Tuesday, July 8, 2014

San Diego Padres 2014 Team Breakdown

SAN DIEGO PADRES  76-86  (Tied for third in NL West)

Projected Lineup/Batting Order:

SS        Everth Cabrera
CF        Will Venable
3B       Chase Headley
LF        Carlos Quentin
1B       Yonder Alonso
RF        Seth Smith
2B       Jed Gyorko
C          Nick Hundley


Projected Starting Rotation/Key Bullpen Arms:

SP        Andrew Cashner
SP        Ian Kennedy
SP        Eric Stults
SP        Josh Johnson
SP        Tyson Ross
RP       Huston Street
RP       Joaquin Benoit
RP       Dale Thayer

The Padres are a team almost through with their re-build.  As such, they are often overlooked as not being horribly bad and not being good enough to get into the playoffs.  This year some people have them as dark horse candidates to make some noise in the NL West, but we are talking finishing third, not contending for the playoffs.  I think they have talent and it’s all young talent so that bodes well for their future.  But I don’t think they are ready to contend just yet, and I also think this year may be a struggle for the Padres.

Their offense is made up of players who were anonymous a few years ago.  Now they are names people recognize, but don’t think much about.  They may know the names but not the faces.  The leadoff guy is perhaps one of the better-known names, but he’s more infamous than famous.  He was one of the players suspended for 50 games as part of the Biogenesis scandal, one of the many names overlooked due to the others involved like Nelson Cruz or Alex Rodriguez.  But the shortstop served his time and is back to leadoff for the Padres this year.  His main weapon is his speed as he’s got easy 50-steal ability, but he was never on base enough.  But after a hot start to 2013 he hit 283 with 37 SB and a 355 OBP.  That’s what they wanted to see from him and it led to 54 R in 95 games.  Just imagine those totals over a full year.  He’s not a power hitter so he was taking PEDs to stay healthy, something he’s struggled with over his career.  But a full season of him should easily see 50 SBs.  However he is once again injured and Alex Amarista is in his place.  He’s not the same player and injuries continue to derail the career of the talented Evreth Cabrera.  I put right fielder Will Venable in the number 2 hole.  He had the quietest 20/20 season in baseball.  Now this guy isn’t a star with his 268 AVG and 312 OBP last year, but is a quality player.  He’s actually an ideal number 2 man with the speed to get on base and make some noise for the thunder behind him in the lineup, and the power to drive in the leadoff guy when he gets on in front of him.  He’s not going to win you games on his own, but he has a unique skillset that is very helpful in a major league lineup.  And that brings us to Chase Headley.  No one knows what to expect from this guy.  He broke out in 2012, leading the NL in RBI with 115 to go with his 286 AVG, 17 SB and 31 HR.  Then he followed that up with a 250/13/50/59/8 campaign in 141 games.  I think the true Chase Headley lies somewhere between those two guys.  Think 260+ with 18 HR, 70 RBI and 12 SB.  The real question is, do the Padres keep him to be their future team’s cornerstone, or sell him off for the final pieces of their future club?  The answer will tell people a lot about what kind of player San Diego thinks he is.  That’s the top of the order, and it’s pretty formidable as far as MLB lineups go.  You’ve got a guy with great speed and OBP potential leading off, a power/speed player in the two hole and a guy who does a bit of everything well hitting third.  But it drops off after those three.  Carlos Quentin will be in the cleanup hole.  Since his great year with Chicago in 2008, we’ve seen the same thing out of him every year.  A middle of the road average and great power, to go with injury and limited games played.  Last year’s edition was 13 HR in 82 games.  The year before was 16 in 86.  With 100 games we have the potential for 20 HR, 30 with 130+ games.  But that’s a big if.  And that’s all he really delivers now.  Young first baseman Yonder Alonso is next in my lineup.  He hasn’t reached his power potential yet, but hits for higher AVG than most other first basemen.  He hit 281 with 6 HR and 45 RBI in 97 games.  The year before saw 9 HR and 62 RBI.  They like his AVG but want more run production.  He’s still young and entering his power prime, so maybe it happens.  But right now, I’m putting his HR ceiling at 12 and RBI ceiling at 70.  Pair that with another 275 AVG and that’s what the Padres likely get from their first baseman this year.  The got plenty of power from second base, though, with the even younger Jed Gyorko doing the majority of the damage.  He popped 23 dingers to go with his 249 AVG.  You usually expect that from the first baseman, but they’ll take it where they can.  It was his first season in the big leagues, so we don’t know what he’ll do.  But they like his power and need it.  However Petco is a hard place to hit, and year two is always harder than year one on hitters.  I’d expect a slight decrease, perhaps 15 HR this season with another 250 AVG.  In addition, he’s lost time due to injury so that hurts his overall projection.  I originally put speedy Cameron Maybin in the seventh spot.  However he’s lost playing time to the talented Seth Smith.  Smith currently leads the team with a 273 AVG, 9 HR and 26 RBI.  Those numbers aren’t good enough to lead a team in anything, but it is good for a player that was considered a back up.  He’s taken over in the lineup and I put him up hitting 6th.  He’ll stay in the lineup unless he’s traded away.   Grandal will hit 8th.  Grandal was a big part of the Reds organization, but was traded a while ago to San Diego.  He’s missed time due to injury and a PED suspension.  The good news is he was in the first round of Biogenesis suspensions and is past everything.  That’s the offense.  It’s not great, but serviceable.  There is depth with veterans Chris Denorfia and Cameron Maybin on the bench, not to mention Kyle Blanks, a longtime prospect with a huge ceiling that hasn’t yet lived up to his power potential.  However the biggest impediment to offense in San Diego has been and will continue to be Petco Park, the most pitcher friendly haven in the game. 

