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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
Nationals sign Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:57 pm ET) The Nationals have signed outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. to a minor-league deal, the team announced. 

Gwynn will be invited to major-league camp with the deal. The 32-year-old hit .152 over 105 at-bats with the Phillies last season. 


Nationals' Matt Purke hoping to get on a mound soon
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:31 pm ET) Nationals pitcher Matt Purke is hoping to throw off a mound in a few weeks, according to MLB.com.

Purke had Tommy John surgery last May, and has struggled with injuries since being selected in the third round of the 2011 draft. Purke was actually released by the club during the offseason, but came back on a minor-league deal. 

Purke said he was frustrated by the injuries, but understands he has to take it all in stride. "It's just something you have to take in stride, keep moving forward," he explained. "I'm ready to keep progressing the best I can and really get myself out there and pitch and perform. When my number is called, I'll be able to help when I can."

Purke is currently in the middle of a throwing program. He's been able to long toss, and hopes to throw off a mound in a few weeks. The team is still unsure when Purke will be ready for game action.


Twins' Danny Santana learning to play multiple positions
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:16 pm ET) Danny Santana came to the Twins in 2007 playing primarily shortstop. Now, Santana is playing in the outfield and learning how to transition to a new position on the field.

"I didn't know how to play the outfield and I needed a lot of work," he said to MLB.com. "It wasn't hard, because I have the ability to play many positions. But the hard part was being in center field and throwing to the bases. At shortstop, you throw from different angles. In the outfield, you need to be on top to throw."

Santana hit .319 with 40 RBI and 70 runs scored in 405 plate appearances in 2014.

"There's a lot of people here who believed in Danny Santana's future for a long time. We were able to get a glimpse of that last year," manager Paul Molitor said. "I have a lot of confidence in that kid. He's going about his business very professionally. He's really a good listener and applier. Some guys listen well and have trouble taking it out there. He's pretty good at taking information and putting it into play."


Padres' Cameron Maybin to hit leadoff in first spring game
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:07 pm ET) Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin will hit leadoff in the team's first spring game, according to MLB.com.

Manager Bud Black basically confirmed the news, though he wouldn't make it official as he prefers to let the player know before the media. Maybin is the forgotten man in the team's outfield heading into camp. While he's proven he can play center field, the club is expected to go with Matt Kemp, Wil Myers and Justin Upton when the regular season starts. 

Maybin, 27, hit .235/.290/.331 over 251 at-bats last season. 


Giants experimenting with Norichika Aoki in the leadoff spot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:43 pm ET) The Giants are experimenting with using outfielder Norichika Aoki in the leadoff spot, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Aoki will hit leadoff on Tuesday with Angel Pagan sidelined. While Pagan is expected to claim the role once the regular season begins, manager Bruce Bochy said he would consider using Aoki in the leadoff role occasionally. When that happens, Pagan would hit in the third spot in the order. 

Aoki, 33, hit .285/.349/.360 over 491 at-bats last year. 


Twins' Glen Perkins feeling healthy heading into games
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:34 pm ET) Twins reliever Glen Perkins is feeling healthy heading into spring games, according to the Pioneer Press.

Perkins was shut down at the end of last season due to forearm and elbow issues. He hasn't experienced any of those issues this spring. "Really the barometer on how my arm feels is the bite on my slider," Perkins said. "If my slider is loopy, then my arm is probably tired, especially my forearm."

Perkins added that he threw a few sliders during a recent bullpen session, and was happy with how they looked. "I told them it was coming and they swung and missed at a few," he said. "It's got good movement right now. That means obviously I'm fresh, but also I'm strong and healthy."

Perkins is expected to pitch during an exhibition game on Wednesday. He posted a 3.65 ERA over 61 2/3 innings last season. 


Red Sox OFs Betts, Castillo to share time in CF this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:30 pm ET) Red Sox manager John Farrell said Sunday that outfielders Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will get equal playing time in center field this spring, MLB.com reports.

"Like we said at the outset of camp, we'll take all of camp to determine that," said Farrell. "They're going to get equal playing time. But I think it's important they both get comfortable with the combination of the guys on the flank because of communication, the responsibilities for balls in the gap, fly ball communication and those priorities."

While Betts had ample time to make an impression on the team during his rookie season, the Red Sox are still getting to know Castillo and his capabilities.

"With Rusney, I think it's a matter of frequent at-bats, more games played," Farrell said. "Particularly after our season concluded, he went to the [Arizona] Fall League and Puerto Rico, and through repetition, I think he's just gotten better timing and consistent routes in the outfield and he's looked very good here in camp so far."

Castillo went 12 for 36 in his short time with the Red Sox last season.


Report: Red Sox, Phillies haven't made progress on Hamels' deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:16 pm ET) The Red Sox and Phillies have not made progress on a deal for pitcher Cole Hamels, according to the Boston Herald. 

The Red Sox have been mentioned as a contender for Hamels in the past, but the club is hesitant to give up their top prospects for the pitcher. Though Phillies' special assistant to the general manager Charley Kerfeld was spotted at Red Sox facilities on Monday, two sources told the Herald that no progress has been made on a deal. 

The Phillies are said to covet either Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart, but Boston has refused to include either player in a deal.

Hamels, 31, posted a 2.46 ERA over 204 2/3 innings last year.


Cardinals' Carpenter seeks to balance aggressiveness, patience
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:04 pm ET) Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter hopes to combine the aggressiveness he displayed in 2013 with the patience he showed in 2014, MLB.com reports.

"I've had both extremes of it," Carpenter said. "I've had it where I've led the leagues in walks [2014], and I've had where I've led the league in hits [2013]. I'm trying to search for that perfect balance where you're aggressive, but you're still patient.

"In the postseason, I felt that I was more aggressive than I had been at any point in my career, but at the same time, I wasn't flailing at balls. I didn't lose anything. Now, it's finding the perfect balance to where I'm swinging the bat, I'm being aggressive, I'm trying to do damage, but at the same time, I'm a guy who can walk a lot, get on base and set the tone as a leadoff hitter. I think that's part of growing up as a baseball player. You learn and you adapt and you continue to try to figure out who you are as a hitter."

Carpenter homered four times during last year's postseason after hitting just eight home runs during the regular season, with his first two postseason blasts coming on the first pitch of his at-bats. He's looking to capture that approach more often this season.

"I think he's a smart enough guy to do it because he knows what he does really well," hitting coach John Mabry said. "That's what you take pride in -- those guys who put in all the work to get to where they are and then say, 'I'm not happy.' They want to put in the extra work to get to that next step, the next level."

Carpenter is looking to build off a 2014 season in which he hit .272/.375/.375 with eight home runs and 59 RBI in 595 at-bats.


Mariners' Dustin Ackley to get a lot of playing time this spring
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:01 pm ET) Mariners outfielder Dustin Ackley will get a ton of playing time this spring, according to MLB.com.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said he wants Ackley to get off to a strong start, and will give the outfielder a lot of at-bats in March. Ackley seemed happy with the arrangement. "I think that's good," Ackley said. "The more at-bats you get, the better your timing gets and the more comfortable you feel. I think everybody wants to get at-bats and get ready."

Ackley had a tough first half of the season in 2014, but seemed to come on strong late. He stressed that being strong mentally should help in 2015. "I just need to stay consistent and don't start pressing if I don't get a hit for a couple games or don't do this or that," he said. "It's not being result-oriented and just going out there and playing and trusting in my swing and my mental standpoint."

The 27-year-old hit .245/.293/.398 over 502 at-bats last year. He's expected to open the season in a platoon role with Rickie Weeks. 


 
 
 
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