The World Champs Face Off Against the Offseason Champs in the NL West [FanIQ NL West Preview]
CF Dexter Fowler
2B Josh Rutledge
LF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
RF Michael Cuddyer
1B Todd Helton
C Wilin Rosario
3B Chris Nelson
RHP Jhoulys Chacin
LHP Jorge de la Rosa
RHP Juan Nicasio
LHP Jeff Francis
RHP Jon Garland
Closer: RHP Rafael Betancourt
Key Losses: SP Alex White, 1B Jason Giambi, SP Guillermo Moscoso
While Coors Field will likely always be a hitter’s park, over the years it has calmed down. Until last year, that is, when the park effects spiked back towards the Silly Ball era. That didn’t help a pitching staff that was already overwhelmed, but it showed in the offensive stats. The Rockies were third in the NL in scoring, but the splits showed a different story:
Home: .306/.367/.500, 100 HR, 133 OPS+
Road: .241/.291/.371, 66 HR, 87 OPS+
First thing that will help though is a healthy Troy Tulowitzki. A groin injury ruined his 2012, and the Rockies must have him for 150+ games to anchor the lineup. Unfortunately, that’s not often the case. Gonzalez and Fowler are just hitting their prime at 27 and will be Tulo’s primary backup singers, so to speak. Cuddyer and Rosario are at two very different points in their careers, but both bats profile the same: good power, poor walk rate. Rutledge’s offense contributions were similar to these two, but he did a credible job filling in for Tulo that he moves to second this year, a more natural position. I put the home/road numbers to show that they’re park aided, and it will always be that way, but there’s still plenty of talent here.
Coors Field is tough for pitchers, but no ballpark could’ve made the Rockies’ pitching look good last year. The team’s road ERA as a whole was a still pretty lousy 4.41. The team even experimented with a four man rotation and a 75 pitch limit. One thing that didn’t help was that Chacin, de la Rosa, and Nicasio combined for just 28 starts last year due to injuries. All three could still be something, but all have concerns. de la Rosa had Tommy John surgery in 2011, but 2012 for him was only three terrible starts. He still must prove that he’s not going to be an example of how not everyone rebounds from TJ surgery. Chacin’s fly ball rate went way up in his limited innings last year, a red flag at Coors. Nicasio’s walk rate ticked up significantly last year. The good news is all three can pitch much better when healthy, and they’ll need to pick this rotation off from the mat. Francis was signed midseason and led the team in innings with 113, the lowest total for a team leader since 1891. Garland was signed Sunday. Seriously. If anyone falters in that group, younger guys with various levels of potential left- Tyler Chatwood, Christian Friedrich, and Drew Pomeranz- are there to take the ball.
A full season from Tulowitzki will help, and the pitching almost can’t be worse, but it’s far from the point where the Rockies can get out of the division basement. They still have to find a pitcher, any pitcher, that they can count on.
Projected Record: 65-97
Down on the Farm: 3B Nolan Arenado has been the top prospect for the Rockies, but a so-so year in AA has dropped his stock a bit. He still could end up in Colorado this season and contributing though. The new Rockies prospect that has scouts drooling is OF David Dahl. Dahl went from high school to the Pioneer League last season, which he crushed to the tune of .379/.423/.625. He’s proven to have a more advanced bat than previously thought. Of course, turning 19 on Opening Day, he’s got a while to go.
Those are my picks and predictions for the NL West. What are yours?
Thus concludes are division previews for this season. I hope you’ve enjoyed them, and now we can finally get to some baseball.