After a quiet off season in which the Rockies’ biggest acquisitions were Mark Wiley and the coaching staff, the Rockies have set their 25-man roster. There is one exhibition game left to be played in Salt Lake City Saturday against the Seattle Mariners. On April Fool’s Day, the Rockies will start to reveal themselves as either the Blake Street Bullies or fool’s gold.
The majority of the Rockies fans ridiculed the front office for doing nothing to acquire some arms. The main reason is that the Montfort brothers have made it clear that they will not overpay for pitchers. The Rockies did some research on history of pitching at Coors last summer and concluded that no starting pitchers have put up good numbers consistently for more than two or three seasons before the Coors injury bug strike them. They also learned the hard way to avoid fly ball pitchers at all costs.
The biggest off season signings of the starting pitchers were free agent Jeff Francis, Jon Garland, and Aaron Cook. It was an easy decision for Francis to come back as he was comfortable pitching at altitude. He also knew he had a high probability of being part of the rotation. Garland nearly signed with Colorado during the winter, but he decided that he had a better chance of making the Seattle club. Fortunately, for the Rockies Seattle had no room for Garland and he immediately signed with the Rockies after being released by the Mariners. Cook realized that he will not be able to pitch on any MLB club this year so he signed a minor league contract with the Rockies because Colorado is where he still makes his home. He would rather pitch for the Sky Sox than watch the baseball games from his sofa.
The biggest question marks surrounding the rotation are health, command, and ground ball to fly ball ratio. To his credit, Walt Weiss has been preaching ground balls. There was a reason that one of the practice fields had parallel strings across the knees and six inches below. Weiss also asked the pitchers to be aggressive meaning work a little faster from the mound and attack the hitters.
Jhoulys Chacin was crowned the ace of the staff although it is well known that he probably would be #4 at best on most teams. He is the wild card of the rotation’s fortunes. When he is healthy, he showed he can be dominant as he was the final two months of 2012. He had a minor toe injury during spring training and claimed that it did not affect him. Instead he told the media that he purposely did not show his best pitches and/or sequence of them during spring training. When the games count, we will find out who the real Chacin is. Jorge DelaRosa appears to be healthy and he has to show that his elbow won’t get sore after a few outings. Juan Nicasio has the potential to be lights out pitcher if he can ever develop the secondary pitches. Francis relies on pinpoint control to be effective. It only takes a few inches of missed targets and he would be handing Weiss the ball early in the game. Garland is the best ground ball pitcher on the staff. His only job is to stay healthy and avoid the Coorsitis.
The bullpen is a strength of the club. Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers, and Wilton Lopez make up the back end of the bullpen. The only possible issue that might show up is working too many innings if the middle relief can’t get the ball to them later in the game. Chris Volstad, Adam Ottavino, and Edgmer Escalona are all capable of pitching multiple innings. They were chosen for a reason: there are questions whether or not the rotation can pitch into the fifth and sixth innings. I cannot verify the fact, but the rumor is that the starters will have a pitch count limit of 95.
The pressure is on the hitters to be the Bullies. Dante Bichette had been a good teacher on slowing down the swings with two strikes and making contact. In addition, Weiss has been stressing the importance of quality at bats especially when the Rockies are out on the road where the runs are at a premium. Two keys will be the health of the starting eight position players and picking up where they left off the final two months of 2012. That applies especially to Josh Rutledge, Chris Nelson, Dexter Fowler, and Wilin Rosario. Eric Young, Jr will be the catalyst anytime he gets on the playing field. The bench lacks power and they won’t have Jason Giambi taking up a spot on the roster in 2013. The purple seamheads were worried that Tyler Colvin would be a rally killer everytime he steps up to the plate and whiff on three pitches. Finally the front office showed that they have some baseball sense and optioned Colvin to AAA. Jon Hererra takes the 25th roster spot which is a huge upgrade over Giambi. Jordan Pacheco and Reid Brignac takes up the other utility infielder spots on the roster. The management showed they had the balls to designate Ramon Hernandez for assignment, keeping Yorvit Torrealba. Torrealba calling the games probably snips 0.20 off the staff’s ERA. And he is more durable than Hernandez to boot. When the games count, we will find out if the Rockies are really the Bullies which they are expected to be with a lot of thump in the lineup.
If and when the injuries hit the position players, Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Colvin, and Nolan Arenado are first in line to get the phone calls. These players are better options than what we had last year down in Colorado Springs. The pitching staff in Colorado Springs will have major league ready pitchers after they do some work. The preliminary rotation for the Sky Sox looks like Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Chatwood, Christian Friedrich, Aaron Cook, and Josh Outman. Rob Scahill is the spare part.
Fielding are expected to be better with the return of Troy Tulowitzki’s health and range. Pitching efficiency will aid in the improvement of defense. If Todd Helton can be on the field for 90 to 100 games his gold glove will save throwing errors. Rosario has a very good arm but can he catch? He worked very hard in the Domincan Replublic. My observation of him in Scottsdale was good. He has been jumping out earlier and blocking pitches rather than trying to glove stray pitches from the crouch. The outfield defensively is above average. I witnessed Micheal Cuddyer make a couple of assists and stopped most runners at second base on base hits to right field.
A comment out in blogsphere said, “… predicted the Rockies record this year and it was the exact same record predicted back in 2007. Look at what happened.” Most Las Vegas oddsmakers had the over/under for Rockies wins at 71.5. Some RWOers, if not most, predict 71.5 can easily be beaten. If Colorado can stay healthy and outperform their expectations, they could be looking at at least 80 wins. The people who wear purple sunglasses and drink purple kool aid have hopes of a post season appearance. Play Ball!