In the Rockpile: Rockies starting rotation for 2012

Jorge De La Rosa should emerge as the Colorado Rockies' ace during next season. (Diego James Robles/The Denver Post)

The first of my four-part Colorado Rockies offseason preview focuses on what could be considered one of the “brighter” spots of the team: the starting rotation.

Next season’s rotation should look something like this (includes 2011 stats):

Jorge De La Rosa (5-2, 3.51 ERA in 10 games) — His hot start was cut down by Tommy John surgery. I don’t think he will hit the ground running in 2012; look for a slow but eventual return to being the horse of the rotation.

Jhoulys Chacin (11-14, 3.62 ERA in 31 games) — The team leader in ERA, wins and WHIP, Chacin should still emerge as the #2 guy. He could be supplanted by Pomeranz depending upon performance, as he was not as dependable down the stretch after the loss of de la Rosa and the trade of Ubaldo Jimenez.

Juan Nicasio (4-4, 4.14 ERA in 13 games) — Nicasio was a surprise. Coming from double-A to the bigs and performing well was a welcomed restoration of some faith in the farm system. Losing him to a vertebrae break due from a line drive was a horrible end to what was becoming a nice season for the rookie.

Drew Pomeranz (2-1, 5.40 ERA in 4 games) — The keystone of the Ubaldo trade performed well enough for a guy who was traded out of the Cleveland farm system and was starting his first MLB game shortly thereafter. He should improve, but needs to perform at the advertised level considering he is the guy Ubaldo was traded for.

Jason Hammel (7-13, 4.76 ERA in 32 games) — The goat of the rotation now that Aaron Cook is out as a Rockie. Hammel is an okay pitcher at best, but he hands out free passes to first like it’s nobody’s business. He will remain in the five spot until he can prove otherwise.

This is, of course, barring any rehabilitation problems encountered by De La Rosa and Nicasio, which are not anticipated, as Mr. Monfort shared  during our recent conversation that De La Rosa is ahead of schedule in his rehab and Nicasio is progressing well enough that he may be ready by spring training. The Rockies director of Latin American operations recently said Nicasio looks “electric” in bullpen sessions, according to the Denver Post’s Troy Renck. Nicasio’s scary injury is a pretty amazing story considering how ugly the incident itself was.

The Giants have proven you can carry a mediocre, even bad, hitting lineup on outstanding pitching alone. If the Rockies can put together a hot rotation with some reasonable batting, they could have the year they have been banking on for the last two years.

The problem is you need your millionaire players, who are the proud owners of such contracts, to showcase their batting prowess on a consistent basis. The run support must be better in order to help alleviate the workload of the starting pitchers and the bullpen.

There is talk about the need to bring in outside talent, such as Roy Oswalt, Rich Harden or Bruce Chen. The Rockies have Kevin Millwood as an option again, and they also could go with Clayton Mortensen as they did during the season. I don’t think the Rockies will make a legitimate run at a big-name free agent who would shake up the rotation. Ownership has proven to play it safe since the infamous Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton deals.

The Denver Post’s Renck believes the bidding flurry on second baseman Jamey Carrol is indicative of the Rockies pursuit of costly talent. I don’t buy it.

The rotation has the looks of success, but how much?

Follow me on Twitter @CoryWhitmer

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