Colorado Rockies Roster In 2013: State Of The Union

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Friday Jan.25/2013

Todd Helton has to be the greatest Colorado Rockies player of All-Time. In what could very well be his last season of baseball, can he somehow push the team back into the playoffs?

Todd Helton has to be the greatest Colorado Rockies player of All-Time. In what could very well be his last season of baseball, can he somehow push the team back into the playoffs?

Ryan Dana (MLB Reports Intern): 

The Colorado Rockies finished 2012 with a 64-98 record – just escaping the dreaded 100 loss season. This record was bad enough to not only get them last place in the NL West, but also give them the 3rd worst record in the National League, only better than that of the Cubs and Astros. It was the Rockies worst season to date – and the 1st time in team history they failed to have a Winning Percentage of above .400. After having a season like the Rockies did in 2012, one would hope that the only place to go is up.

The franchise was established in 1993 – and have made the playoffs 3 times (’95, ’07, ’09). All of these were Wild Card births, and in ’07 they won the NL Pennant, before being swept by the Red Sox in the World Series.  2007 was a remarkable season though, as they won 21 of their last 22 regular season games just to get in the playoffs. It was one of the great runs in recent memory, maybe even more impressive than the ’02 Athletics 20 game win streak – since this streak propelled them into the playoffs seemingly out of nowhere. To get back to the playoffs in 2013 might be a little far-fetched considering they are in a division with the reigning World Series Champs (Giants), and a team with a seemingly infinite payroll (Dodgers). It isn’t far-fetched to say they will be better than last year, and could be contenders in the near future.

Carlos Gonzalez Highlights – Mature Lyrics so Parental Guidance is Advised:

Jeff Francis is the ALL-Time Franchise Leader for wins with 61.  He is 33-26 with a 4.82 Career ERA at Coors Field.  He is afar from his top 10 NL Cy Young Voting finish in the 2007 year, but he is a capable starter.

Jeff Francis is the ALL-Time Franchise Leader for wins with 61. He is 33-26 – with a 4.82 Career ERA at Coors Field. He is far from his top 10 NL Cy Young Voting finish in the 2007 year, but he is still a capable MLB starter.

The 2012 Colorado Rockies rotation was a mess to say the least. Jeff Francis was the only pitcher to eclipse the 100 IP mark, and that was only by 13 IP. They had 14 pitchers make starts for them, including Jeremy Guthrie who they traded away, and Jonathan Sanchez who they got in the deal. The lengthy career of Jamie Moyer even made a stop in Colorado in 2012. Collectively, the Rockies starters had the worst ERA in the Majors at 5.81. You can argue that pitching half their games in the launching pad that is Coors Field had a significant impact on that, but looking at the Home and Road splits they weren’t terrific on the road either. As a staff, their ERA at Home was 5.97 (Last amongst MLB teams) and on the Road it fell to 4.41 (20th among ML teams).  It is a considerable difference though, so this is a team where some stats may not be as telling as they are for other teams. Looking at Home/Road splits are important while analyzing the Rockies. Below is what the starting rotation might look like for Colorado in 2013.

Rotation:  Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge de la Rosa, Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio, Jeff Francis

Jhoulys  Chacin is the most talented pitcher the Rockies have right now. Will he step up to the challenge of being the teams ace? His lifetime 3.68 ERA is impressive for a guy who plays half his games at Coors Field.

Jhoulys Chacin is the most talented pitcher the Rockies have right now. Will he step up to the challenge of being the teams ace? His lifetime 3.68 ERA is impressive for a guy who plays half his games at Coors Field.

This is just a projection and with a team like the Rockies, there are other names to keep an eye on as they will definitely have pitchers compete in Spring Training, and throughout the year. Tyler Chatwood and Christian Friedrich will likely pitch out of the bullpen, but certainly can start, probably will be in the battle for said position. Jhoulys Chacin has actually had a good amount of success in his young career pitching in a hitter’s paradise. Chacin’s first significant big league Innings Pitched came in 2010 – where he posted a 3.28 ERA in 137.1 IP. In 2011, he posted a 3.62 ERA in 194 IP. While pitching in the National League may have its advantages, Chacin did very well in these two seasons considering his age and where he pitches his home games. In 2012, Chacin took a step back from the progress he was making toward being a true ace, by missing significant time with injury – and by not pitching to the level he had in the 2 years prior. He made only 14 starts and posted a 4.43 ERA, but the mediocre performances may have partially been due to the injured shoulder/pectoral muscle that he had. GM Dan O’Dowd publicly questioned whether Chacin’s winter training was up to par. If that is the case, then hopefully it is rectified this offseason and Chacin can be the leader of the Rockies staff.

