COLORADO ROCKIES: (92-70, SECOND PLACE, N.L. WEST [Wild Card] in 2009)
Our team preview series continues with the Colorado Rockies, a team profiled in the Total WAR Project a few weeks back. Stocked with young talent and an improving pitching staff, some see the Rockies as the favorite in the West, rather than second fiddle to the Dodgers. In 2009, the Rox finished three games behind L.A., but five games up in the Wild Card race, firmly entrenching themselves among the upper echelon of N.L. teams last season.
Troy Tulowitzki proved his 2008 was a fluke and re-established his position among the game’s elite shortstops, both offensively and defensively. Rookie Dexter Fowler and sophomore Carlos Gonzalez look to round out a young core that the Rockies may be able to contend with for years to come. It will certainly help the Rockies in the playoffs, knowing that the Phillies simply will not be able to retire Gonzalez if the Phils and Rox have a grudge match.
The less heralded portion of the roster is a solid, if unspectacular, pitching staff. Three returning starters – Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Hammel and Jorge de la Rosa – were each worth 3.7 wins or better, and relievers Huston Street and Rafael Betancourt enjoyed great successes of their own.
Colorado’s biggest question lies in its pitching staff’s depth. Jimenez looks to be a stud, but can Hammel and de la Rosa replicate their ’09 production? Can Manny Corpas, Jeff Francis, Taylor Buchholz and Franklin Morales provide enough quality innings and recover lost production?
Folk hero and star first baseman Todd Helton is aging and won’t be able to stave off decline forever. Can he and the rest of the offense rally around the trio of Tulo, Fowler and CarGo to provide a pennant-worthy offense?
Right now, this team is primed to be the team of the future in the West and, perhaps, the N.L. For this year, though, questions remain, too many questions to think that this team can be considered a pennant favorite. Make no mistake, though, plenty of players are primed for breakout, and the Rockies could pull off an upset and unseat the Dodgers to claim the West crown. They will be plenty good still this year, division title or not, and will likely make a return to the postseason.
Keep an eye on Seth Smith, Colorado’s version of our Ben Francisco. A solid bench bat and fourth outfielder that could start for many MLB teams.