Troy Tulowitzki. Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

2014 MLB Team Previews: Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies

2013 Record: 74-88 (5th in NL West)

2013 in Review

The Rockies have historically had a much easier time scoring runs than preventing them.  The thin air in Colorado and spacious dimensions of Coors Field have always benefitted the offense.  In 2013, that was taken to a bit of an extreme as the Rockies finished second in the National League in runs scored (although only tenth in the majors), but dead last in runs allowed.

The Rockies’ offense features two top stars in shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.  Both men had strong seasons in 2013, but they had some trouble staying healthy.  They missed 90 games between them, and on a team that relies so much on its offense, that was a killer.

The good, but not great offense was not enough to compensate for a poor pitching staff. The main problem seemed to be that Rockies pitchers didn’t strike many batters out.  In Colorado just about any ball put into play has the potential to fall in for a hit, so if they want to improve their record, they need to start striking some people out.

2014 Preview

Key Offseason Moves

Offense

Tulowitzki and Gonzalez are two of the best hitters in the league, and they’ll need to live up to their reputations in 2014.  While there are still some other talented hitters in the lineup – most notably outfielder Michael Cuddyer – there are also some major question marks.  The Rockies can’t be sure how much offense they’ll receive from outfielder Charlie Blackmon, third baseman Nolan Arenado, or second baseman Josh Rutledge. It isn’t even certain than Blackmon or Rutledge will even be in the lineup as both players will be competing for jobs in Spring Training.

For the first time in years, the Rockies will be without star Todd Helton who retired in the offseason. While the lineup may look strange without Helton, it won’t necessarily be any worse, since it has been a few years since he was considered one of the best hitters in the league.  The team is hoping that he can be adequately replaced by longtime Minnesota Twins standout Justin Morneau.

The Rockies have a solid foundation on offense. Most teams would love to have players the caliber of Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, and Cuddyer anchoring the lineup, but considering how much the team will depend on their offense, it isn’t a good sign that they have so many question marks.

Projected Lineup

1. Charlie Blackmon – LF
2. Josh Rutledge – 2B
3. Carlos Gonzalez – CF
4. Troy Tulowitzki – SS
5. Justin Morneau – 1B
6. Michael Cuddyer – RF
7. Wilin Rosario – C
8. Nolan Arenado – 3B

Pitching and Defense

Jhoulys Chacin. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Considering how much the Rockies pitchers struggled in 2013, the outlook for the rotation isn’t as horrible as you might think. Jhoulys Chacin is solid at the front of the rotation, and at 24 years of age, he might be emerging into one of the better pitchers in the league. After him comes Jorge De La Rosa who pitched well last year, but considering his past performance, it’s reasonable to think that it might have been a career year.

The rest of the rotation has some potential. Tyler Chatwood showed signs last season that he might be an emerging star. Former Athletic Brett Anderson was awful in 2013, but he did have a 2.57 ERA in 2012. Juan Nicasio will likely be the fifth starter, and while he hasn’t shown much thus far in his career, he will only be 27 in 2014, so there is some chance of improvement.

As mentioned earlier, just about every Rockies pitcher would benefit from striking out more batters.  If they can manage that, improvement is almost unavoidable.

As for the bullpen, it seems odd that in 2014 a team could actually go into a season with LaTroy Hawkins as their closer. Yet that seems to be what the Rockies are planning on doing. It would seem like young setup man Rex Brothers is a much better option, but he’ll likely have to cut down on his walks first.

Most defensive metrics had the Rockies rated as one of the weaker defensive teams in 2013.  Having Gold Glove winner Tulowitzki healthy for an entire season would definitely help the infield.  In the outfield, former center fielder Dexter Fowler was traded, so Gonzalez will shift to center. The team thinks he’ll thrive there, but considering the stadium’s massive size, he’ll have a lot of ground to cover.

Projected Rotation

Jhoulys Chacin

Jorge De La Rosa

Tyler Chatwood

Brett Anderson

Juan Nicasio

Projected Closer

LaTroy Hawkins

Best Case Scenario

Tulowitzki and Gonzalez remain healthy and productive, and the other Rockies hitters turn in strong seasons as well. As a result, the Rockies will have one of the best offenses in the league.  Chacin continues to improve, anchoring a pitching staff that performs just well enough to allow the Rockies to capture a wild card spot.

Worst Case Scenario

The offense repeats it’s good, but not great performance of 2013, and the starters, hurt by regression from De La Rosa, struggle. This placed too much of a burden on a bullpen that is not capable of handling the load.  The Rockies finish in last place again, and the team begins to mull trade offers for some of their expensive players.

Prediction: 5th in NL West

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