Defensively the park helps a lot.  But the talent in the field isn’t bad either.  Cameron Maybin and Will Venable are very good in center and right respectively.  However Smith will move to right with his talent knocking Maybin out of the lineup.  So while Smith’s defense is good in right, Venable is a step down in center.  Carlos Quentin is pretty bad, but now that he’s in left it has mitigated his deficiencies some.  Yonder Alonso isn’t a bad defensive first baseman.  The rest of the infield is pretty good with Gyorko, Cabrera and Headly moving across the diamond from second to short to third.  And Nick Hundley’s defense is very strong behind the plate. 

The interesting thing about the Padres is that they have one of the best pitchers parks in baseball.  And they have some good pitchers.  But they aren’t great in that area of the game, despite how much that would help them in their home park.  Their ace has become Andrew Cashner, a former reliever who found great success as a starter the last two years.  His first year, 2012, was a little rocky but last year he was great.  He went 10-9 with a 3.09 ERA.  He’s not a big strikeout guy but turned in 175 IP with a good 1.13 WHIP and 233 BAA.  Now those aren’t exactly ace numbers, especially in a great pitchers park like Petco, but he’s very effective.  Unfortunately he’s been set down with an injury.  There’s no shoulder structural damage, which is good news.  But with the team trailing in the standings by so much, the Padres are doing the smart thing and not rushing him back.  The newest Padre starter is free agent signee, Josh Johnson.  Johnson is a former All Star who has fallen on hard times.  After missing well over half his starts 2 of the last 3 years, Johnson really struggled through 16 bad starts in Toronto last year.  He was 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA.  His WHIP and BAA were atrocious, so there was concern he wouldn’t be able to turn it around.  The good news is that Toronto is not a good place to pitch and he’s out of there.  Also San Diego is a great place to pitch.  So perhaps he can turn it around.  That is the hope.  He’s not the pitcher that he was last year, but he may not be the same pitcher he was when he was an All Star.  The true Josh Johnson lies somewhere in between.  However he’s another player that has been lost to injury and he’ll be gone the rest of the year as he undergoes Tommy John.  That has led the Padres to relying heavily on their other reclamation project, Ian Kennedy.  He went 21-4 in 2011 with a 2.88 ERA for Arizona.  The last three years his ERA climbed to 4.02 after his career year and then all the way to 5.23 last year.  He spent one of those three years in San Diego already with a 4.24 ERA in 10 starts.  Hopefully a return to Petco will help those numbers improve, but with more bad years than good years in his career, the All Star season of 2011 is looking more and more like an outlier.  The rest of the starting rotation is made up to Tyson Ross and Eric Stults.  After being fairly unsuccessful as a spot starter in Oakland, Ross had a good year in San Diego last year.  Both Oakland and San Diego are good places to pitch, so perhaps his growth was due to experience, which would be a good sign.  In 16 starts and 19 relief appearances last year he went 3-8, but turned in a 3.17 ERA and 225 BAA.  He still walks too many guys and tries to strikeout too many guys.  But if he can pitch to contact and let his home park help him out, he’ll be in good shape.  