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The Colorado Rockies had one of the best offenses in the league last year but finished with the second worst record in the league as a result of having the worst pitching staff in the game. By far. Their 4.84 ERA ranks well behind Arizona’s 4.26 for the worst in the National League and this season doesn’t look to be any better.
While their offense remains potent, when healthy, the Rockies failed to improve their staff, adding two starters that don’t inspire much optimism and calling it an offseason. The Rockies are betting on their youngsters to develop but they too pose a lot more questions than answers.
Let’s take a look at what we can expect from this strong offense and woeful pitching staff in 2015.
Batting Average: 2nd
Notable Additions: David Hale, Kyle Kendrick, Daniel Descalso, Nick Hundley, Gus Schlosser, John Axford
Notable Losses: Michael Cuddyer, Josh Rutledge, Franklin Morales, Brett Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, Matt Belisle, Nick Masset
1B: Justin Morneau
Though he’s now 33, Morneau has plenty left in the tank after leading the NL with a .319 BA, the third highest he’s ever posted. He still has enough pop to hit close to 20 home runs while adding 30+ doubles and 75+ RBI. He struck out a career-best 60 times last season, so he’s a considerably different hitter than we saw in Minnesota but clearly still a very dangerous one.
2B: DJ LeMahieu, Daniel Descalso
LeMahieu has a very strong glove at second but lacks a bit at the plate, failing to hit for extra bases or draw a respectable amount of walks. You can do worse offensively at the plate than LeMahieu but he’s obviously here for that stellar glove work.
Like LeMahieu, Descalso isn’t much of a hitter but is here for his glove. He’s not as good as LeMahieu defensively but he can play anywhere in the infield.
3B: Nolan Arenado
After a promising rookie year in 2013, Arenado improved across the board in 2014, batting .287 with a .828 OPS, 18 HR, 61 RBI, 58 R, and 34 2B while striking out just 58 times. He has a great ability to hit the gaps for extra bases, keeps the strikeouts low, can hit 20+ home runs a season, and is already one of the best defensive third basemen in the league. He’s already hit four homers and five doubles while driving in 11 this spring. At just 23 years old, though, we have only scratched the surface of his abilities.
SS: Troy Tulowitzki
Tulowitzki is arguably the best offensive shortstop in the game but has played more than 126 games just once in the last five seasons and has been limited to 264 games over the last three years. Still, when Tulo plays he’s as good as the come. In 91 games last season, he batted .340 with a 1.035 OPS, 21 HR, 52 RBI, and 71 R. He already has three home runs in just 30 at-bats this spring and will be stellar once again, for however many games he’s able to play.
C: Wilin Rosario, Nick Hundley, Michael McKenry
Rosario missed some time with injury last year and saw his home run totals slip to 13 in 106 games after hitting 28 and 21 the previous two seasons. A healthy Rosario is plenty capable of hitting 20+ home runs with 70+ RBI, 25+ doubles, and a respectable batting average, even if he never walks.
Hundley isn’t going to hit for a good average but he does a solid job of hitting the gaps for extra bases. He’s not great behind the plate but he’s not terrible either and better than Rosario.
McKenry looked much better in his return to Colorado last year than his previous three seasons in Pittsburgh, batting .315 with a .910 OPS, eight homers, nine doubles, and 22 RBI. He’s also likely the best defensive catcher of the three.
Carlos Gonzalez is the outfield version of Troy Tulowitzki. He could be a top-10 outfielder but is constantly hurt and has been limited to 180 games over the last two years. He was limited to 70 games last season and struggled more than we’ve ever seen, batting a career-low .238 with 11 HR, 15 doubles, and three steals. A healthy CarGo consistently hits 20+ home runs, ~30 doubles, and drives in 80+ while batting .295+ so if he can stay on the field he should bounce back. We’ll have to wait and see if the steals will return, though.
Corey Dickerson came out of nowhere last season to hit 24 HR, 27 2B, drive in 76 and score 74 while batting a highly impressive .312. That’s right about what he showed he can do in the minors, hitting as many as 32 home runs and 40 doubles and batting a career .322 with a .981 OPS. He’s already got a homer, a triple, and four doubles in 45 at-bats this spring and has all the makings of “the real deal.” At least at the plate, his glove still leaves something to be desired.
Charlie Blackmon’s 2014 season was a coup. While Dickerson showed good potential in the minors, nothing in Blackmon’s background suggested he was capable of putting up 19 homers, 72 RBI, 82 R, 27 2B, and 28 SB while batting .288 in his first full season in the Bigs. He doesn’t have the best defense for a centerfielder but if he can come close to last season’s production once again this could be one of the best hitting outfields in the league. Again.
