Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 2/20/13
What the Colorado Rockies did as a baseball club last year was unsightly.  At 64-98, they finished 30 games back of the Giants in the NL West.  Only the Houston Astros, who mostly resemble a AA team, kept them from baseball’s worst record. The Rockies’ pitching staff gave up a startling 890 runs on the season. No other NL team allowed more than 794. Colorado, playing 81 games at Coors Field, still mustered up the 3rd most runs scored in the senior circuit but their woeful pitching staff made sure that was a non-factor. Consider these pitching stats from 2012: The Rockies had MLB’s worst team ERA at 5.22. Next worse was 4.78 (Cleveland). The starters’ combined ERA you ask? 5.81. Over the course of 162 games, the starting rotation posted just 27 quality starts. 27!! The Twins were second worst with 62 and the Mets led the league with 101. 27? 566 walks were issued by Colorado pitching in 2012, 3rd worst in baseball. Their 1,144 strikeouts ranked 24th best. Opposing hitters hit .290 against the Rockies’ generous staff, by far the most hideous mark in the league. The Twins’ .274 mark was 2nd worst. But enough about that. This team is just 2 years removed from a winning season and only 3 seasons have come and gone since they last made the playoffs. The Rockies have some legitimate pop in their lineup and should be able to score enough runs to win, should the pitching staff allow it to happen. Last year the tone in spring training surrounding this team was which of the young pitchers was going to step up. Sadly, none of them did. Will 2013 prove to be a turnaround season or more of the same? 3 Up                                                                      Best Case Scenario for 2013 It’s hard to imagine this team finding enough quality innings from their pitching staff to make any serious run at the playoffs. In a division that features the megabucks Dodgers, the Giants (winners of 2 of the last 3 World Series titles), the improved Diamondbacks, and the always sneaky Padres, it’s going to be a tough road to hoe for new Manager Walt Weiss. The new man in charge will be tasked with finding a way to keep his team competitive and he appears to be the right man for the job. Despite the hope that stems from a managerial change however, I feel that the best-case scenario for Colorado in 2013 is about 75 wins and a 4th place finish in the NL West. Most Important Rockies Troy Tulowitzki Troy Tulowitzki has to find a way to stay on the field. When he is right, he is probably the best shortstop in the game. But the knock has always been how often he gets nipped by the injury bug. May 30th was the last time he suited up after ripping up his groin and being lost for the season. His games played trend has followed an every other year pattern, which makes this a great year to get Tulo on your fantasy team. Since 2007, in odd numbered years, he has averaged 150 games played. In even numbered years – just 90. When he is suiting up and playing hard, he is the kind of player that can carry a team for long stretches and make an entire roster perform above their heads. Weiss needs that out of Tulo in a bad way. He claims to be ready to roll for spring training, and if he is, things are already looking up in Denver. Someone has to lead this pitching staff, and Jhoulys Chacin might be the guy for the job. Jorge De La Rosa is back for the last year of his deal and looks to make an impact after sitting out most of 2012 after Tommy John surgery. But Chacin is the closest thing the Rockies have to a number 1, even though he’d be a 3 or a 4 on a lot of other teams. Chacin missed 3 and ½ months a season ago due to nerve damage in his right shoulder. Upon his return he posted a mid 3’s ERA from September 1 on. When the rest of the rotation is nibbling at an ERA around 6, anything below a 4 puts people on notice. If Weiss can get 32 starts from Chacin he will be thrilled, and the Rockies will simply be a better team for it. And if they are lucky enough to get close to 30 starts from De La Rosa, then all the better. Potential Breakout Players It looks like Josh Rutledge is being handed the keys to 2nd base. He will turn 24 in April and made an impact with his power upon arrival in Colorado last summer. In 277 at-bats in 2012 he hit 20 doubles, 5 triples, and 8 homers. He doesn’t know how to take a walk yet, which suppressed his on-base % to a feeble .306. And that wasn’t just a case of free-swinging in the big leagues. In 947 career minor league plate appearances, he drew just 59 walks. The good news is he can put the bat on the ball and posted a .320 average over parts of 3 minor league seasons. Between AA and Colorado last year, he swatted 21 homers and stole 21 bases. If he can get 500+ at-bats for the Rockies I’d expect his stat line to look something like this: .265 average, 18 homers, and 15 steals, which is solid production from a second baseman. I’m not overly comfortable putting a player on this list 2 years in a row but here Drew Pomeranz is nonetheless. The 6’5’’, 240 pounder is entering his age 24 season and got roughed up quite a bit in his first extended taste of big league life during 2012. In 22 starts he was 2-9 with a 4.93 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. On the plus side his home/road splits were virtually identical and he K’d 83 hitters in 96.2 innings. One way to neutralize the hitter friendly Coors Park is to miss some bats, and Pomeranz can do that. The guy has dominated at every stop in the minors and has nothing left to prove on that front. It’s his time to take the next step as a legit big leaguer and if he can do that, while supporting hopeful bounce back seasons from Chacin and De La Rosa, then all of the sudden the Rockies have the makings of a respectable rotation. 3 Down Worst Case Scenario The Rockies are counting on 2 guys coming back from injury and pitching good baseball, and then it really gets dicey. The rest of the rotation is a complete question mark in terms of productivity. This team should improve upon their rugged 2012 due to some better fortune in the health department and continued progress from guys like Rutledge, Dexter Fowler, Chris Nelson, Jordan Pacheco, and Wilin Rosario. But the NL West is tough. If things come together really well and Walt Weiss gets these guys believing, then I think a 3rd place finish in their division is the likely ceiling. Areas of Concern Drew Pomeranz When you follow baseball closely you see a lot of stats. Some are ho-hum and others really blow your socks off. I simply can’t get over the 27 quality starts that the rotation put forth in 2012. Consider that they had 71 of those in 2011. The bullpen should be decent but any team’s pen will break down with that kind of excessive use. The Rockies need guys like Jeff Francis and Juan Nicasio to fill out the rotation with effectiveness, and that just seems unlikely. I can’t fathom any way that this team can find a new floor in 2013, but if Chacin and De La Rosa can’t take the ball every 5th day, and Pomeranz doesn’t take substantial strides, it could be more of the same in the mountains. Who Needs to Bounce Back From a Down 2012 This team’s failures in 2012 were not the fault of Michael Cuddyer, but he did not show them what they paid for after giving him 3 years and $31.5M. Cuddyer joined the ranks of the failed obliques and missed most of the 2nd half of the season. In the end, he hit .260 with a career-worst .317 on-base %, knocking out 16 homers and driving in 58 runs. Coors Field seems tailor-made for a guy like Cuddyer. If he can reignite his fire and give this team the veteran leader that all of the young guys can lean on, it would be a huge lift. It’s not unreasonable to think that Cuddyer could hit 30 homers and 90 RBI’s in Colorado. Put that alongside the increasing production of Fowler and star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez and that’s a high-octane outfield. If he does get off to that kind of a pace though, look for his name to pop up in trade rumors come July. When the Rockies sent Chris Iannetta to LA for Tyler Chatwood, they were hoping they’d be getting a solid rotational piece for years to come. Chatwood had a brutal 2012. He was 5-6 in 19 appearances (12 starts) with a 5.43 ERA and 1.65 WHIP while in the big leagues. Down at AAA he was 0-2 in 9 starts with a 5.79 ERA and 1.90 WHIP. He gave up hits by the barrel full. Recapturing some of the glory that made him a top prospect in 2010 would be a big lift for the organization. [Follow me on Twitter @isportsJoe]
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