A full season as a starter could see 200 innings and 170 Ks to go with an ERA around 4.  But we can’t know for sure as he’s still fairly inexperienced.  Stutlts is also a former reliever who has been starting more recently.  His career line is longer than Tyson Ross’, but his last two seasons starting have been better than any others in his career.  Last season he made his full 33 starts with an 11-13 record and 3.93 ERA.  The concern is that his WHIP and BAA were a little high, so you worry about regression.  But in San Diego he may be okay.  But the Padres have lost two starters and more will be counted on from Stults and Ross.  They’ve turned to a number of other guys to fill out the rotation including Tim Stauffer and Robbie Erlin, but none has been that great.  The bullpen is one of the strongest parts of this team with Huston Street as an experienced, albeit not great closer and Joaquin Benoit, a career setup man who succeeded as a closer in Detroit last year.  However Street has been awesome this season and Benoit has been solid in his new setup role.  Dale Thayer is a great setup man and the rest of the bullpen is made up of live arms that have some talent.  It’s not the best bullpen in the game, but with three good arms and more with good stuff, the Padres should be okay.

Outlook/Prediction:


The Padres have a lot of young players so their outlook for the future is bright.  But perhaps not as bright as other re-building clubs.  What we know is that this year they will struggle.  They have young offensive players, who aren’t overly talented and play in a park that smothers offense.  They have a young pitching staff that depends on their home park protecting them, but they don’t have the best stuff in the world.  Overall this team has some potential, but isn’t ready yet.  And this will not be their year.  I think they will improve, but 500 is their ceiling.  I’m putting them down for 60 Wins and a last place finish in the NL West. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Los Angeles Dodgers 2014 Team Breakdown

LOS ANGELES DODGERS 92-70 (First NL West…Won Division & NLDS over Atlanta)

Projected Starting Lineup/Batting Order:

2B       Dee Gordon
RF        Yasiel Puig
SS        Hanley Ramirez
1B       Adrian Gonzalez
CF        Andre Ethier
LF        Carl Crawford/Matt Kemp
3B       Juan Uribe
C          A.J. Ellis


Projected Starting Rotation/Key Bullpen Arms:

SP        Clayton Kershaw
SP        Zack Greinke
SP        Hyun-jin Ryu
SP        Dan Haren
SP        Josh Beckett
RP       Kenley Jansen
RP       Brian Wilson
RP       Chris Perez


The Dodgers had the opposite season of the Diamondbacks.  They started very slow with expectations out the wazoo with their high profile team and the highest salary in baseball.  But in June they added Yasiel Puig to the club and Don Mattingly seemed to take over the locker room.  Puig was a spark that got this offense going and the pitching continued to play well.  The Dodgers had an incredible second half, soaring up the standings and winning the division with room to spare.  This year, they hope they have the chemistry from the beginning and plan to be in control from game 1.  We’ll see how it goes.  Really the biggest issue going forward, is how are all these good players going to get into one lineup?  And unfortunately, that seems to be the one thing that is causing some discord in the locker room as this team is not at the top of the division, where they expected to be.

