I thought the Rockies had it there for a minute. A good lineup with two superstars in the middle and the best pitching staff in the team’s history set the Rockies as favorites to win the NL West according to many experts (most importantly, me), even over the defending champs. Unfortunately, the entire team collectively stumbled badly, the ace was traded, hopes were dashed, and Dan O’Dowd made my enemies list. Coming into 2012, there have been several changes, but most of them are pretty minor so the Rockies’ playoff hopes mainly hinge on breakout seasons from some of the young guys.
“30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Ramon Hernandez||.282||.341||.446||28||12||36||0||298||w/CIN|
|1B Todd Helton||.302||.385||.466||59||14||69||0||421|
|2B Marco Scutaro||.299||.358||.423||59||7||54||4||395||w/BOS|
|SS Troy Tulowitzki||.302||.372||.544||81||30||105||9||537|
|3B Casey Blake||.252||.342||.371||32||4||26||1||202||w/LAD|
|LF Carlos Gonzalez||.295||.363||.526||92||26||92||20||481|
|CF Dexter Fowler||.266||.363||.432||84||5||45||12||481|
|RF Michael Cuddyer||.284||.346||.459||70||20||70||11||529||w/MIN|
Unsettled: Nothing’s really unsettled, but there’s a couple of situations to keep an eye on. First off, Ramon Hernandez is a decent player when he’s healthy, but that’s the problem. He’s 36 years old and hasn’t played over 97 games since 2008. At this point, his body is being held together with rubber bands and masking tape. Behind him are Jordan Pacheco, who would be unlikely to take over because he’s primarily a corner infielder; Eliezer Alfonzo (Elizier? Edgmer? Esmil? Jhoulys? Who named these people, a Boggle tray?), who probably isn’t going to enter the discussion for starting catcher due to his lack of baseball playing ability; and an intriguing youngster by the name of Wilin Rosario. He can hit for power and his plus defensive ability will help him stick. The major obstacle is his subpar plate discipline, with a 6.2% career minor league walk rate. Otherwise, at least for fantasy purposes, he’s basically Chris Iannetta take two, and maybe he’ll pan out better. Whether he starts the seasons as a backup in Denver or starter in Colorado Springs will be determined by his spring performance, but he’ll most likely be the first choice for Hernandez’ eventual replacement.
The other situation to keep an eye on seems unlikely now, but there’s a legit chance of it happening. Casey Blake is 38 years old and his only purpose in Denver is like Hernandez’s, to bridge the gap to the prospect, in this case Nolan Arenado. Now, Blake is bad, and the Rockies have four or five outfielders worthy of a starting job. Solution: move Michael Cuddyer to third. He’s seen 1,373 innings at the hot corner and at the last go-around, his defense was just as bad there as it is in right field. That would free up Blackmon or Colvin, who are better options than the backup third basemen Jonathan Herrera and Chris Nelson (OPSed .612 and .664 last year, respectively).
Target: This is usually where I plug Dexter Fowler and move on, but I’ve decided to be creative this year. Let’s see, Tulo and Gonzalez are first rounders so you can’t really “target” them. Cuddyer is a very solid 2B option but he’s going right about where he should be. I said no Fowler. Everyone else is a good bet to get injured or be fantasy useless.
…Well, this is awkward. Fowler it is! I actually didn’t recommend him last year because I felt he was going too high. I didn’t own my favorite player in any league until August. However, there are some bright spots behind his .266/5/12 season. He played only 125 games but amassed 35 doubles and 15 triples. He was sent down to Triple-A in early June to work out his plate problems, and when he returned he put up a full-season pace of 122 runs, 12 HRs, 65 RBIs and 24 SBs, and rates of .288/.381/.498. According to reports, the improvement was due to him changing up his swing from the left side (the Jose Bautista treatment). The upside is a Shane Victorino type of player, and the downside is who cares because his MDP is 227. He’s probably not going to flame out like he did in 2011 because of the mechanical fix. I’m buying.
|Jorge de la Rosa (L)||5-2||3.51||1.19||52||22||59.0|
|Jhoulys Chacin (R)||11-14||3.62||1.31||150||87||194.0|
|Jeremy Guthrie (R)||9-17||4.33||1.34||130||50||208.0||w/BAL|
|Drew Pomeranz (L)||4-3||1.78||1.05||119||38||101.0||in MiLB|
|Juan Nicasio (R)||4-4||4.14||1.27||58||18||71.2|
Unsettled: Look upon the following names and despair: Guillermo Moscoso, Alex White, Tyler Chatwood, Josh Outman. We’ll be seeing one, maybe two of those names in the rotation for the first part of the year. De la Rosa is out until June-ish, while Pomeranz and Nicasio are by no means sure things. Those four names, plus maybe Guthrie, form what I call the Brian Bohanon All-Stars. White and Chatwood were two of the worst two pitchers in baseball, if not the worst, putting up 7.01/1.69 and 4.75/1.67 ratios, respectively, while Moscoso and Outman are low-K fly ball pitchers moving from Oakland to Colorado. The horror. Nicasio and Pomeranz are both young prospects who may go down for more seasoning after spring training, so that’s something to keep an eye on.
Target: Pomeranz and Nicasio, somewhere late. Nicasio posted solid numbers last year in 71.2 IP, and his minor league numbers are stellar. Strikeout rates north of 9.0, walk rates around 1.5, and a lively 94 mph fastball from the left side. One problem: those numbers were put up as a 22, 23, and 24 year old in Single-A, Class-A Advanced, and Double-A. Playing against younger competition has probably distorted his true talent, but those numbers still look really good. Pomeranz, meanwhile, has been playing pro baseball for less than a full season. That full season has seen him dominate at every minor league stop he visited, except a very brief appearance in the majors. He has electric stuff and can be a great pitcher, but he’s just so young. If you need back-end pitcher filler or if you need some SP help during the season, go with these guys instead of the Randy Wolfs and Jeremy Guthries of the world. They have good upside for next to no cost.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Rafael Betancourt (R)||8||2.89||0.87||73||8||62.1|
|Matt Belisle (R)||0||3.25||1.26||58||14||72.0|
Chasing Saves: Betancourt is old as hell, but somehow he can still bring it. Thirty to 35 saves is reasonable, and he should put up great ratios and strikeout rates. Not much to say, other than if he struggles, lefty Rex Brothers could take the spot. Brothers is interesting in that he has a blazing fastball and sky-high K rates, but peppered with control issues. In 2011 he struck out 59 in 40.2 innings and finished with a very solid 2.88 ERA. If he makes strides in command, he’d be a top-tier reliever.
The Rockies need to brave some early pitching uncertainty, but there really is potential in a ball club where pretty much all of the core is still pretty young. There’s time for the prospects to develop (which means more time for Dan O’Dowd to mess up), but that will probably eat up a season or two. If they catch a few good breaks from Pomeranz, Fowler, Nicasio, Brothers or Chacin, the Rockies could challenge the Diamondbacks for the NL West crown. Otherwise, this is a bridge year to get Arenado, Jordan Pacheco, and Rosario into MLB roles. Between the good potential from the youth movement and the abomination of whatever No. 5 starter Jim Tracy throws out in April, at least we can say it’s going to be an interesting season.
André Walker is Ubaldo's Smirking Revenge. His alter ego Neato Torpedo is Hawpe's Well Below Average Glove.
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