Wednesday, March 21, 2012

MLB Preview: Colorado Rockies

2011 Recap
The Rockies struggled to a 73-89 record in 2011, good for fourth place in the NL West. Despite the struggles, there were some bright spots, as shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (.302 BA, 30 HR, 105 RBI) and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (.295 BA, 26 HR, 92 RBI) were among the league leaders in OPS. The team traded away starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, but was able to get great value, including starter Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz was Cleveland's first round pick in the 2010 draft, and projects as a top of the rotation starter, though he'll likely need more seasoning in Triple-A before reaching The Show. Rockies pitchers struggled through most of 2011, including ranking near the bottom of the league in both ERA (26th) and WHIP (t-23rd).

New Arrivals
C Ramon Hernandez
SP Jeremy Guthrie
RP Zach Putnam
IF Brendan Harris
IF Casey Blake
OF Tyler Colvin
2B/SS Marco Scutaro
Thoughts: At 35, Hernandez is a solid defensive catcher who is a high-contact hitter at the plate (just 41 strikeouts in 298 at-bats in 2011). Hernandez will be responsible for working a fairly young pitching staff, but should be up to the task. Guthrie should provide the Rockies with a front-line starter. Though his win-loss record was damaged playing for a bad team in Baltimore, Guthrie seems to be a lock to throw 200+ innings, and should have an ERA under 4.00 with the move to the National League. Putnam will likely be fighting for a middle innings relief role, though he could very easily be optioned back to the minors out of spring training. Harris struggled during the 2010 season with Minnesota, and didn't play in 2011, but is having a very good spring (8 for 21) and will be competing for the starting third base job. Even if he doesn't get the starting spot, he'll provide solid depth at shortstop, as well as second and third base. Blake has yet to record a hit in 11 spring at-bats, but will likely be competing with Harris for the starting third base job, and could also see time at both left field and first base. Colvin will likely fight for a spot as a fourth outfielder, while Scutaro will likely earn the starting spot at second base.

Prospect to Watch: SP Drew Pomeranz
Pomeranz struggled some in a brief stint on the big club in 2011, posting a 5.40 ERA in 18.1 innings pitched (4 starts). Despite his struggles, Pomeranz was dominant in the minors during 2011, posting a 1.78 ERA in 20 minor league starts, and racked up 119 strikeouts in 101 innings pitched, as well as a ridiculously low .189 opponents batting average. Pomeranz has a fastball that can stay in the low to mid 90's, with solid command of his breaking pitches as well. Pomeranz has yet to allow a run this spring in three appearances (7 innings), and should be in the starting rotation to open the season.
2012 Outlook
While there is a lot of offensive talent on this team, and the additions of Hernandez and Scutaro should help the offense, the Rockies' fate in 2012 will lie in their pitching staff. If youngsters like Pomeranz, Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio are able to pitch solidly behind Guthrie and Jorge De La Rosa, then Colorado could be in the hunt for a Wild Card spot this season. The bullpen is a bit of a concern, as Rafael Betancourt takes over for Huston Street at closer, which leaves the team fairly thin behind him. I expect the team to do better than last year's 73 wins, but the playoffs seem a bit unlikely this season.

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