Offensively they are excited to have a full season of Yasiel Puig.  The Cuban defector hit 319 in 104 games last year after starting out hitting around 400 in his first month.  He ended the year with 19 HR and 11 SB.  He got on base at a 391 clip and will likely hit at the top of the lineup.  I think his OBP and AVG will go down considerably in his first full season, but he should still be an exciting player to watch.  25 HR is a real possibility and with that 60-70 RBI.  I don’t know how many more SB he’ll get as he only got 11 and was caught 8 times.  He may have to earn the SB chances going forward.  I’m not as high on him as everyone else is.  He has all the talent in the world, but there hasn’t been a player in recent memory that was this good in his rookie year, and as good or better in his next season.  I’m expecting his AVG to fall below 300, maybe all the way down to 275.  Maybe 20 SB, but that’s his ceiling with his so-so success.  Really, I wouldn’t be surprised if he dropped to around 5th in the order to maximize his power potential.  We’ll see.  I still think he’s a great player with incredible talent and potential.  But I’m expecting his numbers to fall off considerably.  Carl Crawford was set to start the year hitting second with Puig leading off, but the re-emergence of Dee Gordon changed those plans.  Not to mention the injury that Crawford sustained to knock him out of the lineup for a while.  He missed time with injury last year too, but acquitted himself well in 116 games hitting 283 with 15 SB.  Speed is the name of his game, and he’s still got it as he gets older.  He’s not a premier hitter and not a natural leadoff hitter with a career 332 OBP and too many strikeouts.  But he’s got some pop, good speed and experience.  I’m expecting another 270+ season with 10 HR, 20 SB and 70+ R, depending on health.  I put Hanley Ramirez third after his phenomenal half season last year.  In 86 games he hit 345 with 20 HR and 57 RBI.  That’s on par for 40 HR and 110 RBI.  Incredible production from one of the most talented players in the league.  He’s playing short and happy in LA, so I think a full season of him will produce incredible results.  I put Adrian Gonzalez in the cleanup hole.  He’s not the star he once was, but he’s a talented, dependable hitter.  He may not hit 30 HR, but an AVG around 300 with 20-25 HR and 100 RBI seems like a lock.  After that it gets iffy.  Matt Kemp is still around, but missed the beginning of the season with injury.  He came back, but was riding the pine for a while.  When he was hurt last year, Andre Ethier took over for him in center.  And it looks like Ethier will stay there.  When Crawford went down, Kemp got a chance to play left, but he’s not happy there.  He’s a former Gold Glove winning center fielder, but recent metrics show his defense isn’t great.  When he plays, he won’t be in the top third of the order.  I expect him to hit 5th or 6th.   But I have no idea how he will perform.  Last year he played in 73 games hitting 273.  But he had only 6 HR and 9 SB.  Far off the 50/50 pace he was shooting for after the 2011 season.  He’s got a ton of talent, but his speed and power may not return after all his injuries.  He’s truly a wildcard now.  Andre Ethier will be the other part of the 5/6 tandem in the order.  He’s got the ability to hit 260+ with around 15 HR, depending on how much he plays.  With Crawford hurt, he’s playing a lot.  And with Kemp’s struggles, he may stay in the lineup when Crawford comes back.  Beyond those two the Dodgers have re-signed Juan Uribe to play third.  In 132 games last year he hit 278 with 12 HR and 50 RBI.  He’s a better hitter than people realize, though the AVG will likely come down.  Expect 15 HR from him and some RBI production.  He’s hurt now, so the Dodgers are using a lot of Justin Turner.  I put A.J. Ellis 7th.  Ellis is a 250 hitter with 10 HR power.  Which is fine for a catcher.  The Dodgers signed Alexander Guerrero to play second in the future.  Guerrero is another Cuban defector who is a great hitter.  He’s a natural shortstop and his defense at second isn’t great right now.  They were worried they’d need him in the majors, but Dee Gordon has re-emerged and enabled Guerrero to say in the minors, adjusting to professional ball and his new position.  Gordon has been a huge surprise this season, playing great ball and locking up the leadoff spot.  He’s come back down to earth some as the season has marched on, but he’s still hitting 274 and getting on at a 321 clip.  And he’s swiped 36 bags.  That’s the offense.  Very loaded, but with some question marks due to health.  However they also have plenty of options with Crawford and Guerrero waiting in the wings. 

