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2013 Fantasy outlooks: Colorado Rockies

Senior Fantasy Writer
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While the Colorado Rockies, losers of 98 games in 2012, may not be good in actual baseball, they have several gems for Fantasy owners to consider heading into 2013. Last season saw the breakout of Dexter Fowler (.300 average, 13 home runs, 12 steals), the re-emergence of Tyler Colvin (.290 average with 18 home runs in 420 at-bats) and the dual introductions of young bats Josh Rutledge (eight home runs and 20 doubles in 277 at-bats) and Wilin Rosario (28 home runs in 396 at-bats). With superstar Troy Tulowitzki held to 47 games as he dealt with injuries and slugger Carlos Gonzalez having a down year (although a .303 average, 22 home runs and 20 steals would be a welcome line for many other players) as he battled hamstring issues and the absence of Tulowitzki in the lineup, this year's version of the Rockies are chock-full of exciting offensive Fantasy options. Rosario looks primed to build on his power numbers, Fowler should at least meet his output from 2012, Rutledge had a late-season slump but will pick up second base eligibility and be batting in a stronger lineup with Tulowitzki back and Colvin is a great source of underrated power.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

The problem? Pitching. Things got so bad in 2012 that the Rockies employed an unprecedented, unorthodox "piggyback" rotation plan -- having four starters throw about 75-80 pitches, then give way to a series of relievers. It had far from humidor-style effects, as only two pitchers of the 14 who started a game for the Rockies last year -- Jhoulys Chacin (4.43) and Drew Pomeranz (4.93) -- carried an ERA below 5.00 on the season. The Rockies had originally insisted that they would continue the piggyback experiment in 2013, but MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby reported in mid- September that the system would be scrapped in favor of a more traditional five-man rotation. Of course, the story notes that the hybrid/piggyback relievers -- essentially long relievers on a schedule who come into the game when a starter is about to face a lineup for the third time -- are still around, meaning rotation members could get yanked early (despite the team saying pitchers should last 90 or 100 pitches), when that lineup rears its head for a third time. While Fantasy players should be overjoyed at the experiment being put down -- Jorge De La Rosa, for instance, is now just back to being a mediocre pitcher, as opposed to a mediocre pitcher with severe innings limits -- it was an interesting idea: the restricted quirkiness made for more two-start weeks, meaning more opportunity for wins and strikeouts -- even though the truncated starts threatened those exact system benefits.

The Colorado bullpen, meanwhile, boasts a couple non-hybrid gems, in the form of closer Rafael Betancourt, who managed a 2.81 ERA and 31 saves in 2012, and Rex Brothers, who struck out 83 batters in 67 2/3 innings while winning eight games in relief. While Betancourt will just slide into the middle of the rankings among Fantasy's other closers, Brothers may turn out to be one of the more valuable low- ratio/high-strikeout middle relievers in the National League, who could assume closer duties if Betancourt is traded from the Rockies -- a middling team in a tough division -- at the deadline. In short, if there are two pitchers you want on this team, they would be Betancourt and Brothers. If there is a third pitcher, it just might be this guy...

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Dexter Fowler CF
2. Josh Rutledge 2B
3. Carlos Gonzalez LF
4. Troy Tulowitzki SS
5. Michael Cuddyer RF
6. Tyler Colvin 1B
7. Wilin Rosario C
8. Chris Nelson 3B
Bench Todd Helton 1B
Bench Jordan Pacheco IF/C
Bench Eric Young OF

Breakout candidate ... Drew Pomeranz, starting pitcher

While Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio and Jorge De La Rosa have all shown some degree of promise, 24-year-old Drew Pomeranz -- who was acquired as part of the 2011 Ubaldo Jimenez trade -- could be the ace emerging from this group. A top prospect heading into last season, Pomeranz had a career 1.96 ERA in 30 minor league starts before being given a shot in 2012. He was promptly kicked around in five appearances, sent back to the minors and called up again in July, where his childhood dreams of being a member of an experimental four-man rotation finally came true. With the piggyback strategy behind him, Pomeranz is no longer a strikeout pitcher burdened by pitch counts (which might have led to him pitching to contact and seeing his strikeout numbers dip). Instead, he's a strikeout pitcher entering his second season, and was surprisingly unaffected by the thin Denver air in 2012 (his home and road splits were nearly identical). Let your fellow drafters focus on Chacin, Nicasio and De La Rosa. Pomeranz should be a much better value on Draft Day and could end up being the best pitcher on the staff.

