The Colorado Rockies are currently 41-42 and two games behind Arizona. Our expectations went from “develop players for 2014” to “win now” as we flip the calender to July. Every team in the NL West has scuffled over prolonged periods at one time or another. The fact that the Rockies have outperformed expectations have given them a chance to take the division title for the first time in franchise history. The RWOers have been wearing emotions on their sleeves game by game or even pitch by pitch over the past few weeks which is a lot of progress compared to the expected apathy for 2013. This article is an attempt to step outside the box and take a look at the big picture for the rest of 2013 and beyond.
Blake Street: Offense has taken on a schizophrenic character. In a perfect world, everyone is healthy and all starters do not put a significant “drag factor” on the lineup. There was an excellent article written in Purple Row’s Monday (6/24/2013) Rockpile. You can read the article HERE. Only the below average (less than 100 wRC+) offensive players are considered for the drag factor impact on the lineup. The higher the drag factor, the more problematic the hitter is on the lineup. First base position has a severe drag factor when manned by Todd Helton (1.15 DF) and Jordan Pacheco (2.46 DF). Early in the season, second base and third base both had high drag factors. Josh Rutledge (2.73) and Jon Herrera (1.04) were the culprits at second base. Over in the hot corner Chris Nelson (1.25), Reid Brignac (0.64), Ryan Wheeler (0.43), and Herrera (1.04) weighed down the lineup with Nelson taking most of the playing time. When D.J. LeMahieu (0.26) and Nolan Arenado (0.92) arrived, they reduced the drag factor immensely at second and third bases. DJLM and NoDo have adjusted to the big leagues and are starting to heat up. They may no longer be on the drag factor stat sheet by now as they had 88 and 94 wRC+ ratings respectively at their positions as of June 23.
When EYJ was inserted into the starting lineup frequently due to the Rockies carrying only four outfielders, he had a DF of 2.35. Tyler Colvin is rated only a 51 wRC+ and a 0.73 DF. The numbers look a little better only because of his hot streak for about a week after he was called up. Charlie Blackmon didn’t fare much better with a 59 wRC+ and 0.39 DF. The data indicates that the entire outfield of CarGo, Fowler, and Cuddyer are above average at their OF positions and there was no depth beyond them until possibly the Corey Dickerson call up.
Yorvit Torrealba (0.18) and Baby Bull (0.78) both have a little drag factor in them. I chalk it up to Baby Bull needing a little time to identify and hit the big league breaking balls. Both are barely below average with the wRC+ numbers of 91 (Rosario) and 95 (Torrealba).
CarGo has slumped badly since the Tulo injury on June 13th. Fowler with his high OBP has started only six games going just 4-23 at the plate. Cuddyer got dinged up a little bit a couple of times which didn’t help the offense. If and when we get all healthy again, the lineup should resemble the Bullies rather than the Bunnies: Fowler, DJLM, CarGo, Tulo, Cuddyer, Rosario, Arenado, and Helton/Pacheco/new first baseman. It is a little embarassing to see a first baseman bat eighth, akin to Adrian Gonzalez hitting eighth.
If we regain health and stop following CarGo’s bad habit of doubling his strike zone and swinging wildly, the Rockies will have arguably the best offensive lineup in the league.
Mound Circle: The rotation has performed above and beyond the expectations despite the early season struggles with Juan Nicasio, Jeff Francis, and Jon Garland having short outings. Tyler Chatwood has arguably saved the Rockies’ season with his ace-like performance since his call up. Roy Oswalt and Drew Pomeranz are marginally better than any of the original #3 – #5 starters and both have higher ceilings. The question is can either or both of Oswalt and Pomeranz rise to the occasion? The bullpen was outstanding in the first two months before taking on some water when Rafael Betancourt and Edgmer Escalona hit the disabled list. Matt Belisle needs to bounce back quickly to restore strength to the bullpen. Long relief (Outman, Escalona, Zero, Scahill, Corpas, Lopez) has been enough to link the starters to the back end of the pen. It will be a huge shot in the arm if Lopez can find his former self from his Astros days.
The last nine combined starts by Chacin, JDLR, and Chatwood had a stat line of 59.2 IP with 1.36 ERA. Yet the Rockies had only a 6-10 record in the last three rotation turns. The other seven games were by the #4 and #5 starters plus Pomeranz’s debut. This underlines a critical need for the Rockies hitters to start getting into a groove with few interchangeable parts.
To their credit, the pitching staff has done well enough to win a lot of games. The preseason consensus was that the offense would hit and would the pitchers pitch well enough in support of the offense? Instead this season has turned upside down with us asking, “Are we going to hit well enough to win a lot of games in support of the pitchers?”
Prospect Street: Another excellent article was written in Purple Row titled, “Rockies Prospects Pitching Depth No Longer a Weakness.” A year ago the entire state of Colorado was complaining about lack of pitching development and poor drafts. This year the uproar has calmed a little bit with some good prospects moving up and the selection of Jonathon Gray with our third overall pick. It is well known that the selection of Jonathon Gray has been a huge boost to the pitching stock down on the farm. The irony was that Kris Bryant who was expected to be the Rockies’ selection went second and still has not signed with the Cubs due to the fact that his agent is Scott Bor-ass. Gray is all about the team and not the money when he signed for less than the slot money allotted for third overall pick. Eddie Butler has been the pitcher to watch this year. He was a first round supplemental choice in 2012 and he is already in Modesto. He has a career MiLB ERA of 2.21. While in Asheville, Butler had five shutout games of two hits or less. Since his promotion to Modesto, he has a 3.41 ERA with a 8.01 K/9 ratio. The surprise of 2013 has to be Dan Winkler who wasn’t really on anyone’s radar in 2012. He currently leads all MiLB in strikeouts while posting a K/9 ratio above 10. Chad Bettis is starting to come back on the radar after missing 2012 with an injury. He is currently working in Tulsa and while his velocity is down a tad from two years ago, he has a SIERA score (factors strikeouts and ground ball rates to predict a park adjusted ERA) of 2.73. Way down the pipeline we can find Chris Jensen (SP at Modesto’s top rotation in league), Antonio Senzatala, Helmis Rodriguez, and Jayson Aquino. Senzatala, Rodriguez, and Aquino were on Baseball America’s top 20 DSL (Dominican Summer League) Prospects list by Ben Badler.
The position players down on the farm are not as important as the pitchers as the entire big league lineup are under Rockies’ control next year except for Todd Helton and Yorvit Torrealba. Looking at the first baseman pipeline, Matt McBride is at Colorado Springs and Kiel Roling is at Tulsa with his 17 home runs. Kent Matthes was promoted to AAA last week to provide outfield depth after Colvin and Blackmon underperformed.