Drew Stubbs was solid in his first season in Colorado last year, batting a career-high .289 with a career-best .821 OPS, 15 HR, 22 2B, 67 R, and 20 SB in 388 at-bats. He’s very likely to go 15-15 again this season, even in a limited role, but strikes out a ton (he already has 23 strikeouts in 41 at-bats this spring) which means a lot of unproductive outs. Solid glove, though.
Brandon Barnes also strikes out a lot and never walks but he does a good job of hitting for extra bases and is a solid fielder.
Jorge De La Rosa looked solid in 2013 but saw his ERA rise to 4.10 last season despite an improved WHIP. He was hurt by his home run totals, something that has constantly plagued him and just about every other Rockies starter. After allowing 11 home runs in 2013 he gave up 21 last year and, based on his history, he’s much closer to the pitcher he was last season than in 2013. He’s already injured and will open the season on the DL, though he isn’t expected to miss a lot of time.
Jordan Lyles isn’t very good, regardless of his killer numbers this spring. He did see a surprising improvement in his numbers after moving from Houston to Colorado but it’s not hard to improve on the 5.35 ERA he put up in three seasons with the Astros. The 4.33 ERA and 1.37 WHIP he put up last year seem to be about as good as it gets but if the home runs rise back to the numbers we saw in Houston his ERA will quickly return to the 5’s. Sure, he’s only allowed two earned runs in 21 innings this March but after 503 innings in the Bigs that’s all smoke and mirrors.
Kyle Kendrick has been rough the last couple of seasons, putting up a combined 4.65 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over that stretch. He gives up a lot of hits and his home run totals are likely to increase in Coors which means he may regress even further. He’s already allowed 24 baserunners in 15.1 innings this spring and you can’t get away with putting that many men on base in Colorado.
Tyler Matzek is a former top-25 prospect who was iffy in his first taste of the Bigs last season, putting up a 4.05 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. He did a good job of keeping the ball in the park but allowed far too many baserunners and had to work out of too many jams. He’s struggling this spring, allowing six runs and 16 baserunners through eight innings, and has hit three batters. If he starts allowing even just a few more home runs, which is likely in Coors, he’s going to get burned.
David Hale may miss the start of the season with an oblique injury but he’s likely to see his fair share of starts this year. He was promising for Atlanta in six starts and 39 relief appearances last season, posting a 3.30 ERA despite his 1.47 WHIP. The only thing that saved him was the 0.5 HR/9 rate that allowed him to get out of jams despite a copious amount of baserunners. He may not be so lucky in Colorado and has already allowed six earned runs and 15 baserunners in 9.1 innings this spring.
Christian Bergman is fighting for the fifth starter job with Hale and De La Rosa injured but isn’t doing a great job, allowing nine earned runs and 23 baserunners through 14.2 innings. He wasn’t any good in 10 starts last year, allowing 36 runs and nine homers in 54.2 innings while surrendering an insane 12.3 hits per nine. He struggled with the longball in the minors which doesn’t bode well for his future in Coors.
Jon Gray is keeping Bergman in the competition for the fifth starter job thanks to his own struggles. A top-15 prospect entering the season, Gray has surrendered nine earned runs and 17 baserunners in 13.2 innings. He’s never been above Double-A so he’s likely to start the year in the minors but he likely has the most promise of anyone in this staff.
LaTroy Hawkins was great after stepping into the Rockies’ closer job last year, saving 23 of 26 games while posting a solid 3.31 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Despite his advanced age, Hawkins has remained very reliable when healthy and the longtime vet should do fine in the ninth inning job once again.
Adam Ottavino is a good strikeout pitcher who has gotten his control issues in check and should remain highly reliable if he can continue to keep the ball in the park.
Rex Brothers was stellar in 2013 and absolutely brutal in 2014. After posting a 1.74 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 2013, he put up a miserable 5.59 ERA and 1.85 WHIP last year. He’s already allowed seven runs and 11 baserunners in 6.2 innings this spring and it’s certainly hard to expect a turnaround with that kind of start.
John Axford gives up a ton of walks and is often hurt by the longball. Despite five strong scoreless innings this spring, Colorado may be the worst place for Axford to go.
Boone Logan had four solid seasons with the Yankees but absolutely fell apart last year, giving up 19 runs and six homers in just 25 innings. He’s always struggled with the longball and proved last year that pitchers prone to the home run elsewhere should never find themselves in Coors.
Brooks Brown was a terrible reliever in the minors but was surprisingly solid in his first taste of the Bigs last year, putting up a 2.77 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in 26 innings. He’s looking solid in spring training, allowing just two runs across 10.1 innings and may actually be a solid pitcher and possibly in line for the backup closer job despite an underwhelming run in the minors.
Offense: B+ to A-
Starting Pitching: D+ to C-
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