Today (Saturday) marked the end of the Cactus League season when both teams (Rockies and Mariners) played their regulars for three or four innings and then bolted to the locker rooms. The 25-man roster has been set and the Rockies will go east a few miles to open the season at Chase Field against Zach Greinke and the D-backs. Christian Bergman was informed yesterday that he made the team and it was ultimately announced that he will be the de facto #5 SP although he won’t be needed until mid-April. Jason Gurka got the final bullpen slot when Gopherg was reassigned to AAABQ.
Brandon Barnes who was on the bubble will be the fifth outfielder while Cristian Adames, Ben Paulsen, and Tony Wolters will be the infield backups. Ryan Raburn is the fourth outfielder. Jairo Diaz is lost for the season while Jon Gray, Jason Motte, and Tyler Anderson and Dan Descalso will open the season on the DL.
I spent the off season observing the front office moves. I am starting to get the hang of Jeff Bridich’s visionary for the future. Gone are the days when the Monfart brothers meddle in the player transactions. Also the front office and/or owners are no longer saying every year, “we will be better next year when we are healthy.” JB stepped in and changed the team playbook in a dramatic way. He started by collecting pitchers with fastballs graded at 60 or better. Fastballs are the same at altitude and sea level. And he is going with youth development in the position player department.
JB also upgraded the bullpen since the Rockies were tired of games lost in the last three or four innings. The bullpen cannot be any worse than it was last year. The pitching coaches emphasized reducing free passes. In today’s final Cactus League game the guys who walked came around to score the first three Seattle runs. That is very un-conducive to pitching at Coors Field. The short relief firemen will consist of guys who are capable of putting out fires – Miguel Castro, Jake McGee, Gurka, Qualls, Boone Logan, and Justin Miller. Long relief guys are Chris Rusin who is still building up stamina and Bergman when he is not spot starting. Yohan Flande will be the long relief if needed when the bullpen gets overused from AAABQ. Don’t forget that Zero will be back on the mound around July/August but he won’t be the same as pre-surgery until next year at earliest. McGee was named the closer; Weiss says he can get righties and lefties out equally well.
I project the rotation to be our weakest part of the team. Jorge De La Rosa is the veteran leader and will probably pitch his last season in a Rockies uniform. Chad Bettis will be pitching full season as a starter for the first time. Will he be able to adjust back when the hitters adjust to him? Will he stay healthy the whole year and give 170 innings? Tyler Chatwood is #3 and he is coming off his second TJ surgery. I have doubts that he will stay in the rotation the whole year and if he does stay healthy it won’t be more than 140 innings. Jordan Lyles is #4 and home opening day starter. Can he avoid freak injuries? Can he pitch like a #4? (He struggled somewhat during spring training and had trouble commanding his pitches.) Jon Gray is #5, but as Agbayani pointed out – he shelved his curve ball and he is reduced to a two-pitch pitcher which won’t play well for a MLB starter. Tyler Matzek came back to camp from his psychiatric evaluation and medication. Hopefully he can find the magic potion to get rid of this issue. Most of the RWOers have more or less written him off until he shows he’s over the mental issues. Eddie Butler will continue to pitch at AAABQ until he solves finishing off the batters after two strikes and finishing off the inning after two outs. Jeff Hoffman is slated to be assigned to AAABQ and he is likely to come up in September if not earlier.
Looking further down the farm system, there is a lot of expectations in the future for the pitchers. Guys projected to reach the top level some day are Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, Sam Howard, Ryan Castellani, Jesus Tinoco, Parker French, and others. Sam Moll is a relief pitcher who found success after floundering as a SP. There are others that has potential to be a rising MLB stalwart and all the Rox need is to find a couple of gems in the rough for the SPs and a couple more for the bullpen. The future is very bright. The requirements to climb the organizational ladder are limiting free passes and/or good strikeout rates.