Jorge de la Rosa had to get some of the worst news a pitcher can get in May of 2011. He had a torn UCL, which required Tommy John Surgery to repair. De la Rosa pitched fairly well since being traded to Colorado in ’08, decreasing his ERA from 4.92 in ’08 every year until it was at 3.51 at the time of his injury in ’11. De la Rosa made 3 starts after coming back from the surgery in ’12, with little success, but that is much too small of a sample size to get overly concerned with. The injury was really unfortunate as he was progressing into a very good pitcher, but the Rockies hope he can get back to where he left off and continue improve.

The Coors field Effect is still alive and well for Pitchers and Hitters.  19 out of the 20 years, the Rox have led the Major Leagues in Home Batting Average.  Last year, position hitters (1-8) hit for a .315. Batting Average.

The Coors field Effect is still alive and well for Pitchers and Hitters despite the Humidor being implemented a decade ago. 19 out of their 20 years in the MLB, the Rox have led the Major Leagues in Home Batting Average. Last year, position hitters (1-8) hit for a .315. Batting Average.

Drew Pomeranz is a very talented young Lefty, that was an integral part of the trade that sent Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland. Pomeranz started 22 games in his 1st Big League season with the Rockies, and fell just short of 100 IP. That is just over 4.1 Innings Pitched/Game, which will definitely need to be improved in his 2nd season as well as lowering his 4.93 ERA. The Rockies are really counting on him to make strides toward becoming a top 3 starter this year because they really don’t have a lot of guys with top of the rotation stuff.

Juan Nicasio has had a rough start to his Major League career. In 2011 Nicasio got a call-up during the season and pitched well in 13 starts, until he was stuck in the head with a line drive off the bat of Ian Desmond. Then in 2012, Nicasio returned to the mound and made 11 starts with less success than 2011, but then injured his knee fielding a grounder, which required season ending surgery. I don’t know what to expect from Nicasio in 2013, but it would be nice to see what he can do in a full year with good health.

Jeff Francis has been with the Rockies since he was called up in 2004 – and has accrued a career 4.86 ERA in 204 starts. Francis had a lot of success in the ’06 and ’07 seasons, but in all other seasons has been less than stellar. The only time other than ’06 and ’07 that Francis had an ERA below 5 was in his one season (’11), in Kansas City where he had a 4.82 ERA. He spent some time in the Minors during 2012 and at this point in his career; he seems to be nothing more than a 5th starter on a team who lacks a top tier rotation.

The Rockies bullpen was in the bottom half of the league in most statistical categories in 2012, and little leads me to believe that will change in 2013.

The Rockies bullpen was in the bottom half of the league in most statistical categories in 2012, and little leads me to believe that will change in 2013.

The Rockies bullpen was seemingly not the worst in 2012, but it wasn’t that far off either. They had a 4.52 ERA, but to be fair, they also pitched nearly 100 more Innings than any other bullpen in baseball. Their closer Rafael Betancourt will be back and be looking to accrue even more Saves than his 31 from the 2012 campaign. He also had the best ERA (out of all relievers with more than 10 IP on the team) – with an ERA of 2.81 in his 57.2 IP.

Matt Belisle and Rex Brothers were two of the workhorses for the Rockies pen in 2012. Both had sub 4 ERAs and will be returning this year. One of the heavily used relievers for the club that won’t be returning is Josh Roenicke who is now with the Twins. He led the bullpen last year with 88.2 IP – and was 2nd in ERA at 3.25. He will be sorely missed, but in light of the way the rotation is projected, the bullpen might see Tyler Chatwood and Christian Friedrich added, which would be a big boost to the relief options manager Walt Weiss has. The 2013 Rockies bullpen won’t be great, but they might be able to hold some leads down if the starting pitchers can give them some. I expect that, by the numbers, the Rockies bullpen will be pretty similar to last year.

