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Colorado Rockies Opening Day Primer

2011 Record: 73-89 Manager: Jim Tracy

The Rockies started last season with some lofty expectations. But injuries and disappointments in the pitching staff led to the season unraveling early as they only won 8 games in May. With a loaded lineup and a younger (mostly) and retooled starting rotation, the Rockies could be a surprise playoff participant if things go well.

Player in the spotlight: Troy Tulowitzki SS

Tulo is always going to be in the MVP race, especially if the Rockies are competing for and making the playoffs. Write him down for his .300, 30, and 100 with the potential for more. No worries here as the Rockies have the best shortstop in the game.

Biggest question mark in the lineup: Todd Helton 1B

Todd Helton looked like his career was coming to an end a few years ago with his chronic injuries that seemed to keep him out of the lineup all of the time. But playing most of last season, getting spotted occasionally, Helton continued to hit over .300 and have an OPS over .850. But he’ll turn 39 in August and his creaky body will eventually give out. The Rockies just hope it isn’t this year. They also signed Mike Cuddyer to play right field, but he’ll likely spot Helton against many lefties.

Pitcher in the spotlight: Rafael Betancourt   Closer

The Rockies traded Huston Street to San Diego and gave the closer’s role to Betancourt. Betancourt has been really good since coming over from Cleveland in 2009 and should transition seamlessly to the 9th inning. In all likelihood, Betancourt is holding down the closer’s role until lefty flamethrower, Rex Brothers, is ready for the full-time role.

Biggest pitching question mark: Drew Pomeranz

Pomeranz headlined the Ubaldo Jimenez deal with the Indians last summer and the 2010 1st round pick is going to be expected to pitch well this year. The Rockies have a number of young starters and their playoff aspirations lie with the ability of Pomeranz and the others develop over the course of this season. The earlier they have success, the more likely the Rockies will be playing important games in September.

Prospect with a chance to make an impact this year: Nolan Arenado 3B

Arenado starts the season in AA and should be on the fast track if he continues to mash like he did in A ball last year. If he masters AA quickly, Arenado could find his way to Denver before August.

Prediction: 3rd in NL West

The Rockies are competing in a winnable division as the Giants lack great hitting to run away with the division and the Diamondbacks have some holes as well. So if the Rockies can get some early, sustained success out of their young starters, they have the best lineup in the NL West and should be able to remain in the hunt all season long. But that young rotation is the key and Coors Field is a tough place to develop pitchers which is why they are predicted to be 3rd here. With slightly below average starting pitching this is a 78-80 win team, but can get to 85 wins with average starting pitching and stay in the race to the end.

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MLB Daily Balk 5/20 Plus the Phlawed Phillies

The Phillies are Another Phlawed Phavorite

The Fightins’, along with the Red Sox, were everybody’s favorites coming into this season due to their unexpected free agent signing of Cliff Lee to go along with Roy Hallday, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels. The comparisons were made to the 1971 Orioles staff that featured four 20-game winners and the Phans were talking about one of the best pitching staffs of all time.

But the Phillies have just put 5th starter Joe Blanton back on the DL while their bullpen continues to be perilously thin. Eighth inning stalwart Ryan Madson has been closing since interim closer Jose Contreras got hurt a few weeks ago. Madson has been great in the role, but there’s really nobody left to handle the 8th inning. Rookie Michael Stutes has done well when called upon but manager Charlie Manuel hasn’t shown that he’s completely confident in handing the 8th inning to Stutes yet.

Click here for the rest of the column

 

AL News/Notes

The Red Sox traded for Rockies lefthanded reliever Franklin Morales in exchange for a player to be named later and also signed Kevin Millwood to a minor league deal. Josh Beckett left Thursday night’s game with back stiffness.

The Orioles have called up Ryan Adams and Nolan Reimold from AAA and sent down pitchers Troy Patton and Chris Jakubauskas. Adams is a second baseman and ranked by Baseball America as the O’s 8th best prospect. He’s going to get a chance to play a little bit with Brian Roberts limited by injuries.

