The Rockies are one of the most exciting, dynamic teams in baseball right now. It’s no wonder that the front office made pretty much zero major moves in the offseason; almost every position has either a young potential star or one waiting in the wings. 2009 was marked by a slow start, which culminated in the firing of longtime manager Clint Hurdle. Jim Tracy was promoted to manager, and the Rockies went a blistering 74-42 the rest of the way. Despite the rawness of some of the players, the team put up a historical franchise-best 92-70 record and made it into the playoffs, losing to the Phillies in the LDS. It should be very interesting to see if the team is ready to take the next step.
|C Chris Iannetta||.228||.344||.460||41||16||52||0||289|
|1B Todd Helton||.325||.416||.489||79||15||86||0||544|
|2B Clint Barmes||.245||.294||.440||69||23||76||12||550|
|SS Troy Tulowitzki||.297||.377||.552||101||32||92||20||543|
|3B Ian Stewart||.228||.322||.464||74||25||70||7||425|
|LF Carlos Gonzalez||.284||.353||.525||53||13||29||16||278|
|CF Dexter Fowler||.266||.363||.406||73||4||34||27||433|
|RF Brad Hawpe||.285||.384||.519||82||23||86||1||501|
Unsettled: Second base, outfield. Barmes has been underwhelming at times, and has never put up really anything close to the 23 HR he hit in ‘09, so there’s bound to be some regression there. Should he falter, the lightning-quick Eric Young, Jr. could take his place. Young has little major league experience, but his minor league track record shows potential for massive steal numbers (including an 87 SB mark in 2006!). Keep an eye on this situation.
In regards to the outfield, if anyone has Dan O’Dowd’s contact info, I’d like to have it. I’ve been wanting to bombard his mailbox with messages about UZR, because his current starting right fielder, Brad Hawpe, is the worst fielding OF in the majors. Not only would the Rockies defense benefit from losing Hawpe, but they would have a near-even offensive replacement in Seth Smith. Hawpe put up a .903 OPS while Smith laid out a .889 mark in limited playing time. It would be quite a shame to let that .300 AVG, 25 HR potential just sit on the bench collecting dust. Spilborghs was re-signed recently despite putting up a mediocre .704 OPS in ‘09, and he should figure to butt in where he doesn’t belong. Ideally, it would be Smith in LF, Fowler in CF, and Gonzalez in RF, with Spilborghs as a bench bat and Hawpe in the AL somewhere as a DH. O’Dowd has shown minor interest in trading Hawpe, and there’s still time for him to do the right thing. Here’s to hoping, right?
Target: Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez. Fowler has a ton of speed and walked a 12.9% clip in 2009. In his last year in the minors, he put up a .946 OPS, which is fantastic for a speedster. The thing about Fowler is that he has his speed game now, but he’s 6′4, and all the scouts are saying that one of these years, he’s going to fill out that frame and start hitting home runs. Fowler’s upside is something like Carl Crawford plus walks, but don’t expect him to reach that in 2010. Still, he could very easily have a .290 AVG, .390 OBP, 35 SB, and chip in a few HR. Because of his upside, I am unashamed to state that Fowler is my official mancrush.
Carlos Gonzalez bounced around as a trading chip for a few years before breaking the majors in 2008. His anemic .634 OPS in Oakland did not impress, but after a slow start in ‘09, he absolutely tore it up to the tune of a 1.004 OPS the last 53 games. Currently, he’s being drafted at the back of the 10th round on average. If he picks up where he left off last year, he’ll be a significant five category contributor and put up something around 6th round value. He led off for a large part of his time last year, but that spot is likely going to Fowler, so Gonzalez will probably bat 2nd. He’ll drive Fowler in and get driven in by Tulo and Helton.
|Ubaldo Jimenez (R)||15-12||3.47||1.23||198||85||218.0|
|Jorge de la Rosa (L)||16-9||4.38||1.39||193||83||185.0|
|Jason Hammel (R)||10-8||4.33||1.39||133||42||176.2|
|Aaron Cook (R)||11-6||4.16||1.41||104||47||158.0|
|Jeff Francis (L)||4-10||5.01||1.48||94||49||143.2||in 2008|
Unsettled: Nothing really. With few alternatives to the unexciting options of Cook and Francis, the staff is pretty much locked in. Nothing much to discuss here, except the possibility of Franklin Morales or Jhoulys Chacin filling in should Cook or Francis pitch poorly.
Target: Ubaldo Jimenez. It’s all about the walks. He has a 96 MPH fastball, a great slider, a plus changeup, and a passable curve. He keeps the ball down, induces a ton of grounders, and strikes guys out. He’s only 26, and already has two very good seasons under his belt. He has the potential to be a top five pitcher, and if he continues to progress the way he has, he might approach that in 2010. I’m not ready to say that the decrease in walks is for real, but I’m still buying in drafts this year.
Prospect Watch: Jhoulys Chacin. If the management knows what’s good for them, they’ll keep him down in the minors to start the season. He walked 24 men in 25.1 IP between AAA and MLB in 2009 after exhibiting very good control in his minor league career. He’s only 21 years old, so he has time to develop, but if he does end up mowing down AAA competition like he did before and two of Cook/Francis/Morales end up performing badly, he’d be the guy to look at to fill out that MLB rotation. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus both like Christian Friedrich and Tyler Matzek better, but Jhoulys is closer to the bigs than they are.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Huston Street (R)||35||3.05||0.91||70||13||61.2|
|Franklin Morales (L)||7||4.50||1.53||41||23||40.0|
Chasing Saves: Street manages to miss time pretty much every year with some kind of injury. Since 2005, he’s injured his thigh and groin twice, and once each of chest, elbow, and bicep. When he’s pitching, he’s usually very good (0.91 WHIP? Very nice), but plan around an injury when drafting him. Morales filled in last year, but if he continues putting up a WHIP like that then Taylor Buchholz or Rafael Betancourt will take his place as setup man/replacement closer.
This team has 100-win potential. Even with all the positional turnover and Garrett Atkins at-bats (which were so reprehensible that they are now illegal in 31 states), they won 92 games. All that needs to happen is for my wish to be granted and that statue in RF to be U-Hauled out of Denver. You have your five-toolers in Tulo and Gonzalez, your speedsters in Fowler and maybe Young, your power hitters in Stewart and Iannetta, your solid bats in Helton, Hawpe, and maybe Smith, your ace in Ubaldo, your solid starters in de la Rosa and Hammel, your pitching prospect in Chacin, and your great relief staff in Street, Betancourt, and Buchholz. This team has a bright future, and I’m buying into it in 2010.
André Walker of Delta Upsilon is a hat-wearing, card-carrying, hyphen-overusing anarcho-Communist who happens to be a huge baseball fan. When he's not busy railing against capitalism or stalking Dexter Fowler, he makes brilliant, insightful posts under the name Neato Torpedo. Don't be intimidated.
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