the Rockies' ace, but that will mean he has to lower his pitch counts in the early innings.
A 27-game hitting streak is just part of the story for Michael Cuddyer's 2013 season.
Advantages: A 27-game hitting streak by Michael Cuddyer kept the Colorado Rockies' slugger near the top of the National League leaders with a .344 batting average. After a lapse against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Cuddyer managed to recover his momentum with a slash line of .341/.394/.590.
Challenges: While this is Cuddyer's sophomore season with the Rockies, it is his 13th season in the majors, so the second half of the season may be a grind for him.
Jhoulys Chacin is a top-10 performer in WAR for pitchers.
Advantages: Jhoulys Chacin's 3.74 ERA, 1.248 WHIP and 8-3 record in his first 101 innings this season have made him a strong asset to the Colorado Rockies' rotation. His wins above replacement (WAR) of 3.6 has Chacin among the National League leaders in that category. De La Rosa, Chacin and Tyler Chatwood have all been the source of the Rockies' rotational success this season.
Challenges: In 2012, Chacin missed nearly four months due to a pectoral injury.
Nolan Arenado is giving a great rookie performance for the Colorado Rockies.
Advantages: This is Nolan Arenado's first season in the majors, but he is performing at the level of a veteran.
Arenado's signature bare-handed grab has robbed many batters of hits this season by shaving a fraction of a second off the time needed to get the ball from third base to first base. Added to Arenado's .254/.294/.419 slash line is his clutch ability to provide walk-off help in the bottom of the ninth like he did in the Rockies' June 7 win over the San Diego Padres.
Challenges: This is Arenado's first year in the majors, and his professional career does not offer enough data to decide whether he can sustain his efforts through the entire season.
Injured Troy Tulowitzki is added to this list because of his potential, but Tulowitzki has yet to be restored to the Colorado Rockies' active roster.
Advantages: Tulowitzki is such a great player that he was selected as a starter for the 2013 All-Star Game despite having been on the DL since June 14. Tulo produced strong enough numbers earlier in this season that have kept him among the batting leaders in the National League.
Challenges: Tulowitzki may be more injury prone than other players, which could prevent the Colorado Rockies from ever getting a full season's performance from him.