With Opening Day fast approaching, every team has things that are certain and things that are unknown wild cards. This year, as with every year, the Colorado Rockies have many things that need to be addressed to be successful in the 2010 season.
1. Can Jeff Francis be healthy at the beginning of the season and stay healthy?
There is no doubt that Francis will be pitching for the Rockies this year. But the question is when.
His first Spring Training appearance was cause for concern.
He gave up four runs on four hits while walking two in a loss to the Giants.
While this could be attributed to his not having pitched in over a year, it is likely that he has not fully recovered from the surgery to fix his shoulder injury from two years ago.
Hey, what is the spring for?
But if Francis starts the year on the DL, the Rockies are sure to dig themselves into an early hole (much like they usually do). If this happens there is also no telling when he will be back in the rotation.
With the loss of Jason Marquis to the Nationals over the offseason, Jeff Francis needs to step up and have a great year on the mound this year.
Marquis was invaluable to to Rockies last year, so Francis needs to fill that void as soon as possible.
There is no doubt that he will not be an ace at any point this season, but if he can win between 10 and 15 games, combined with the rest of the starters, the Rockies will have a great shot at winning the NL West for the first time this year.
2. Can Ubaldo Jimenez develop into the Rockies' ace?
There has been talk since Jimenez was called up in 2007 about how good he will be in the future.
The future has come.
It is high time that Jimenez shows the world what he is capable of. He showed spots of brilliance last year, and it was encouraging that those spots became more and more frequent as the year went on.
The discouraging part is that he still had a high number of bad outings in which he'd frequently give up a home run and become rattled for the game. However, the frequency of these outings went down as the season went on.
There are many encouraging aspects of Jimenez's career in a Rockies uniform, but at the same time, there are areas that we must wait and see if he has turned back his old ways.
His first spring start showed that maybe he is developing into the role in which the Rockies need him. He pitched three scoreless innings against the Dodgers while giving up one hit, walking three, and striking out two.
Yes, it is only the spring, but the game was against a major Rockies nemesis in the Dodgers.
Last year, the Rockies went 4-14 against the '09 NL West powerhouse. Jimenez's pitching against them in this outing possibly shows that they are ready to end their run as the underdog in the NL West.
Sure, it's only one spring outing, but baseball is baseball, regardless of when it is played.
3. Can the Rockies prolific offense start hot and stay hot?
This team's offense goes beyond Troy Tulowitzki's big bat.
As shown last season, this offense can be very dangerous and can cause opposing managers to lose sleep the night before a game.
The reason is simple: there are weapons up and down the lineup.
Carlos Gonzalez learned about halfway through last season to cut back on his flailing at pitches from his forehead to his toes. When he stopped swinging at anything and everything, he became a top-notch leadoff hitter.
The Rockies' power is not just in the starting lineup, but on the bench as well.
In fact, they may have one of the best benches in the Majors. Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs, Chris Iannetta or Miguel Olivo (whoever isn't starting), Melvin Mora (if he isn't starting), and the great Giambino: Jason Giambi.
All of these players have proven their worth in the past and the Rockies are looking forward to watching them further their potential.
Not only do they have power, but they also have speed throughout the lineup.
Speed + power = bad combination for opposing teams.
Todd Helton is essentially the only starting player who has very little get-up-and-go left in him. This is attributed to a bad back in recent years.
Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez are the starters who are legitimate, daily stolen base threats. Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Stewart, Clint Barmes, and Brad Hawpe all have the ability to steal bases.
But on top of that, their first to third and second to home speed is what impresses many teams. This year, they are likely going to score many runs simply because of smart, fast baserunning.
The addition of Miguel Olivo will greatly impact this offense. Last year, Olivo hit .249 with 23 homers and 65 RBI. Those numbers are great for a catcher.
Last year many teams were scared of this offense. This year, teams will fear this offense more than ever before.
4. How much of an impact will Yorvit Torrealba's loss have?
This offseason was one of great acquisitions and a terrible loss.
The great acquisitions? Melvin Mora and Miguel Olivo.
The terrible loss? Yorvit Torrealba.
If there was any player that has had more of an impact on the camaraderie of a team, I have yet to see him.
He was without a doubt the most enthusiastic player the Rockies have had in a long time. His fist-pump after ending a key inning with a strikeout was a definite fan favorite.
Not only that, he was a great catcher for the young latino pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez, Franklin Morales, Manny Corpas, and Jorge De La Rosa. He was able to mentor them through the difficult aspects of being a big-league pitcher through their common language.
There is no doubt that players and fans alike will miss Torrealba to no end, but Olivo's arrival will certainly alleviate some of that disappointment (that is only if Olivo meets the high expectations of the fans).
While Torrealba's loss is the biggest one since the Rockies traded Matt Holliday before last season, Torrealba wasn't as much of an offensive player as Olivo can be. Torrealba had his spurts of brilliance at the plate, but nothing really consistent.
Olivo is more than capable of filling the void Torrealba's departure has left, but the impact on the pitchers is what worries many fans. Adjusting to a new catcher is not an easy thing to do.
But again, what is spring for?
5. Will the Rockies have a perennial slow start and get hot late, or will they start hot and stay hot?
Every year it seems the same thing happens.
The Rockies get off to a slow start and somehow manage to pull out of it and put themselves back into the running for the playoffs.
This is a huge cause of fan headaches. Any fan wants their team to start hot and stay hot all the way through the World Series, but in reality that just doesn't happen. Especially with a team like the Rockies.
The Rockies are a team that is all too familiar with sizzling streaks and icy slumps. Only the Philadelphia Phillies scored more runs than the Rockies did last year, and only the Arizona Diamondbacks struck out more than the Rockies.
The Rockies accomplished a lot last year in terms of improvement. Carlos Gonzalez greatly cut down on strikeouts, Ubaldo Jimenez figured out a way to stop home runs from rattling him, and the team figured out how to be a consistent team (for the most part).
Now we find out if last year was a sign of things to come, especially this year.