The Angels Scott Kazmir is still in extended spring training but could be on his way back soon. Expect the Angels to give him 2-3 starts to prove himself before seriously considering releasing him. He’s in the final year of his contract with a $2.5 million buyout coming after the season.

The Indians were without Travis Hafner, Travis Buck, and Orlando Cabrera on Thursday. Cabrera missed the game to become a US citizen, while the two Travis’ missed the game due to injuries.

  

NL News/Notes

The Phillies are placing Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino on the DL. Blanton was scratched from his Thursday start due to lingering elbow soreness. The best guess is that Vance Worley will get another shot at starting, especially since Kyle Kendrick struggled again in the spot start.

As noted above, the Rockies traded Franklin Morales for a PTBNL. This opened up a spot on the 25-man roster for Matt Daley and the Rockies gained roster flexibility and will be able to add another player to the 40-man roster.

Mark DeRosa went on the DL for the Giants and could be done for the season with another wrist injury. DeRosa was rarely healthy in his two seasons with the Giants and had been mentioned as a potential trade possibility to go to the Marlins a few weeks ago. That won’t happen now and the Giants have to eat his $6M salary.

The Giambino needs a urinalysis

Best of Yesterday May 19

Last Night’s Games  
American  
Minnesota 11 Oakland 1
Los Angeles 1 Seattle 2
New York 13 Baltimore 2
Tampa Bay 2 Toronto 3
Detroit 3 Boston 4
Cleveland 2 Chicago 8
Texas 1 Kansas City 2 F/10
National  
Pittsburgh 5 Cincinnati 3
Washington 0 New York 1
Houston 2 St. Louis 4
Colorado 7 Philadelphia 1
Chicago 5 Florida 1
Atlanta 1 Arizona 2
Milwaukee 0 San Diego 1
San Francisco 3 Los Angeles 0

 

Top Aces    
Player Team Stats
CC Sabathia W (4-3) NYY 8 IP, 0 ER, 7 H, 9 K
Dillon Gee W (3-0) NYM 7 2/3 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 3 K, 3 BB
Madison Bumgarner W (1-6) SFG 8 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 3 K, 2 BB
Aaron Harang SDP 8 IP, 0 ER, 6 H, 4 K, 2 BB
Jhoulys Chacin W (5-2) COL 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 9 K, BB

 

Hitting Heroes    
Player Team Stats
Jason Giambi COL 3-5, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 3 R
Jay Bruce CIN 3-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
Justin Morneau MIN 3-5, HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
Juan Rivera TOR 2-3, HR, RBI, 2 R
Allen Craig STL 3-4, HR, RBI, 2 R

 

Walkoff Winners    
Carlos Peguero SEA H to CF that Hunter lost in sun
Carl Crawford BOS Bases Loaded H in 9th
Jeff Francouer KCR H in 10th
Orlando Hudson SDP Sac Fly in 9th

 

 

What Happened (!!)Yesterday?

The Yankees outscored their division rivals combined 13-11 last night. They weren’t the only ones as the Rockies matched their division rivals runs at 7 each.

Even more offensive futility as the AL West combined for 5 runs out the four teams and the NL East combined for 4 runs for their five teams.

The six teams that entered Thursday in first place, scored a combined 13 runs.

 

Streaks of the Day

  • Rockies Jason Giambi homered in his first three at-bats on Thursday

 

Top Friday Matchups

7:05 EDT Rangers (Wilson 4-2, 3.38) at Phillies (Halladay 5-3, 2.21)

7:05 EDT Nationals (Marquis 5-1, 3.54) at Orioles (Arrieta 5-1, 4.03)

10:05 EDT Braves (Hudson 4-3, 3.03) at Angels (Santana 1-4, 4.85)

10:15 EDT Athletics (Cahill 6-1, 1.82) at Giants (Vogelsong 3-0, 2.36)

 

Yesterday’s Balks: 1

  • Brian Sanches of the Marlins against the Cubs

Biggest Early Season Concerns for MLB Teams

The season is only two weeks old, but there’s already some major issues brewing for teams who expect to be contenders for the World Series this season. While many of the pundits like to magnify the season opening minor slumps by superstars (think Albert Pujols and Derek Jeter), there are real issues that teams will need to deal with to ensure a trip to the postseason.