The defense looks okay.  Adrian Gonzalez is a former Gold Glover at first and there are 2 shortstops in the middle infield, which bodes well.  Uribe isn’t great defensively at third, but Hanley Ramirez is better than advertised with his defense at short.  In the outfield, Carl Crawford is great in left, just lacks a powerful arm.  Kemp is a good defensive center fielder, but not great.  Puig has great speed and a rocket, but makes a lot of mistakes in right.  Ethier is dependable in center, but also not great.  However he’s very good in right.  So while the defense overall isn’t exquisite, it will get the job done.  And with these pitchers and this offense, the Dodgers should be fine.

Their pitching is in good shape with the best pitcher in baseball atop their rotation.  Clayton Kershaw won another Cy Young last year after going 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA and 232 Ks in 236 IP.  His ERA and K numbers were the best in the league.  And with numbers like that, you expect more than the 16 Wins.  I think he’ll get more this year, though pitching wins are a bit of a wildcard.  But expect another season of 200+ IP and Ks with good health (which he hasn’t had all year), not to mention a sub 3 ERA.  And that should be good for 15+ Wins.  Zack Greinke is the number 2 starter for the Dodgers, and he’s good enough to be an ace on any team.  He went 15-4 last season with a 2.63 ERA.  And he did all that in only 28 starts.  He is an absolute ace with a 234 BAA and 1.11 WHIP to go with 148 Ks in 177 IP.  His K totals have dropped in recent years and he wasn’t completely healthy last year.  But he should still be a lock for a 200 IP, 170+ K and sub-3 ERA campaign with around 15 Wins again, assuming good health.  So they have two legitimate aces at the top of the rotation, and lots of quality arms behind them.  Hyun-jin Ryu was phenomenal in his first season out of Korea.  He went 14-8 with an ERA right at 3 for the NL West Champs last year.  He logged 192 IP with a WHIP that was below the league AVG and a BAA right around the average at 252.  He puts some runners on, but did a good job stranding those runs.  He may struggle a bit more this year as hitters learn more about him, but he looks like a quality starter, good for a sub 4 ERA and another 200 IP campaign.  And that’s his floor with his ceiling considerably higher.  The Dodgers signed Dan Haren to come in and be their fourth starter.  The veteran struggled with the Nationals last year, going 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA.  All his numbers were up from his career norms, but his WHIP was still around league average.  If he can give up fewer long balls (and a move to Chavez Ravine will help that) and just give the Dodgers some competitive innings, he should be in for double digit wins and probably an ERA closer to 4.  I don’t think he’s going to earn 200 Ks anymore, but he’s a wily veteran with great success.  He knows how to pitch.  The 5 spot belongs to Josh Beckett but as a 5th starter, the expectations for him are considerably reduced.  He missed the early part of the season but came back pitching great and has already gotten himself a no-hitter this year.  Eventually the Dodgers will get Chad Billingsley back from Tommy John surgery.  Who knows what he’ll produce, but to have 2 strong starting options for the last spot of your rotation is a great luxury.  In addition, veteran Paul Maholm can spot start and be the long man out of the bullpen.  And that bullpen is stacked.  It features Kenley Jansen, who was in the top 5 of reliever strikeouts last year and looks to be a future star closer.  He turned in a 1.88 ERA last year with a 177 BAA.  Many consider him to be the second best closer in baseball, behind only Craig Kimbrel.  To set up, they have a former All Star closer in former Giant Brian Wilson, who is working on pairing a knuckleball with his heat.  Chris Perez was an All Star closer in Cleveland, signed to be middle reliever with LA.  Brandon League was a good closer in Seattle 2 years ago.  He started as the closer last year, but lost the job due to ineffectiveness.  He’s still around.  That’s 3 former closers supporting the current closer and other quality arms including Maholm and J.P. Howell.  As with all other areas of the club, the bullpen is loaded with lots of options. 


