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.
|A.L. East||N.L. East|
|A.L. Central||N.L. Central|
|A.L. West||N.L. West|
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
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
|1.||Jorge De La Rosa||LHP|
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.
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.