Very deep sleeper ... Ryan Wheeler, third baseman

Incumbent third baseman Chris Nelson hit .301 last year and top prospect Nolan Arenado got past some early struggles in the minors to finish with some respectable numbers in 2012. And the Rockies already have a full outfield and two capable first basemen. So why is Wheeler a (very deep) sleeper? He has a good deal of power and a career .313 batting average in over 1,600 minor league at-bats. He has twice produced an OPS above .955. He can even mix in some steals. Acquired from the Diamondbacks for reliever Matt Reynolds this winter, Wheeler can play first base, third base and the outfield. With the Rockies having a good deal of moving parts -- and the stadium playing to power-hitters once again -- Wheeler could make enough of an impact to slide in as a corner option for deep NL-only teams. And if he somehow supplants Nelson at third, he's immediately worthy of mixed league consideration.

Roto gem ... Tyler Colvin, outfielder/first baseman

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Jorge De La Rosa LHP
2. Jhoulys Chacin RHP
3. Drew Pomeranz LHP
4. Juan Nicasio RHP
5. Jeff Francis LHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Rafael Betancourt RHP
2. Tyler Chatwood RHP
3. Rob Scahill RHP
4. Chris Volstad RHP
5. Rex Brothers LHP

The popular sentiment is that Todd Helton will start the season as Colorado's first baseman. Helton will be 40 this season and is coming off August hip surgery. He last saw 500 at-bats in 2009 and hasn't hit 20 home runs since 2005. He's hit .260 or below twice in the last three years. This isn't to knock Helton -- he's a 16-year veteran who carries a career .320 average. It's merely meant to point out that the Rockies have a 27-year-old power-hitting option who could easily supplant Helton and push him to bench duty. Colvin has hit 18 or more home runs twice in the last three years, despite never having more than 420 at-bats. He set a career high with a .290 batting average last year, while also setting career highs in doubles (27), triples (10), RBI (72), steals (seven) and OPS (.858). He can play outfield and first base (he's eligible at both for 2013). Helton has been with Colorado for a long time, but he may be better suited for a part-time role as he comes back from surgery. Colvin has a powerful bat and has the ability to hit for a nice average, as well. He will get playing time and should be given mixed league consideration this season, where his offensive stats make him a nice Roto option.

Prospects Report

No Colorado prospect discussion would be complete without the mention of Nolan Arenado, the third baseman who took a bit of a step back in 2012 (.285 with 12 home runs in more than 500 at-bats) after looking like he could be ready to beak out following strong 2011 (20 home runs and a .298 average) and 2010 (.308 with 12 home runs) campaigns. However, Arenado had his third straight season of 30 or more doubles and he remains a tantalizing prospect who should be grabbed late in keeper leagues. ... Trevor Story was ranked as the top organizational prospect by Baseball Prospectus, but is still at least a year or two away from making an impact. ... Pitcher Chad Bettis had been on the rise before a shoulder injury shut him down last April. He'll resume his promising career in the low levels and could find his way to the majors by 2014… The team's first-round pick in 2012, David Dahl hit .379 with 22 doubles and a 1.048 OPS in rookie ball last year. Just 18, Dahl could have an impact in 2015. ... Like Ryan Wheeler, Tim Wheeler has a power bat (he hit 33 home runs in 2011 at Tulsa), but was slowed by a broken hand in 2012 and saw his numbers dip. While Tim has more speed than Ryan, he's blocked by a full outfield. If the Rockies decide to trade, say, Michael Cuddyer late in the season, there's a chance Wheeler could be elevated for late-season at-bats.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @nandocbs . You can also send us an e- mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Mariners planning on batting Smith, Ruggiano in second spot in lineup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he is tentatively planning to bat the right-field tandem of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano second in the lineup, per The New Tribune.

The Mariners ranked last in the majors last season in on-base percentage (.260) from their No. 2 hitters. No other team was lower than .279.

Smith had a .367 OBP last season for San Diego, while Ruggiano had a .337 OBP in 81 games for the Cubs.


Rays' Jake McGee plays catch for first time since elbow surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) The Rays announced Monday reliever Jake McGee played catch for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery in December. McGee is still expected to miss the start of the season.

Cardinals' Carpenter hoping to build off postseason power surge
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:17 am ET) Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter hit just eight home runs with a .375 slugging percentage during the 2014 regular season, but had a much better power swing in the postseason, belting four home runs and slugging .722 in nine games.

“I took a more of an aggressive approach in the postseason,” Carpenter said, per STLBaseballWeekly.com. “Part of that was from the experience that I had gathered the year before. After a long season, going into the playoffs I felt like I wasn’t as prepared as I felt like I could’ve been. It kind of snowballed and my approach and the way I took the regular season at-bat in the postseason it wasn’t playing out well.”

Carpenter said his postseason success could have a positive impact on his power numbers in 2015.

"Certainly, I’m always going to be a guy who’s patient at the plate, but that was a good learning experience for me -- being aggressive," he said. "I don’t remember the exact numbers but out of the four home runs I hit, I think three of them were on the first pitch. That’s something typically I don’t do a lot of, and it was a good learning experience.”


Tigers' Dombrowski expecting 'real big season' for Justin Verlander
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander said last week this is the best he's felt physically approaching the start of spring training in at least three years.