White Sox Closer

This is easily the most alarming situation for a potential World Series team. The White Sox bullpen has already blown 6 of 7 save opportunities in the Sox first 12 games. Ozzie Guillen is already creating memorable YouTube moments and it might only be a matter of time before he attacks one of his relievers on the pitcher’s mound. So far, the White Sox bullpen has surrendered 7 homers in less than 40 innings of work. Something is going to have to change for Guillen and the White Sox if they are to make the postseason.

Former closer Bobby Jenks is now in Boston and it appears that last year’s first round pick, Chris Sale, isn’t ready to assume the 9th inning duties. Matt Thornton appears more suited to an 8th inning setup role and former Twins setup man Jesse Crain doesn’t have the kind of dominating stuff needed to be a top closer.

The White Sox currently trail Cleveland and Kansas City in the AL Central standings by only a game. The current standings along with the Twins slow start and injury problems probably give the White Sox more time to pursue an in-house solution to resolve this issue. Hopefully for the Sox, one of their relievers (Sergio Santos?) will step up and claim the job. But if the problems persist and the White Sox continue to lose winnable games, then GM Ken Williams might have to make a trade.

If the White Sox do pursue a trade, there are a few options that might be available. The most easily obtainable target for any team needing a closer would have to be the Mets Francisco Rodriguez. The problem with K-Rod is that he is due $11.5M this season and has a vesting option for 2012 for $17.5M if he finishes at least 55 games this season. The Padres Heath Bell is a pending free agent and the Padres would be foolish not to secure a king’s ransom in return for the elite closer. With these two, it comes down to whether Williams wants to pay for a closer with money or prospects? The Sox hope it doesn’t come to that.

Red Sox Pitching Staff

While the entire baseball establishment focused on the Red Sox offensive firepower, their pitching staff remained a question mark coming into the season. Last year, the Red Sox only two reliable starters were Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. They came into the season hoping that a pair of right handers (John Lackey and Josh Beckett) in their early 30’s who hadn’t pitched consistently at a high level since 2007, would revert to their previous all star forms. While Beckett seemed to find the fountain of youth on Sunday night against the Yankees, Lackey continues to struggle along with everybody else in the rotation besides Lester.

The Red Sox won 85 games last season and were the presumptive World Series champions coming into this season after acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to replace Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez. While they didn’t lose any offense, their ability to score runs wasn’t an issue last season. They LED all of MLB in runs scored. The reason why they only won 85 games and missed the playoffs was because of their pitching.

The only pitcher of significance that they added during the offseason was Bobby Jenks. That should shore up the 7th and maybe 8th innings. But the Red Sox have a gaping hole in middle relief when their starters consistently get knocked out in the 5th and 6th innings, if they make it that far. While the White Sox closer remedy is probably easier; they can just make a trade, the Red Sox have their hands tied because they are fully committed financially to their mediocre starting staff.

While everybody in Boston will be trotting out trade propositions for King Felix daily on the radio and internet, the fact is that Seattle has no motivation to trade the best young pitcher in baseball who is under contract for affordable money through 2014. The Red Sox pitching issues will almost have to be addressed in-house through the hope that their pitchers turn things around and maybe by inserting top prospect Felix Doubrant into the rotation.

No matter what the resolution might be to the Red Sox problems, we don’t even really know yet how Jonathan Papelbon is going to bounce back from last season’s off year. That could be an entirely different issue and won’t be discovered until the starters begin to give him save opportunities.

Dearth of Quality First Basemen for Contenders

First base production is shaping up as a potential problem for a number of contenders and could ignite a bunch of trade rumors and player movement as spring turns to summer. The Rockies with Todd Helton, Braves with rookie Freddie Freeman, Giants with Brandon Belt, Rangers with Mitch Moreland, Indians with Matt LaPorta, and the Angels with Mike Trumbo(filling in for Kendrys Morales) are all relying on questionable production out of a traditionally offensive position.

