The main concern I have regarding the Colorado Rockies offense is the availability of their stars. I mean that both in a health sense and due to the fact that management has been trying to get Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez off the books for a solid year. Since his arrival in replacement of deposed GM Dan O'Dowd, Jeff Bridlich has been trying to rid the club of the $167 million in guarantees ($114 million for Tulo, $53 million for CarGo) owed to his top dogs. He hasn't been offered much in return because the two have each missed significant stretches of the past four seasons. If in 2015 the two can prove they are 100% finally, they may regenerate some of their lost value. Then Bridlich has the daunting task of keeping his now in-form lineup anchors or cashing out and ridding himself of a couple potential albatrosses. If they stay, resentment of their being shopped for two years will certainly linger. If they go, that will surely doom the team to a repeat of their 66-96 record from 2014, or even worse.
I want to be abundantly clear though: The Rockies have some really good hitters outside of Tulowitzki and Gonzalez. Third baseman Nolan Arenado will turn 24 on April 16th but has the makings of an All-Star. He can hit for power, drive the ball the other way, and can pick it at third base as well. Arenado has won the Gold Glove at third base the past two seasons. Another Gold Glover on the Rockies infield is second baseman D.J. LeMahieu. A platoon player for the majority of his career, the lanky two bagger has the job all to himself to start 2015. I feel a full season entrenched in the starting lineup could provide 15 HR/15 SB type offensive numbers combined with rock solid defense. First base is manned by former AL MVP Justin Morneau. The Canadian had a career resurgence in the friendly confines of Coors Field a season ago, winning the NL batting crown at .319. It was his first season over .300 since an injury plagued 2010. They have a three headed catching monster in Nick Hundley (defense), Michael McKenry (average), and Wilin Rosario (power). This doesn't seem like the second worst team in baseball yet? Well, the outfield is going to make you think that even more.
Center fielder Charlie Blackmon went from disappointing prospect to All-Star in 2014. He was in the thick of the batting title race for the majority of the season and nearly went 20/20 (19 HR/28 SB). However, his arrival was overshadowed in the second half of the season by the emergence of left fielder Corey Dickerson. Dickerson would have placed fourth in the batting title race had he qualified (.312 BA) and hit 24 home runs. Both Dickerson and Blackmon are quite adept with the glove as well. Pair these two up with a potentially healthy Gonzalez and you could have a 80 home run, 80 stolen base, 275 RBI outfield. How the hell is this my 29th ranked team?!?! I'm just about to get to that.
The Colorado pitching staff is putrid. As the teams around them made improvements this winter, the Rockies stood pat for the most part with a staff that was the polar opposite statistically to the offense. While I mentioned the Rox superiority in the NL with the bat, they were dead last in the National League in nearly every pitching category conceivable as a team. I know, I know. Coors Field is very tough on pitchers and can skew even the brightest of stars' stat lines. That aside, the Rockies as a staff walked more and struck out less batters than any team in the NL. You can blame the ballpark all you want but when most of those three run home runs follow two walks, it is an argument that is hard to take seriously. Jorge De La Rosa returns as the ace of the staff. I have nothing against Jorge De La Rosa. He is probably the best Coors Field pitcher that the Rockies have had in quite some time. He is also probably the worst #1 starter in the sport. When your line leader can't keep his ERA under 4.00, you know something's wrong. It seems while Bridlich was consumed with trading Gonzalez and Tulowitzki, he forgot to address his pitching. His one move this offseason was a one year deal for Philadelphia Phillies (the worst team on my list) starter Kyle Kendrick. Kendrick was mediocre on his best day in Philadelphia and I think that he's going to struggle mightily in Denver, even as a ground ball pitcher. Jordan Lyles and Jhoulys Chacin make up the rest of the top four but they've regressed. The fifth starter will either be the unproven Tyler Matzek or top prospect Jon Gray until (or if) Tyler Chatwood comes off the 60 day DL while recovering from Tommy John surgery. The bullpen is just as horrible.
LaTroy Hawkins, YES LATROY HAWKINS, at age 42 will begin his 21st season in the Bigs as Rockies closer. He accounted for 23 of the 24 saves the team had a year ago and didn't pitch half bad for a guy who has been pitching since the strike. But still, he's LaTroy Hawkins. A low workload saved him last year but he pitches to contact still and it is just a matter of time before that turns against him. That won't matter anyway if the Rockies can't get a lead to him. The pen got into all but one game in 2014 and blew an NL high 31 of them. They had the worst collective ERA in the National League, a half a run worse than second worst Cincinnati. How'd they fix that? By claiming Jorge Rondon (with one career MLB inning) off waivers and giving over $5 million a year to Boone Logan. Sorry, that is putting a Big Lots band-aid on a decapitation.
Manager Walt Weiss seems to be a good enough guy. With this pitching staff as the way it is currently constituted, he is going to be an unemployed good enough guy by the All-Star Break. Enjoy Rocktober on the golf course boys!
LAST YEARS RANKING: #18 (DOWN 11)
PREDICTED RECORD: 66-96
PREDICTED ALL-STAR REPS: Corey Dickerson (outfield), Troy Tulowitzki (shortstop)
Trevor Utley was not the biggest fan of "Rocktober."
Image Credit: Rockies logo (sportslogos.net)