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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Colorado Rockies

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The Rockies fell into a familiar pattern in 2013, scoring plenty of runs, but not enough to win even as many as 75 games. With a lineup featuring Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, a resurgent Michael Cuddyer and young backstop Wilin Rosario, they ranked second in runs scored in the National League. The failures of the pitching staff yet again played a prominent role in the team's last-place finish.

With their home games played in the thin air of Denver, the Rockies may never be able to rectify their pitching woes. In past years, the Rockies have tried to take the edge off the impact of their home park's altitude by relying on ground ball pitchers (remember Mike Hampton?), and they are taking that route again this season. In a swap of southpaws, the team dealt Drew Pomeranz to the Athletics for veteran Brett Anderson, who owns a career 55 percent ground ball rate (per FanGraphs.com). Just maybe the deal can help to stabilize a pitching corps that already includes solid middle-of-the-rotation types Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa as well as 24-year-old sinkerballer Tyler Chatwood, but Anderson will first have to stay healthy. Given that he has pitched only 275 1/3 innings over his last four seasons combined, that will be no small feat for Anderson.

2014 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 back of the rotation could be entrusted to a familiar face like Juan Nicasio or Christian Friedrich, though offseason acquisitions Franklin Morales and Jordan Lyles could be in the mix as well. The Rockies also signed LaTroy Hawkins, who finished last season as the Mets' closer and appears primed to take over the same role.

The lineup will have a slightly different look as well, as first baseman Todd Helton retired and outfielder Dexter Fowler was shipped to the Astros. Justin Morneau signed as a free agent to take over for Helton, but even with the move to Coors Field, the former Pirate and Twin is no more than a late-round option. The Rockies are planning on looking to internal options to fill the void left by Fowler. Gonzalez will most likely move from left to center field, and Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon, who served as reserve outfielders last season, will vie to be regulars in left field. Dickerson in particular has some late-round appeal in Rotisserie leagues, as he could hit for power and average.

Even in the face of persistent injury issues, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez remain viable as early-round picks, and despite the lack of draftable pitchers, the Rockies offer a variety of standard mixed league options beyond their two superstars. Aside from DJ Lemahieu, who could beat out Josh Rutledge for second base job, everyone in the Rockies' lineup is a worthwhile use of a pick in a standard mixed Roto league.

Bust ... Michael Cuddyer, outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Corey Dickerson LF
2. DJ Lemahieu 2B
3. Carlos Gonzalez CF
4. Troy Tulowitzki SS
5. Michael Cuddyer RF
6. Justin Morneau 1B
7. Wilin Rosario C
8. Nolan Arenado 3B
Bench Josh Rutledge 2B
Bench Drew Stubbs OF

Cuddyer gained some notoriety by winning the National League batting title last year, and to his credit, he was a tougher out than usual in part due to hiking his line drive rate up to 23 percent from his career mark of 18 percent (per Baseball-Reference.com). However, Cuddyer didn't improve as a contact or power hitter, and he also benefitted from hitting .330 on grounders. Even if he sustains an elevated line drive rate -- which is not a good assumption to make in the first place -- he probably won't hit that well on ground balls again. Some may look to Cuddyer as a top 30 outfielder based on last year's results, but he will need some good breaks again just to crack the top 40.

Buyer beware ... Nolan Arenado, third base

Arenado acquitted himself pretty well for a 22-year-old rookie last season, but he showed that he still has a long way to go to approach the power and contact ratios he put up in some of his minor league stops. Not unexpectedly, Arenado's numbers at Coors Field were far more promising than those from his road games, as both his power (.115 Isolated Power, similar to that of Alberto Callaspo) and plate discipline (0.20 BB/K ratio) were subpar away from Colorado. Arenado is still young enough to deliver on the promise of home run power and crazy-low strikeout rates that he raised as a prospect, but until he can produce on the road, he may not even pay off as a late- or reserve-round flier.