Now as I transition to talking about the Colorado lineup and hitters, I again must mention the fact that stats may be a little inflated from playing in such a hitter’s park. Nevertheless, Colorado scored 758 Runs – and had a .436 Slugging % which were 6th and 4th in the MLB respectively in 2012. They also had a team .274 BA and .330 OBP which would probably be a little less affected by the thin air in Coors Field. The Batting Average was tied for the best in the Majors, and the OBP was good for 6th in the MLB. Their OPS was only behind the Yankees and Rangers, two very good hitting ball clubs. Below is a look at what the 2013 Colorado lineup might look like.

Lineup: (8) Dexter Fowler, (4) Josh Rutledge, (7) Carlos Gonzalez, (6) Troy Tulowitzki, (9) Michael Cuddyer, (3) Todd Helton, (2) Wilin Rosario, (5) Chris Nelson

Part of the strength of the Rockies lineup lies in their Outfield which includes their leadoff hitter (Dexter Fowler), their 3 hole hitter (Carlos Gonzalez), and their #5 hitter (Michael Cuddyer). Dexter Fowler is your prototypical Lead-off hitting, Center Fielder. He is coming off his best season in 2012, which has led to a lot of interest from other teams, and various trade rumors, which seem to be mostly frivolous. Anyway, Fowler had been a pretty consistent .260 hitter for his career, but made the jump all the way up to .300 in the 2012 campaign. He also improved to post career bests in OBP (.389), SLG (.474), HRs (13), RBI (53), and Hits (136). Michael Cuddyer was brought in by the Rockies last offseason and played 101 games with the club in his 1st season with them. Cuddyer had been a pretty consistent producer with the Twins over the years, but saw his production drop in 2012. The Rockies are hoping this isn’t a downward trend due to age as he is now 33. They have Cuddyer under contract for 2 more years, but he has had dips in his numbers like this before and bounced back, so don’t hit the panic button just yet.

Carlos  Gonzalez might not be as good on the road as he is at home, but that's why Colorado is the perfect place for him. I would love to see him put it together on the road too though. If he could do that he would be an instant MVP candidate.

Carlos Gonzalez might not be as good on the road as he is at home, but that’s why Colorado is the perfect place for him. If he could produce on the road like he does at home – he would be an instant MVP candidate.

Carlos Gonzalez, or CarGo, as he has come to be known, was actually the subject of a player profile written about a month ago here on MLB Reports. Definitely take a look at it for yourself, but it examined whether or not CarGo was a true superstar. I’ll try not to ruin the article for you, but it makes a lot of good points that I must bring up while talking about one of the Rockies best players. Gonzalez, had a breakout year in 2010, and put together 2 very good seasons since. However, it is true, CarGo has some ridiculous Home/Road splits proving his stardom is partially the artificial cause of the Coors Field effect (if you want to read about the Coors Field effect in depth, there is a series of 3 articles already on MLB Reports as well). Not to bore you with stats that you have seen if you read the earlier CarGo article, but basically in 2012 he hit 368/.437/.609 at Home, and .234/.301/.405 on the Road. In reality, he plays half his games at home though, so he will put up some good numbers in 2013 almost certainly and be a force in the Rockies lineup. It’s not like he’s the only one whose stats are padded by Coors though, Dexter Fowler experienced a pretty nice boost in 2012 from a little home cooking.

At First Base, the Rockies have one of the All-Time great ballplayers. Todd Helton is a much decorated legend, who has spent his whole career with Colorado since his debut in ’97, and he says he would like to stay with the club for the rest of his career. Helton may not have long left anyways, as he is 39, is on the last year of his contract with the Rockies, and has a degenerative back condition. He said he wanted to play for 3 more seasons in February of 2011, so this would be his last year if he stays true to his words. He is coming off hip surgery which forced him to miss much of 2012, and be less than his usual greatness while in the lineup. It’s crazy though, in 69 games in 2012 he hit only .238, but he still had a .343 OBP. His worst career OBP was in his first season at .337. I bet he is one of Billy Beane’s All-Time favorite players, and if he were to continue past this season and wanted a DH job, I’m sure Beane would hook him up. Helton will contribute positively to the Rockies like he always has, for as many games as his health will allow him in 2013. He’s only 80 hits from 2,500 for his career, hopefully he can stay on the field long enough to get there.

