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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
Angel Pagan scheduled for MRI on back
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:41 pm ET) A bulging disk has forced Giants center fielder Angel Pagan to undergo an MRI on Wednesday, per CSNBayArea. He has been out of the lineup in each of the last three games, including Wednesday in Arizona.

David Freese finally on roll for Angels
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(2:37 pm ET) Angels third baseman David Freese has struggled much of the season, but has saved his best stretch for the stretch run.

Freese has raised his average to a season-high .261. He has hit safely in 12 of the last 13 games with 17 hits in 45 at-bats and has slugged three home runs in the last nine games, during which time he has 10 RBI.


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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:29 pm ET) Orioles outfelder Alejandro De Aza has sizzled since arriving from the White Sox and has started every game since Sept. 7.

De Aza has hit safely in 11 of 12 games and is 16 of 49 during that stretch with two home runs and nine RBI. He has fanned just seven times.


Red Sox promote slew of players from Pawtucket
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:51 pm ET) Ballyhooed Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo is far from the only promotion from Triple-A Pawtucket made by the Red Sox on Wednesday. But he is certainly the most significant.

The team has also brought up left-hander Edwin Escobar, right-hander Heath Hembree, third baseman Garin Cecchini, outfielder Bryce Brentz and catcher Ryan Lavarnway.


Hanley Ramirez targeting weekend return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:41 pm ET) Don Mattingly has claimed that Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez is feeling better Wednesday and could rejoin the lineup this weekend against the host Cubs.

Ramirez pinch-hit Tuesday and is not starting Wednesday in Colorado. He has been dealing with an elbow strain.


Michael Morse not ready for return Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:36 pm ET) Giants left fielder Michael Morse is still absent from the lineup Wednesday against the host Diamondbacks.

Morse has been out since Aug. 31 with a strained oblique, but is expected back soon. He will return with a stat line of .280/.338/.477.


Angel Pagan still a no-go Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:33 pm ET) A back ailment continues to sideline Giants center fielder Angel Pagan in Arizona on Wednesday afternoon. He is out of the lineup.

Pagan has been sidelined since Sunday and has been limited to 95 games this season.


Wilmer Flores upping his stock for 2015
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:55 pm ET) Granted, if the Mets make a play for Starlin Castro or some other high-profile shortstop this offseason, all bets are off, but Wilmer Flores' two-homer performance Tuesday against the Marlins was just the latest indication that the 23-year-old is on the verge of turning the corner.

And that's an exciting prospect for Fantasy owners now that he's proven at least competent at the weakest position in the game.

In his last 18 games, he's batting .303 with five home runs and a .984 OPS. He has struck out just twice in 66 at-bats during that stretch. In 43 games since the All-Star break (or since his return from the minors, more accurately), he has struck out just nine times in 140 at-bats.

That was his calling card in the minors, where he never struck out even 80 times in a season and was typically between 60 and 70. The high contact rate often resulted in a .300 batting average -- particularly in the upper levels, when he began to develop the power to hit 15-plus homers and 30-plus doubles.

It's a skill set similar to the one Edgardo Alfonzo brought with him to the majors in the late 90s. If you were playing Fantasy then, you'll probably remember he had a few years when he was a pretty stellar option even at the height of the steroids era. And he wasn't even a shortstop during that time.

Sleeper alert?


Report: Twins contemplating shutting down Glen Perkins
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) The Twins could be considering shutting down closer Glen Perkins for the season, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ron Gardenhire has admitted he's worried about the struggling veteran left-hander.

"Yes, I'm concerned," he said about Perkins' recent drop in velocity. "We're going to talk with him (Wednesday). There's a lot of frustration involved right now. We're going to definitely talk with him and see where we're at and see how he's feeling because he just came off that (neck/shoulder) thing and he's had a couple outings where we think the velocity is down. We just want him to be honest with us and not hurt himself."

Perkins has blown three of his last five save opportunities, including Tuesday night, when he surrendered a three-run homer to Detroit slugger J.D. Martinez in the ninth inning. He has allowed five homers in his last eight appearances and at least one hit in each of his last nine.


Jake Arrieta gives owners something to remember
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:32 pm ET) Just in case you were beginning to have some doubts about Jake Arrieta, noticing that he hasn't been quite as dominant in recent weeks with a 3-4 record, 3.67 ERA and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 12 starts since his breakthrough June, he made sure that line of thinking wouldn't haunt you in the offseason, regardless of how his final two starts go, with his performance Tuesday night.

Not only did he record his first complete game and shutout, but he threw a one-hitter, setting a career high with 13 strikeouts. It was a start even better than any of those he had in June, and he did against the same Reds team that beat him up for six earned runs in four inning back on Aug. 28 -- one of two ugly starts that served to inflate his ERA during that 12-start stretch.

The 28-year-old right-hander has maintained his velocity throughout and, apart from a trio of three-walk games at the beginning of July, hasn't encountered any of his past control issues. And for all his strikeouts, he has one of the lowest home run rates in the majors, making him the best of both worlds as far as quality pitchers -- a groundballer who won't give up a bunch of cheap singles pitching to contact.

In other words, he checks off every box on the list.

The one exception, of course, is durability. Until he goes 200 innings, you have reason to wonder if he can. But once all the established aces go off the board, Arrieta will rank as high as any pitcher in 2015. Top 25 seems like a lock.


 
 
 
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