Closer-in-waiting ... Rex Brothers, relief pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Jorge De La Rosa LHP
2. Jhoulys Chacin RHP
3. Brett Anderson LHP
4. Tyler Chatwood RHP
5. Juan Nicasio RHP
ALT Christian Friedrich LHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. LaTroy Hawkins RHP
2. Rex Brothers LHP
3. Matt Belisle RHP
4. Boone Logan LHP
5. Wilton Lopez RHP

After having served as the Rockies' primary closer during last season's second half, it seemed like a slam dunk that Brothers would keep the ninth-inning role for the 2014 campaign. The Rockies left Fantasy owners stunned and confused when they brought Hawkins aboard this offseason to become their closer. While Hawkins is coming off a solid but aberrant season (his 1.15 WHIP was his lowest in nine years), Brothers did little to merit a demotion to a setup role. Having converted 19 of 21 save chances while posting a 1.74 ERA, it seems unfair that the Doobie Brothers and Dr. Joyce Brothers are now slated to get as many save opportunities as Rex. When the likely regression sets in for Hawkins, Brothers will be there to bring a closer-worthy skill set to his former job. The lefty may walk a few too many batters, but should more than make up for it with his strikeouts and ERA. Though he's a man without a closer's job for now, Brothers is worth drafting as a third reliever in standard mixed leagues.

Prospects Report

Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler are generally considered to be the Rockies' top prospects, and the righties could both find a place in Colorado's rotation as soon as midseason this year. Both are worth a late-rounder in NL-only leagues and are must-owns in dynasty leagues. ... Kyle Parker could join Gray and Butler in Denver this season, and the one-time Clemson quarterback could put up nice power numbers at Coors Field. He, too, can be targeted as an NL-only late-round flier. ... As is true for many young Rockies pitchers, Chad Bettis had a rough welcome to the big leagues last season, but he could make the opening day roster either in the rotation or bullpen. He's a late-round pick at best in NL-only leagues, but he could be productive if he rediscovers his command. ... Trevor Story has more to worry about than being blocked at shortstop by Troy Tulowitzki, as he had a difficult season in Advanced Class A. Now he has fellow 21-year-old Rosell Herrera on his heels, too. Both are still worthy dynasty league options. ... Catcher Tom Murphy and outfielders Raimel Tapia and David Dahl, the latter of whom missed most of last season with a torn hamstring, are also among the Rockies who should be drafted in dynasty formats.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Rangers' Alexander Claudio hoping to earn a role
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:27 am ET) Rangers pitcher Alexander Claudio is hoping to be the team's lefty in the bullpen, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Claudio is one of three lefties in camp competing for the job. He performed well in his first taste of spring training, retiring two lefties during his inning of work. He allowed one hit, and struck out two batters. While Claudio's fastball barely registers on the radar gun, manager Jeff Banister still came away impressed.

"I like the secondary stuff," Banister said. "He's accepted the type of pitcher he is and is willing to be that guy. He’s really intriguing with the kind of deception he brings."

Claudio posted a 2.92 ERA over 12 1/3 innings last season.


Dodgers' Erik Bedard willing to go to Triple-A
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Erik Bedard is willing to go to Triple-A if he doesn't break camp with the major-league club, according to MLB.com.

Bedard allowed one run over two innings in his first taste of spring action on Wednesday. The veteran said he knows that if the Dodgers five starters are healthy, he'll be sent to the minors. "I know where I stand," Bedard said. "The game is still fun. I like to play baseball."

Bedard posted a 4.76 ERA over 75 2/3 innings last season. 


Dodgers' Alex Guerrero willing to play third base
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers infielder Alex Guerrero has been willing to learn third this spring, according to MLB.com.

Guerrero is in a bit of a unique position. With Howie Kendrick entrenched at second, Guerrero doesn't really have a spot in the team's infield. Due to his contract, however, the team can't just send him to the minors. Guerrero can block the move, and has already said he plans to do so if the team tries to send him down. If he can play third well, that may not be a problem.