Helton continues to suffer from back issues and the Rockies can’t rely on him to produce in the middle of their order anymore. Freeman is a rookie in a lineup with other question marks and the offensively challenged Braves might need to upgrade first base if they are to generate enough offense to return to the playoffs. The Giants have other pieces that can replace Belt if he continues to struggle or gets sent down. But can the world champs rely on the smorgasbord of castoffs and role players to hit enough over the 162 game season again to make it back to October?

In the AL, the Rangers are relying on Moreland and can fill-in with other players, but with a potential championship in their sights, could they look to make a major upgrade at first? The Indians weren’t expected to contend this season but sometimes the future is now. How long can they continue to go with the annually disappointing LaPorta at first? The Angels have top prospect Trumbo filling in for the injured Morales but they could look for an upgrade if Morales doesn’t return to form.

What this means is that there should be a seller’s market this summer for first basemen. It’s difficult to contend for a championship with an offensive hole at a typically productive position like first base. Right now, there really isn’t any all star talent available to these teams. If someone doesn’t have a prospect playing first and wants to give one a chance, the Reds have former first round pick Yonder Alonso stuck in AAA behind last year’s NL MVP Joey Votto. Alonso could end up being a shrewd addition to a team looking for production at first if he can live up to his potential.

The most intriguing possibilities as the summer goes on, however, are a pair of NL Central first basemen. Both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are going to be free agents following this season and while Pujols is a 10-5 guy and can’t be traded without approval, Fielder isn’t and could become available if the Brewers fall out of the race or decide to preemptively make a move before Fielder leaves following the season for only draft pick compensation.

For obvious reasons, Fielder is the more likely of the two all stars to be traded, but if the Cardinals were to be at least 10 games out at some point and it continued to appear unlikely that they would be able to sign Pujols, then he could conceivably waive his no-trade at the end of July to go to the right team and the Cards would be able to reap a windfall in a trade. Atlanta, for example, would have no problem submitting a package that included Freeman for a chance to win a World Series this season with Pujols.

It’s early in the season and some of those teams might fade away or start to get production from their current players, but first base isn’t a position where most teams are willing to make the stretch run with players who need to hit at the bottom of the lineup.

NL West Weekly Overview April 13

NL West Weekly Overview April 13

As of April 12      
NL West W L PCT
Colorado 7 2 0.778
Los Angeles 6 5 0.545
Arizona 5 5 0.500
San Francisco 5 6 0.455
San Diego 4 6 0.400

 

Colorado Rockies

Pitching

Stop the presses; the Rockies pitchers are leading the NL in ERA so far this season with a 2.98 mark. The only pitcher to get hit hard was Ubaldo Jimenez on Opening Day and he went on the DL with a minor finger problem. Jhoulys Chacin is 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA. His emergence as a top of the rotation starter could be the key to the Rockies winning the NL West this season.

The bullpen has been solid as well as Huston Street is 5 for 5 so far on saves. The rest of the bullpen has been really effective as well. It’s early, but the Rockies staff is shaping up as an early season difference maker. It will get even better when Ubaldo returns next week.

Lineup

The Rockies are only 10th in the NL with a .253 average so far but they are 4th in the NL in homers. Their 53 runs are among the league leaders per game also. Jonathan Herrera has hit well enough to probably take the 2B job from Jose Lopez and create a possible platoon at 3B between Lopez and Ian Stewart. Troy Tulowitzki is already on a MVP pace with his 4 HRs going into Wednesday.

This lineup should end up as one of the better lineups in the league, but they need better production out of 3B and they need Todd Helton to hit enough to justify starting at first base.

Overview

The Rockies pitching is somewhat surprising so far, but they’ve done it against some hitting challenged teams in the Dodgers and Pirates. Let’s see what happens when they face tougher lineups. But if they can continue to pitch well, then a usual season out of their lineup should put them at or near the top in the NL West.

The Rockies have three games in two days against the Mets before heading home to play the Cubs this weekend. This should be a good opportunity for the Rockies to pull away a little bit in the standings before next week.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Pitching

The Dodgers pitching has been unusually off so far this season as they have a 4.08 ERA which is only 11th in the NL. Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda both have two wins each with sub 2.00 ERAs. But Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly have struggled in four of five starts between them. This should be the strength of the team and will need to be even better if the bullpen has issues. Maybe Jon Garland can help when he returns.