Apparently, the optimism doesn't end with Verlander. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated the Tigers are expecting big things from Verlander in 2015 after he posted a 4.54 ERA in 2014, failing to make the All-Star team for the first time in six seasons.

"Justin Verlander is as prime a pitcher as there is in the game of baseball," Dombrowski said, per the Detroit Free Press. "Last year, he was not the traditional Justin. But when you look at what he came back from with the surgery, I think he's going to go out and have a real big season for us."


Sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox's Mike Napoli to retire
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) Dealing with sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli to retire prematurely from baseball, reports the Boston Globe.

"I couldn't do it anymore, feeling the way I was feeling," Napoli said. "I was like, 'I need to have the surgery or I'm not going play anymore.' That's how bad it was."

During the offseason, Napoli underwent facial reconstruction surgery to correct the condition, which was preventing him from getting a proper night of rest.

"It was a brutal process," Napoli said. "It was probably one of the worse things I've ever done."

With the surgery a success and Napoli recovered from losing weight due to a six-week liquid diet, Napoli is now sleeping better than he ever has.

Before the surgery, Napoli turned to medication, mouthpieces and a CPAP mask, but said those problems are now behind him.

"I wake up now and I'm ready to start my day," he said. "It's great."


Angels' Jered Weaver bulks up in effort to pitch deeper into games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver has bulked up to 224 pounds, which is six pounds heavier than he has ever been, in an effort to pitch deeper into games in 2015, per the Los Angeles Times. Weaver dropped to as low as 199 pounds during the 2014 season.

“Numbers-wise, it was all right,” Weaver said of his 2014 season (18-9, 3.59 ERA). “But from a personal standpoint, me being ultra-competitive, I want to get deeper in games.

“The bullpen helped me a lot last year. I just want to gain some strength. I went on a different weight-lifting program last year, and it’s been paying off. I’m going to stick with it.”

The average velocity of Weaver’s fastball dipped to a career-low 86.3 mph last season. However, he said the added weight gain is more for endurance than velocity on his fastball. He averaged just over six innings per start last season and has just one complete game over the last two seasons after throwing seven complete games in 2011-12.

“I don’t care about velocity -- I just want to be stronger for the whole nine innings,” Weaver said. “If velocity comes along, so be it. I think I’ve shown I can pitch from 83 to 93 mph.”


Mariners' Austin Jackson looking to bounce back in 2015
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) After being acquired by the Mariners at the trade deadline last season, outfielder Austin Jackson struggled to produce for the Mariners. In 54 games, Jackson hit .229 and Jackson said the trade affected his playing ability, reports The News Tribune.

"Not making excuses, but I think getting traded and trying to get used to the travel and the sleep - those things affect your play on the field," Jackson said.

By starting the season in Seattle, Jackson said he hopes to avoid the distractions from last season and he's looking to return to his old form.

"Hopefully, getting started here and staying here, those distractions won't be there," Jackson said.


White Sox OF Avisail Garcia dropped weight during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia dropped roughly 15 pounds during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

"I've been eating healthy, working real hard at the gym, Garcia said. "I have to be ready for spring training. I can't go there and be fat." With the weight loss, Garcia is hoping to keep his power potential. "I don't want to lose speed, I don't want to lose power," Garcia said. "I want to be in the middle. I know I can do a little bit of everything, so that's why I've been working really hard on speed, power, hitting and defense, so I can help my team win."

Garcia hit .244/.305/.413 over 172 at-bats last year.


Athletics' Billy Butler would welcome return to Royals
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(12:35 am ET) Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler said he would love to return to the Royals later in his career, according to the Kansas City Star.

After spending the first eight seasons of his career in Kansas City, Butler signed a three-year deal with Oakland during the offseason. Though he left the Royals, Butler said there is no hard feelings. "It’s disappointing, but you understand that the game’s a business and I didn’t leave on bad terms," Butler said. "I’d be more than happy to come back. That’s home for me. I’ll always be forever tied to the Royals organization and the community there."

The 28-year-old hit .271/.323/.379 over 549 at-bats last year.


Indians to consider multiyear extension for Corey Kluber
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(1/25/2015) The Indians will consider a multiyear extension for pitcher Corey Kluber, according to MLB.com.

General manager Mark Shapiro didn't indicate that the two sides were close to a deal, but said Kluber has all the aspects the team looks for when considering a long-term deal. "Corey represents all of the things we look for in players: dependable, reliable person, committed to his work ethic, talented." Shapiro added, "it's something we'll probably look at over the next couple of months. He has all the precursors that we would look for to enter into a multiyear agreement."

The 28-year-old Kluber is set to make the league-minimum next season, and won't be available for arbitration until 2016. He's under team control through 2018, so there's no hurry for either side to agree to a new deal. 

Kluber posted a 2.44 ERA over 235 2/3 innings last year.


 
 
 
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