For what it's worth, manager Don Mattingly believes Guerrero has looked better this spring. "I really do think the second year [in camp] he looks a lot different as far as being relaxed," Mattingly said. "He's swinging the bat well and he keeps improving."

The 28-year-old hit .333/.371/.621 over three minor-league levels last season. 


Twins' Byron Buxton doubles twice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton doubled twice on Wednesday against the University of Minnesota.

Buxton came into last season ranked as one of the best prospects in the minors. He had injury issues, which ended his season early. While Buxton is still considered the Twins top prospect, he was passed by other players in the overall prospect rankings due to the injuries. 

Buxton seemed to be 100 percent on Wednesday, doubling twice during the contest. He scored one run and drove in one RBI. The 21-year-old should open the season in the minors, but could debut as early as this season depending on his performance. 


Twins' Jose Berrios strikes out four on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Twins starter Jose Berrios struck out four during his first spring appearance on Wednesday.

Berrios took on the University of Minnesota, and turned in a good showing. While Berrios is a minor-leaguer, he's only 20, and was taking on players his age. Berrios allowed one hit and one unearned run over two innings of work. He struck out four batters.

Berrios is the team's third-best prospect according to Baseball America. He's expected to begin the year in the minors, but could move quickly based on how well he performs. 


Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley makes debut Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Braden Shipley pitched two innings in his spring training debut Wednesday, allowing just one baserunner and recording one strikeout. Shipley admitted he was a bit worried in his first appearance, reports AZCentral.com.

"I was a little nervous going in, but that was expected," Shipley said. "I think it was more excitement for me. That was really fun."

Manager Chip Hale said he expects Shipley to make starts in his next few appearances this spring.


Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson faces batters for first time this spring
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson was able to face live batters for the first time this spring since recovering from back surgery, the 27-year-old tweeted Wednesday.

Anderson was only able to pitch 43 1/3 innings in 2014 with a 1-3 record and 2.91 ERA after suffering the back injury that cut his season short. 


White Sox SS Tim Anderson looking to become long-term solution
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) White Sox prospect Tim Anderson is on a mission in spring training this year. He wants to prove that he belongs in the majors with the big boys.

"Just show them I can stay at short and my defense has come a long way and it's going to get better," Anderson said. "I want to be a shortstop for a long time. I'm going to be a shortstop. I'm going to work hard to stay there."

Anderson is currently considered Chicago's No. 2 prospect and could be just the prospect the White Sox are looking for. In his 2015 debut, Anderson smacked a two-run single.

"I'm just staying calm and trying not to do too much and just doing what I've been doing to be here," Anderson said. "It has been exciting to get in here and work with all the big leaguers and get my reps in and see how they go in the daily routine."


Reds' Kevin Gregg hoping to win a spot in the bullpen
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Reds pitcher Kevin Gregg is hoping to win a spot in the team's bullpen, according to MLB.com.

Gregg may be 36-years-old, but understands he still needs to prove himself.  "I don't mind coming in and earning a spot," he said. "I'm coming off elbow surgery. At this point in my career, it's something I need to do."

Gregg had bone chips removed from his elbow in August, but was able to hit 92 mph in a showcase in February. He believes his velocity has improved since then.

Manager Bryan Price had good things to say about Gregg thus far. "He looks great. He looks durable," Price said. "He's got hand speed. He's crisp with his location. I've been extremely impressed with Kevin to this point."

The 36-year-old tossed just nine innings in the majors last year.


Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds sidelined with oblique injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/4/2015) Diamondbacks pitcher Matt Reynolds was scheduled to throw batting practice Wednesday, but was unable to do so while dealing with a sore right oblique, reports MLB.com.

"I'm like, 'I'm in here again, I can't get out of this darn room,'" Reynolds said.

Reynolds missed all of 2014 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he isn't having any issues with the elbow.

"My elbow feels real good," he said. "It feels strong."


 
 
 
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