The pen has been mediocre so far with everybody but Matt Guerrier giving up more than they should so far. Jonathan Broxton has converted all five save opportunities, but has given up a couple of runs already and he has only one strikeout.

Lineup

The Dodgers lineup hasn’t been better than the pitchers as they are 12th with a .251 average. So far it’s been Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier leading them offensively with a little help from Jamey Carroll. Unfortunately, leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal is out again, this time with a broken thumb sliding headfirst. This could mean more playing time for former top prospect Ivan DeJesus.

The Dodgers have talented hitters, but they haven’t gotten going as a group yet. Their 6 HRs is last and they really need James Loney to step up and hit like a quality first baseman.

Overview

The Dodgers are right around .500 and have played their top contenders in the NL West so far. Their starting pitching will improve and their bullpen has to if they are going to contend. The lineup is in trouble without Furcal as the Dodgers don’t have anybody with his proven skills at leadoff hitter. They need to find a way to win in the month or two that he’s out.

The Dodgers get another one against the Giants before hosting the Cardinals for four this weekend. With the Cardinals struggling, this could be a good opportunity for the Dodgers to get back over .500 by the end of the weekend.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Pitching

The D’backs have gotten good starts from Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson this season, but the other three have struggled. Joe Saunders is particularly alarming since they were hoping that the former 17 game winner would be able to pitch at the front of their rotation.

The bullpen was much maligned last season and while they aren’t great, JJ Putz has provided stability to the 9th inning and David Hernandez might be developing into a reliable setup guy. The rest need to pitch better if they are going to bridge the gap between the starters and Putz.

Lineup

The bats haven’t been sleeping in Phoenix as the D’backs are 2nd in the NL in hitting with a .296 average and are averaging almost 6 runs per game. Chris Young and Justin Upton have been launching balls and catcher Miguel Montero is hitting for power, average, and drawing walks so far. His emergence could make this lineup one of the best in the NL this season.

They have the young talent hitting and some of their veteran role players are performing as well. The key has been the major drop in strikeouts so far after trading away the K machine Mark Reynolds. The new culture of hitting seems to be working.

Overview

The D’backs lineup makes every game a potential win. But their pitching has issues that might not get resolved this season. The good news is that they are losing games in the 9th inning, as nothing demoralizes a team more than that. If their starting pitchers can get quality starts more consistently, then this team could be a surprise contender in the NL West. But that’s probably too much to ask for now.

The D’backs have the Cards for one more before hosting the Giants for the weekend. They have a tremendous opportunity to send a message to the champs and build some momentum and confidence for the rest of the season.

San Francisco Giants

Pitching

The Giants pitchers have been alright so far as their ERA is middle of the pack at 3.58. Starters Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez have been great as usual but they haven’t received the best run support. Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner have not been good and the Giants need at least one of them to be decent this season.

The bullpen has scuffled a bit led by Brian Wilson and the 5 runs he’s allowed in 2 1/3 innings. He was great last year and in the postseason, but he does create excitement occasionally that has to make Bruce Bochy question him at times. Unless this group is feeling the effects from last year’s extended season, then they should bounce back and be solid throughout the year.

Lineup

The Giants are in the upper half of the league hitting and the slimmed down Panda and Buster Posey are leading the way. Only Pat Burrell and rookie Brandon Belt are really struggling with their averages so far. Belt is significant because he could be sent back to AAA if he doesn’t improve before Cody Ross comes off the DL soon.

Andres Torres is the only other player with a steal besides Belt and he could be heading to the DL with an Achilles injury. That should mean a lot more playing time for Aaron Rowand in center field. Also, if Belt goes down, then Aubrey Huff would return to first base fulltime.

Overview

The Giants haven’t had an easy schedule so far and their record reflects that. But champions beat everybody and their bullpen and back half of their rotation needs to step up and pitch better. Despite the slow start, this team should be in the hunt all season long.

The Giants have one more with the Dodgers and then head to Arizona for the weekend. This is a prime time for them to win some games and close the gap with the Rockies in the NL West.