Troy  Tulowitzki is arguably the best Short Stop in baseball right now. It's hard to argue what is more impressive, his offense or defense. What do you think?

Troy Tulowitzki is arguably the best Short Stop in baseball right now. It’s hard to argue what is more impressive, his offense or defense. What do you think?

The Rockies have one of the better Shortstops in the game in Troy Tulowitzki. He has a cannon for an arm, and has been known to flash the leather too, making him a great asset in the middle of the Rockies defense. He’s also not too bad with the lumber. He only played in 47 games due to injury in 2012, but in 2011 he hit .302/.372/.544 with 30 HRs and 105 RBI. He made the ALL-Star team, won a Gold Glove, and a Silver Slugger Award in both 2010 and 2011. There is no reason to believe Tulo won’t be healthy again, so the Rockies should be getting their best player back for a full season in 2013, which will help immensely.

Tulo’s double play partner for 2013 will be Josh Rutledge. The 23 year old Rutledge is entering his 2nd MLB season after playing in 73 games for the Rockies last year. He tore through the Minors in about a year and a half – and hit .274/.306/469 in his debut half season in the Majors filling in for Tulowitski. Rutledge could be on the rise to stardom like Tulo had been. Both made quick work of the Minors and had success right away in the Majors. This middle infield should have Rockies fans more excited than anything else for the 2013 season.

Third Base will be occupied by Chris Nelson, and Jordan Pacheco. Chris Nelson has a career slash line of .284/.327/.427 in 191 Major League games. These are pretty similar to what he did in 649 Minor League games, so it would be a reasonable expectation that he stays around these numbers. He was about .20-.30 points above his career averages in all of those categories in 2012, but as of now I think he is a serviceable Third Baseman, nothing more, nothing less. Pacheco had a slash line of .309/.341/.421 in 132 games in the Majors in 2012. He played just 21 games in the Majors in 2011, but in his 472 Minor League games he had pretty similar stats to that of his 2012 campaign, so he too looks to be what his numbers showed last season. Pacheco is versatile and is a real luxury for the Rockies. Both Nelson and Pacheco will compete for time at 3rd it seems.

Wilin Rosario will be behind the dish in 2013 again for the Rockies. Rosario was impressive at the plate last year hitting .270, with 28 HRs, 71 RBI and 67 Runs. For a Catcher in this day and age, that is a pretty monstrous season with the wood. The Rockies also have veteran Ramon Hernandez to back up the youngster Rosario.

Looking at the Rockies roster, there are clear weaknesses, but it doesn’t look like a group that would finish with the 3rd worst record in the MLB again. This is assuming better health in 2013 than in the past year, but their lineup is young and talented. They do have some talented Starting Pitchers as well, although health is a great concern there, and they do lack the elite starters that top teams generally have. Colorado’s bullpen could use some work, but the teams rebuilding process might be a quick one. I trust in their lineup and defense to be above average for sure, and I think their bullpen is going to be bottom half of the league again which is worrisome, but their playoff hopes are mostly reliant on their Starting Pitchers. I don’t expect a lot from Francis, but if the top 4 guys can stay healthy, and pitch to the potential they have already shown in the big leagues, they will be a solid rotation and push the Rockies back up the standings.

Will Wilin Rosario be able to repeat his  incredible performance of 2012 into 2013? Hitting .270 with 28 HRs and 71 RBI in 117 games is great production from a backstop.

Will Wilin Rosario be able to repeat his incredible performance of 2012 into 2013? Hitting .270 with 28 HRs and 71 RBI in 117 games is great production from a backstop.

(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)

Welcome  to our newest Baseball Intern: Ryan Dana:

Ryan Dana is junior studying physical education with a concentration in coaching at Bridgewater State University. He has been playing baseball since he was 7 and coaching since he was 14. Ryan wants to be a college baseball coach once he graduates.  Ryan is, and always will be, a diehard Boston Red Sox fan. Secondary to baseball, he is a big health and fitness enthusiast.  You can find Ryan on Twitter . .

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Posted on January 25, 2013, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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