Colorado Rockies preview: Will Walt Weiss witness winning ways?
Ninety-eight losses. These words sum up the 2012 major league season for the Colorado Rockies, arguably the worst season in franchise history. Despite the poor showing last year and low expectations for 2013, this club is heading in a brand new direction.
In November, the Colorado Rockies hired former major league shortstop Walt Weiss to replace manager Jim Tracy. Weiss, the 1988 American League Rookie of the Year, inherits a club featuring two superstars in shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. The former missed all but 47 games in 2012 due to a groin injury. The latter battled injuries of his own, but managed to hit .303 with 22 home runs and 85 RBI in 135 games, even with Tulowitzki on the shelf for most of the season.
Colorado has missed the postseason in each of the last three seasons, and despite having two of the games great young superstars, many questions remain. The Colorado Rockies were very quiet in the free-agent market this offseason, which included the small additions of infielder Reid Brignac and reliever Wilton Lopez. Second baseman Josh Rutledge and catcher Wilin Rosario, both pleasant surprises in 2012, may experience sophomore struggles this season. Finally showing signs of age, All-Star first baseman Todd Helton is getting closer to the end of a brilliant career. The Rockies seem to be heading towards a trying, but developmental season.
Colorado Rockies position players
Let’s take a look at the 2013 Rockies lineup. While this lineup is hardly reminiscent of the Blake Street Bomber days, there is definitely some power and speed throughout. Behind the plate is second-year catcher Rosario, who swatted 28 home runs last season and is capable of major power numbers, but his defensive liabilities are likely to force him to ride the pine a couple of times each week. First baseman Helton should produce quality at-bats, but cannot be counted on to play more than 130 games.
With the return of Tulowitzki, sophomore Rutledge moves to second base. Rutledge will likely bat second in the Rockies lineup, but is likely to experience growing pains the second time around the National League. Tulowitzki, if he remains healthy, should return to providing monster numbers at the dish along with solid defense. Chris Nelson will man the hot corner, but lacks significant power or speed.
Patrolling the outfield will be Gonzalez in left, Dexter Fowler in center and Michael Cuddyer in right. Cargo is one of the best all around players in the game today and might make a run at the National League Most Valuable Player award with Tulowitzki’s protection. Dexter Fowler turned in a solid 2012 campaign and provides a nice blend of power and speed in center. Cuddyer is a wily veteran who can play almost anywhere on the diamond and produce fine numbers. Look for speedster Eric Young Jr. and slugger Tyler Colvin to receive semi-regular playing time throughout the season.
Colorado Rockies projected lineup
- Dexter Fowler CF
- Josh Rutledge 2B
- Carlos Gonzalez LF
- Troy Tulowitzki SS
- Wilin Rosario C
- Todd Helton 1B
- Michael Cuddyer RF
- Chris Nelson 3B
Colorado Rockies pitching
Jhoulys Chacin is expected to be Colorado’s opening day starter. Chacin battled through injury in a 2012 season that saw him make only 12 starts. The Rockies are hoping Jorge De La Rosa has made a full recovery from Tommy John surgery and returns to 2009 form (16-9, 4.38 ERA, 193 K in 185 innings). Juan Nicasio‘s once-promising future has been compromised with season-ending injuries in both 2011 and 2012. Nicasio seems to have made a full recovery as his fastball velocity has been in the mid-90s this spring. The back end of the rotation includes veteran Jeff Francis and sinkerballer Jon Garland. Francis and Garland will be leaned on significantly to eat innings, especially if injury strikes the top of the rotation.
In the bullpen, Rafael Betancourt will handle the closing duties in the ninth. He will be joined by talented arms in Rex Brothers, Lopez and Matt Belisle. Getting the ball to Betancourt may prove to be quite challenging, especially if the starters are unable to pitch deep into games.
- Rotation: Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio, Jeff Francis, Jon Garland
- Bullpen: Rex Brothers, Wilton Lopez, Matt Belisle, Adam Ottavino, Edgmer Escalona
- Closer: Rafael Betancourt
Colorado Rockies prospect watch
Be on the look out for third base prospect Nolan Arenado, who spent 2012 with double-A Tulsa, is arguably one of the best hitting prospects in baseball. Arenado possesses line-drive gap power and good patience at the plate. In 516 at-bats with the Tulsa Drillers last season, Arenado batted .285 with 12 homers and 56 runs batted in. He has impressed many scouts and executives this spring and should receive a call up to the big leagues this June.
This proves to be an important year for the Colorado Rockies’ youth. Tulowitzki and Gonzalez should be able to carry the team in stretches, but the younger players need to provide regular contributions. Other than health, the biggest question mark for the Rockies will be starting pitching. If Colorado is going to contend in 2013, the rotation must remain healthy and the arms must pitch to their level of talent. While the Rockies are probably looking at a 75-80 win range, the building blocks for success are certainly there.