San Diego Padres

Pitching

The Padres pitching should be good considering their pitcher friendly ballpark and they haven’t disappointed. They are 3rd in the NL with a 3.13 ERA so far. Clayton Richard has had one good start and one average one and Dustin Moseley has been good both times out. Aaron Harang could have a pretty good season in Petco if he continues to pitch like he has so far. Only Tim Stauffer has struggled much early. Mat Latos had a decent first start and needs to be healthy for the Padres to challenge this season.

The bullpen continues to be a strength as they are under a 3.00 ERA as a group and everybody but Cory Luebke has been good. Luebke needs to get turned around as his development will determine how quickly he earns a spot in the rotation.

Lineup

The Padres lineup is expected to be mediocre this season, but their league low .213 average is lower than even the most pessimistic observers expect this season. They are 2nd in the NL in steals and that will be one way the Padres try to maximize their limited offensive opportunities this season.

The biggest disappointment has to be Ryan Ludwick who is expected to be their best run producer this season. He’s only hitting .094, although he has walked 6 times. Brad Hawpe is replacing Adrian Gonzalez and is only at .138.

For the Padres, Cameron Maybin’s improvement is high amongst their priorities for this season. He’s already got 5 extra base hits, including 2 HRs, and is hitting a modest .257.  The Padres are hoping that he can realize his vast potential after coming over from the Marlins. 

Overview

The Padres are not expected to contend with their subpar lineup, but could surprise if they can get above average hitting.  Their pitchers are doing their part but the lineup hasn’t so far. One thing to note is that they’ve faced some pretty good pitching so far and should be better against lesser opponents.

The Padres have one more with the Reds before heading to Houston for four games this weekend with the Astros. The ‘Stros aren’t expected to be that good so the Padres have an opportunity to make up some ground and get closer to .500.

Colorado Rockies Opening Day Overview

Colorado Rockies Opening Day Overview

Manager: Jim Tracy         GM: Dan O’Dowd

Lineup:
CF Dexter Fowler
RF Seth Smith/Ryan Spilborghs
LF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Todd Helton
3B Ian Stewart/Ty Wigginton
2B Jose Lopez
C Chris Iannetta
Pitcher

 

Fowler is the catalyst to this high powered offense and the Rockies will need him to utilize his base stealing abilities more, especially on the road where the offense sometimes stagnates. He also needs to improve his OBP for this offense to reach their potential.

Smith and Spilborghs will probably platoon again unless Smith doesn’t get his average back over .270. The Rockies need Smith to hit like 2009 and Spilborghs to hit like last year. If it’s reversed, they might have to turn to Eric Young or Wily Tavares and move CarGo to RF.

CarGo was phenomenal last season finishing 3rd in the MVP voting. He got a new $80M contract over 7 seasons and will earn every penny if he continues to hit the way he did last year.

Tulowitzki is the game’s best shortstop and might be the best player in the game as long as he’s healthy. The Rockies will need Tulo to remain healthy and if he does, he has a chance to produce numbers only seen at SS by A-Rod in Texas.

Two of the last three seasons have been mediocre for Helton. He’s going to need to produce if he is to continue hitting in a run producing spot in the order. This could be a position where Wigginton gets some at bats if Helton struggles again. Jason Giambi is around as well if Helton gets hurt and they want a lefty bat in there.

Stewart might start the season on the DL and needs to improve his average this season if he’s to convince O’Dowd and Tracy that he’s the long term answer at 3B. Wigginton should provide a solid glove and a steady bat at 3B or any other position he plays.

Lopez comes over from Seattle and could have a great year if he gets back to his 2009 form. Remember, Safeco might be the best pitching park in the AL and he’s now hitting in Coors. He could be a major surprise.

Iannetta needs to start hitting at least .250 to justify his place in the lineup. Top catching prospect Wilin Rosario isn’t expected to arrive until next year, but could be called upon if Iannetta continues to struggle andhe convinces management that he can outperform Iannetta with his production in AAA.

