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Monday, March 31, 2014

MLB 2014 Team Preview: Colorado Rockies

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MLB 2014 Team Preview: Colorado Rockies
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

2013 Overview: 
The year before, the pitching collapsed and the formerly competitive Rockies unit looked like they might need a rebuild. In 2013 they still only win 74 games but things are more promising; they might have won 4-5 if not for month-long injuries to their trio of offensive stars: Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. The pitching looks much less terrible, as Joulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa lead a rebound performance. Still, the team has plenty of holes.

Winter Grade: C+

Coming: Justin Morneau, Brett Anderson
Going: Dexter Fowler, Todd Helton (retired)
The Rockies make three major moves to shore up their roster for the 2014 season: one inspired trade, one lackluster one, and Justin Morneau. In the wake of Michael Cuddyer competing for a batting title, maybe they felt another ex-Twin could have an offensive renaissance in Colorado. It’s not a bad gamble; Justin Morneau was once an MVP and one of the best bats in the league, and even if multiple concussions and age have sapped his former power, he could still have nice rebound with the Rockies, and will definitely be an upgrade over the final season of Todd Helton’s career. Brett Anderson is a nice buy low candidate, although the player they swapped him for, Drew Pomeranz, also has potential. But the Rockies received nothing useful in return for Dexter Fowler, who has settled into a role as a decent on-base threat and solid defender, despite never stealing many bases or adding reliable power. He may not be much more than a fourth outfielder outside of Colorado, but all they got in return for him was a minor league outfielder (Brandon Barnes) and a pitcher with a 5.35 career ERA in 377 innings (Jordan Lyles). If either gets significant playing time for the Rockies, it will be a major surprise. Or a sign that the season has tanked.

Wild Card(s): 

Brett Anderson could be another Jorge de la Rosa for the Rockies, an oft injured left-hander who is nevertheless a premier arm when he pitches. Anderson was bad last year but he has a career 3.81 ERA and he’s only 26. If he can find his control again he can be a mid-rotation starter. And as mentioned above, Justin Morneau could find his rhythm again in Colorado. A reasonably optimistic scenario could see him batting .290 with 20-25 Home Runs, which would make him an above average starting first basemen, even with adjusting for Coors Field.

Key Contract Years: 

Jorge de la Rosa had a big year last year for Colorado (16 wins, 3.40 ERA), but it was just the second year of his ten-year career that he made 30 starts, and even in doing so he didn’t throw many innings (168). Still, succeeding in Coors Field is a mighty thing to have on your resume, and the veteran left-hander will have a decision to make at the end of the year, or if he becomes too pricey, Colorado may make that decision for him. Brett Anderson has a $12 million option that Colorado may pick up if de la Rosa leaves or Anderson pitches up to his 2010 standards (7-6, 2.80 ERA).

Rookies: 
Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler are two of the best pitching prospects in the minors, and considering how offensive levels have gone down in recent years, both may find instant success even in the tough environment of Coors Field. They are both mid-season call ups at best, as the Rockies rotation is full right now and neither have had much experience above A-ball. Chad Bettis will contribute immediately in the bullpen and showed flashes of success in a stint as a starter at the end of last year for the Rockies.

Key Questions: 
Can Tulowitzki and “Car Go” stay healthy? The Rockies can’t win without them.
Can de la Rosa and Joulys Chacin repeat their strong 2013 performances?
Can any pitcher succeed in Colorado without accruing health concerns or diminished velocity?
Does success in Coors Field require max effort? Rookie Jonathan Gray will put that to the test with his tremendous fastball command.
Can they get league average production from center field or second base?
What progress can the Rockies get from third baseman Nolan Arenado on offense and catcher Wilin Rosario on defense? As always, does this offensive unit have the ability to hit on the road?

Farm System Overview: GREEN (above average) 
Gray and Butler are studs, but another round of dynamic Rockies hitters may be on the horizon as well. Shortstop Rossell Herrera hit .343 with 16 HR last year in low-A ball, and outfielder David Dahl was turning heads this spring. A former first-round pick from 2012, Dahl could be a major power/speed threat down the line. There are enough arms in the upper levels to complement a future Rockies bullpen, and the presence of the top two pitching prospects makes up for their lack of future starters.

2014 Prognosis: Unlikely Contenders

There’s too many brittle players here to project more than a .500 finish, and this roster may be overly reliant on their best three or four guys. Second base and center field project to be major problem areas for this team. But if the Rockies find the right pitching mix and the ex-Twins look good, they can find some magic.

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