Mark Reynolds is expected to start the majority of the games at first base with Paulsen as the backup. Walt Weiss has said that he doesn’t want a strict platoon at this position and we should note that Reynolds has been playing almost everyday during the Cactus League trying to prepare him for full season rebirth. In this rebuilding process, Ryan “Light Tower Power” McMahon will be playing some first base as he is blocked by NoDo at third base and he is #5 in the Purp30 list on Purple Row. I’m going out a little bit on a limb – keep an eye on Corelle Prime; he was a basher at Asheville but struggled in Modesto last year; he played in the Australian Baseball League and rediscovered himself. (as the reports say)
DJLM once again will be at second base. He is very valuable not with just the glove but as the #8 hitter. He excels in the eight-hole with Trevor Story (aka Tulo 2.7) hitting second. A little known fact about DJLM is that he had the highest line drive rate on the team last year (I haven’t validated this; correct me if I’m wrong.).
Tulo 2.7 will be at shortstop through thick and thin. We can only hope that Jose Reyes doesn’t mess up Tulo 2.7 place in the lineup at any time this year. He has massive strength; ROOT analysts were saying that Tulo 2.7 can deadlift over 500 lbs. Whoa! From my observations when I was in Scottsdale, he can field his position very well and complements the above average infield defense.
NoDo, what else can I say about him? I’m betting that he will have an even better year at the plate while finishing in the top three in the NL MVP vote.
Besides the rotation, catching will be way below major league average. I’m projecting Nick Hundley to regress about 30% to 40% of his numbers last year. Wolters is the surprise choice to be the back up when Dustin Garneau was all but written into the 25-man roster. Wolters has never played above AA which is a concern to me. But a little known fact is that Wolters has a cannon of an arm; he can nail more than half of the potential base stealers. But can he do it at the top level? Eventually I think the position will be so bad that Tom Murphy will be recalled mid-season to prop up the catching position playing everyday.
Outfield – the defense is much better without Corey Dickerson and his noodle arm in left field. Don’t forget Dicky was the team leader in TOOTBLANs. The only weakness if you call that is that all three (CarGo, Chuck_Nazty, and Geraldo Parra) bat from the left side. Raburn had his contract purchased to help the bench against left handed pitchers. Barnes has been retained to provide the energy and be a late inning defensive replacement.
The position players down on the farm are giving the Rockies a bright future. Players such as Brendan Rodgers, McMahon, Raimel Tapia, Forrest Wall, Dom Nunez, David Dahl, etc etc. I’m counting on a comeback by Corelle Prime.
When the other team starts an elite pitcher (Greinke, Kershaw, MadBum, etc), I’m going to treat these games like we are an unranked small college basketball team going up against the #1 ranked team in the country. If we win, the Monfarts ought to fire streamers and confetti from the Rooftop Party Deck to celebrate the upset. (Think Chaminade beating #1 Ralph Sampson and Virginia). Even if we lose the game, it’s progress for the team if we kept the game low-scoring.
I also will be watching the offensive splits at home and away. If the hitters lower their strikeout rates, steal bases, and put balls in play the gap should be smaller. Achieve this and that’s progress.
It will be happy days in lower downtown if the Rockies reclaim their home field prowess. They were so bad the last couple of years that a 43-38 will be major progress for the team.
I don’t want to see TOOTBLANs and Little League plays again. Remember that bases-clearing wild pitch????? Yes, ALL THREE RUNNERS SCORED on a wild pitch. Instead I want to see 30 #1 highlight reel plays by NoDo and his friends.
Summary: Please field a competitive product on the field and let the fans enjoy the game win or lose. That means lower scoring games (better pitching), smaller splits home/away, less TOOTBLANs and Little League plays, better bullpen management by Weiss, and the lower levels climb up the ladder and start knocking at the door at AAABQ and/or Coors Field. It would be a nice icing on the cake if Tulo2.7 make the fans forget the original Tulo. Half the fans wearing Story jerseys and the other fans wearing Arenado jerseys would be awesome. sdcarp would be wearing the CarGo jersey as a thanks for reeling in more young prospects in the trade at deadline. rockymountain will love watching JDLR add to his club records as he rides off into the sunset. (15 wins would be awesome, but 11-13 wins is more realistic). His label (Big P) would have been long forgotten by then.