The Rockies really struggled to hit on the road, with their worst run production in almost a decade. The top of the lineup talent is great, but they might need to add a corner infield bat if Helton and/or Stewart struggles. The ability of Iannetta and Lopez to bounce back and for Lopez to adjust to the NL will play a critical role in the Rockies offensive success.

  Pitching Staff
1 RHP – Ubaldo Jimenez
2 LHP – Jorge De La Rosa
3 RHP – Jhoulys Chacin
4 RHP – Jason Hammel
5 RHP – Esmil Rogers/RHP – Aaron Cook

 

Jimenez was unbelievable before the break last year, but struggled right after the break and then finished strong. As long as he’s pitching well, this team should be in the hunt for the postseason.

De La Rosa got a nice contract, but is going to need to stay healthy and produce like he did in 2009 to justify the money. His 185 innings in 2009 is over 50 more than any other season.

Chacin had a great debut season and might be the second best starter the Rockies have. He’ll need to do it for 10-12 more starts than last season and improve his walk ratio. But most pitchers usually improve their control as they gain experience and become more comfortable pitching to big league hitters.

Hammel was very similar last year to 2009 and will be counted upon to provide those 175+ innings again this season. He’ll need to keep his ERA around 4.50 or better to be effective.

Cook is out until at least May and he’ll need to improve his K-BB ratio if he’s to be counted on for quality innings. Rogers gets a chance to prove himself over the first month or so of the season and pitch much better than last season. A couple of starts pitching like his over 6 ERA from last year and the Rockies could turn to Felipe Paulino who was with Houston last year.

  Bullpen
CL RHP – Huston Street
SET RHP – Rafael Betancourt
  RHP – Matt Belisle
  RHP – Matt Lindstrom
  LHP – Matt Reynolds
  LHP – Franklin Morales
  RHP – Felipe Paulino

 

Street was the victim of injuries from the start last season and the inability of the bullpen to consistently close out games hurt them in the first half of the season. He is expected to be fully healthy and the last inning situations should be better this season for the Rockies.

Betancourt doesn’t mess around as he comes right at hitters with strikes. That’s a great trait to have pitching at Coors and the Rockies have as good as a setup guy as they’ve had.

Belisle pitched well last season and a similar showing would be great. Lindstrom has closed with Florida and Houston and throws hard. His problem can be control which could be a major issue in Coors.

Morales started last year as the fill-in closer for Street and then spent over a month in AAA to work on control issues.

  Farm Prospects who could help in 2011
1 LHP Rex Brothers
2 LHP Christian Friedrich
3 C Wilin Rosario

 

The pickings are slim for the Rockies as far as major league readiness goes. Brothers could be a future closer but still needs some AAA seasoning before getting called up. Friedrich is a starter who struggled a little in AA last year and has battled health issues. Rosario tore his ACL last summer but has a good bat and might get a chance later this summer if Iannetta continues to struggle at the plate.

Three Questions:

1. Can the Rockies get improved production from the group of Helton, Smith, Stewart, and Iannetta?

  • They need to get better numbers from at least 2, if not 3 of these four. Helton and Iannetta especially need to outperform last season’s numbers for the Rockies to overcome the weak part of their rotation.

2. After Ubaldo, will the Rockies starters pitch well?

  • Steady improvement by Chacin and a full season from De La Rosa will be huge for the Rockies this season. They can’t afford to be in the bullpen in the sixth inning every game if they want to be in contention in September. Rogers, filling in for Cook, could wreak havoc on the pen early in the season if he’s not effective.

3. Can their bullpen be as good as it looks on paper?

  • Street is a very good closer and should have a great year if he stays healthy. Betancourt gives them a solid arm for the 8th inning and those two can make it a 7 inning game for Jim Tracy if they’re consistently effective at the back end of games. That would leave the rest of the bullpen to take care of the 7th inning and earlier.

 

Projection

The Rockies should be contending all season. One thing that hurts them is their lack of high level farm talent. With their best prospects appearing to be a few years away, they might not have talent to either plug in the lineup in case of injury or be able to make an impact trade if necessary. If their Chacin and De La Rosa can stay healthy and continue to get better, then the Rockies can push 90 wins for the season.