Projected Starting Lineup and Key Pitchers
Catcher: Chris Iannetta
First Base: Todd Helton
Second Base: Clint Barmes
Third Base: Ian Stewart
Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki
Left Field: Carlos Gonzalez
Center Field: Dexter Fowler/Seth Smith
Right Field: Brad Hawpe
Ace: Ubaldo Jimenez (R)
No. 2: Jorge De La Rosa (L)
No. 3: Aaron Cook (R)
No. 4: Jason Hammel (R)
No. 5: Jeff Francis (L)
Closer: Huston Street (R)
Set-Up: Franklin Morales (L)
You can almost etch it in stone that the Rox will disappoint in 2010 given the current level of hysteria surrounding the team. But no amount of mental gymnastics can deliver me to an October that doesn't have Colorado perched atop the division.
Maybe even nipping at the Philadelphia Phillies' heels for a berth in the World Series.
The pitching—forever a self-destruct button on the Rockies' season—has crept up on the rest of the Show. I wouldn't say it's a strength quite yet, but the dirt and depth in both the rotation and bullpen is accumulating.
Jimenez found a measure of consistency in 2009 and that was the only thing keeping him from the next tier. Given his physical assets, he might blow right through the top tier and take up permanent residence alongside the Tim Lincecums, Roy Halladays, and Felix Hernandezs of the baseball world.
De Rosa's 2009 line was hampered by a dreadful start, but you could mount a serious argument for him as Colorado's top ace during their white-hot streak.
Cook went down at the end of 2009 or else who knows how far Rocktober (dumbest copyright ever) would've gone?
Hammel is a Tampa Bay Ray castoff—considering the talent in that system, such designation is probably a compliment. Meanwhile, Francis was the ace once upon a time and could be the trump card if he returns to that form.
As long as Street's health is a concern, the bullpen has some questions. Getting the ball to whoever the closer is shouldn't be one of them.
Of course, there's a lot of buzz on offense as well.
Tulo at short has a lot of people thinking Most Valuable Player, which is insane in a league shared with Albert Pujols, but still high praise.
Big things are expected from Stewart while steady contributions will be demanded from Hawpe, Helton, Barmes, and Iannetta.
The real prizes—other than Tulowitzki—are in the outfield.
Fowler, a human bolt of lightning at 24, is in a time-share until he gets a better handle on right-handed pitching (he's a switch-hitter). Once that happens, and it will happen given this kid's gifts, he'll be one of the premier speedsters in the game.
Gonzalez has much less distance between himself and superstardom.
The 24-year-old showed in only half a season why he was targeted in trades for both Dan Haren and Matt Holliday. He also showed why the Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics will be kicking themselves for years to come.
The last time the Colorado Rockies used an explosive string of victories to propel them into the postseason, they crumbled under the subsequent burden of expectation.
Expect no such thing this year.