A major issue (back end of rotation) was addressed during the off-season. I went back to a post game report and was shocked to see how bad the #4 and #5 spots were as stated in the last paragraph of a post-game write-up between the Rockies and the Giants. “…the final two rotation spots will be decided between Jon Garland, Juan Nicasio, Drew Pomeranz, Jeff Francis, and Roy Oswalt. Garland and Francis were originally planned to hold down the rotation spots until next year…” And a couple of years ago we had a 50-year old as the “ace” of the staff to go along with fly ball pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. Sheeeeeesh!! Now we have Brett Anderson very likely to have locked up a spot in the top four of the rotation. The fifth starter will go to the winner of the Juan Nicasio, Christian Friedrich, “Kerosene” Morales, Jordan Lyles derby. The Rockies also have Jon “Gray Wolf” Gray and Eddie Butler pounding on the door if all of the #5 candidates stumble. If the top four pitchers (JDLR, Chacin, Chatwood, Anderson) can pick up 10 -15 victories each and the #5 workhorse delivers 7-10 wins, then the Rox already is a better team than a 74-win squad.
The bullpen as usual will start off well in April and May. The big question is will they start to crumble as the season drags on due to overusage? I’m betting that it will not be as bad as it was last year. Fresh arms were added in Boone Logan and LaTroy Hawkins. And the rotation if healthy most of the year should be able to give the Rox six or seven innings on around 100 pitches. It looks like Rex Brothers, Hawkins, Matt Belisle, Logan, Wilton Lopez, and Adam “Zero” Ottavino are likely to lock down six seats in the bullpen. Kerosene, like his nickname, may cause problems if the Rox management want to hang on to him instead of letting him walk. The other candidates are Thomas Kahnle (Rule 5), Rob Scahill, Chad Bettis, Nick Massett (NRI), and Manny Corpas (NRI). If any of the candidates for the 7th seat forces the issue, the Rox have the luxury of sending someone down that still has at least one option. “Locks” with at least one option remaining are Lopez and Zero. A related question is: Are the Rox going to carry seven or eight guys in the bullpen? There are no days off in the first ten games of the season.
In one RWO thread, sdcarp brought up a trivia question to illustrate a fact. He stated, “….the 2nd highest Major League Park is just above 1000 ft. In the PCL, CS is above 6000….” and we ask ourselves is it better developing pitchers at Colorado Springs or are the Rox better off bringing pitching help straight from Tulsa? I read somewhere that Clayton Kershaw and a couple of other stud pitchers career ERAs at Coors are over 4.50 or around that number. Compare it to Chacin who has a career ERA at Coors Field of 4.18 and 2.86 away from Coors. That essentially proves that you only need a slow heartbeat, low walk ratio per game, and be a ground ball specialist to be able to compete at altitude and sea level. Pitchers cannot develop pitching at Springs and expect to do well away from Coors. Conclusion in my humble opinion is Tulsa should be the final stop for pitchers so they can pitch on the road while naturally will see their ERAs go up in tandem with the visiting pitchers (i.e. Kershaw) when pitching in Coors Field.
2 – Catcher – Wilin “Baby Bull” Rosario is the regular catcher; Jordan Pacheco was labeled as back up catcher going into spring and he has no options remaining; Mike McKenry (NRI) might be a better game caller than Pacheco; Tom Murphy (NRI) is the next up catcher in the pipeline. Matt McBride is a long shot.
3 – 1B – Justin Morneau is the regular; Walt Weiss has already said he has no intention of platooning him; will the back up first baseman be mostly Baby Bull in order to keep his bat in the lineup or will Michael “Money” Cuddyer do most of the back up work? Or will Ryan Wheeler squeeze in as a 25th man? McBride is a very long shot.
4 – 2B – DJ LeMahieu (great glove at 3 infield positions and light bat) or Josh Rutledge (poor glove, high ceiling bat)? In this RWO thread, I briefly talked about Rutledge, “….Rutledge has a good chance to have a break through year playing second base. The Purple Row article can be found on Monday’s (12/23/2013) Rockpile. The seven bullet points from this article: 1) Rutledge has hit at every minor league level. 2) Josh is a spray hitter. 3) His luck is bound to improve based on advanced metrics. 4) He fought back late in the year. 5) Going into 2013, he was bound to run into a road block at some point. 6) Rutledge showed he’s willing to adjust. 7) He’s already an excellent base runner….” The other candidates are Charlie Culberson (1 option remaining) and Paul Janish (minor league contract with NRI).
5 – 3B – Nolan “NoDo” Arenado is regular; good article on MLB.com about him working on cutting down swings out of the strike zone and having more discipline at the plate; NoDo wants to do better at the plate while maintaining his gold glove standard. Almost no competition at 3B if LeMahieu is unofficially the backup. Wheeler if he makes it as 25th man could add depth at 3B.
6 – SS – Tulo is regular; Again LeMahieu could back him; Rutledge played extensive SS during his minor league career; Janish is an extreme longshot and likely to be stashed in Springs in case of yet another injury to Tulo.
7,8,9 – OF – Money and CarGo are everyday outfielders. That leaves Charley Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, Drew Stubbs, and Brandon Barnes as the main competitors for the third OF job and presumably two bench spots. Barnes has 3 options remaining, Blackmon 1 option, Dickerson and Stubbs with 3 options each. The Rox can safely shuffle the OF deck without losing anyone to the waivers. There is a good chance that the third outfielder will also bat lead off. Blackmon had a good split vs. righties and lefties. Tulo thinks Stubbs can be the regular CF. Or might it be a 3-way platoon?
Projected batting order: CF (Blackmon/Stubbs) or LF (Dickerson), Money RF, CarGo LF, Tulo SS, Morneau 1B, Baby Bull C, NoDo 3B, Rutledge or LeMahieu 2B, Pitcher. This is probably the basic lineup going into spring training. The RWOers will find out during spring training if there will be any so-called major changes from this basic lineup.
Roster – Will the Rox carry 7 or 8 bullpen pitchers? If seven, Wheeler chances increases greatly as a second infielder off the bench. If eight, then Rutledge or LeMahieu are probably safely ahead of Janish for the lone infield bench player.
RWO – Who will replace gold glove nominee Eric Young, Jr as pooter’s favorite player? Which player will be the next victim of egossage’s barbs? What will be EdtheUmp opinions of the new review rules? Question for him – are the managers allowed to go out on the field and “argue” with the umps for as long as it takes for the clubhouse replay assistant to decide whether to call for a replay? (In the NFL, you have to decide quickly before the offense’s next snap.) Or does the pitcher just throw the ball immediately to the catcher even if the batter is not ready?
Salt River Fields – Who’s going to be there? EdtheUmp the whole month of March, rmh(me) March 9-16, TJinPhoenix first week of practice, robba?, anybody else?