Outlook/Prediction:


The Dodgers are the best team on paper in their division.  They won the division last year and have to be considered the frontrunners this year.  Their future isn’t as bright, as they made a lot of trades to win now.  But they seem to have a good chance to do that, so it was probably a worthwhile trade.  They have 2 studs in the rotation and great depth beyond them.  Their offense is among the best in baseball.  And their bullpen is possibly the deepest in the game.  While other teams in this division are good, I see no reason to pick against the team that is absolutely the best.  I know they’ve come out of the gate slowly this year and they are having locker room issues.  But they went through this last year and got it under control.  I think they will again this year, and as the most talented team on paper I have a lot of trouble picking against them.  I have the Dodgers winning the division and making some serious noise in the playoffs. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Colorado Rockies 2014 Team Breakdown

COLORADO ROCKIES  74-88 (Last in NL West)

Projected Starting Lineup/Batting Order:

CF        Charlie Blackmon
RF        Michael Cuddyer
LF        Carlos Gonzalez
SS        Troy Tulowitzki
1B       Justin Morneau
C          Wilin Rosario
3B       Nolan Arenado
2B       D.J. LeMahieu

Projected Starting Rotation/Key Bullpen Arms:

SP        Jorge De Las Rosa
SP        Jhoulys Chacin
SP        Brett Anderson
SP        Tyler Chatwood
SP        Juan Nicasio
RP       LaTroy Hawkins
RP       Rex Brothers
RP       Boone Logan

The Rockies were a better team last year than in 2012, but still finished last in the NL West.  Walt Weiss proved to be a good manager in his first season doing the job professionally, and earned a 2-year extension.  He did help the team add 10 wins to their season, and they started 13-4 out of the gate.  But they struggled after that, losing their two best players (Tulowitzki and Gonzalez) to injury (again) and seeing their bullpen and the back end of their rotation flounder.  They hope to be healthy this year and have addressed the rotation and back end of the bullpen.  Their only obvious weak spot is the lack of a leadoff hitter going into this season.  They were going to platoon, but a clear winner distinguished himself in one of the biggest surprises of the season.  More on that later.  I think they will again be better, but I don’t know how much headway they can make in this tough division.

Let’s start with the offense.  It is built around Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki.  Gonzalez has only reached 145 games in a season once and Tulo only twice.  They HAVE to stay healthy, but that seems to be a serious issue.  But when healthy, they are one of the most dynamic 3,4 duos in the game, rivaling David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez with the Red Sox in the early 2000s.  When healthy, these guys are elite.  Gonzalez played in 110 games last year hitting 302 with 26 HR, 70 RBI, 72 R and 21 SB.  He’s a five tool player, and staying in left field this season will help keep him healthy and focused (in my opinion).  Tulowitzki was also phenomenal in his limited playing time.  In 126 games, he hit 312 with 25 HR, 82 RBI and 72 R.  He’s also a fantastic defensive shortstop.  The only thing he doesn’t do anymore is steal bases.  Those two are the cornerstones of this franchise.  But between them they missed 88 games, which is over half a season.  With health, those two can be MVP candidates and drive this offense.  Hitting ahead of them in the 2 hole is last year’s batting champ, Michael Cuddyer.  Cuddyer was always a good hitter, but moving to Colorado and staying healthy for a full year did him a world of good.  He hit 331 with 20 HR, 84 RBI, 74 R and 10 SB.  As a career 277 hitter I doubt he’ll win another batting title, but he’s got a good chance to hit 300 again with all that room to drop hits in the Coors outfield and the power to slug another 20 HR.  The question was, who leads off in front of those 3 stars?  It was originally set to be a battle between Corey Dickerson, Drew Stubbs and Charlie Blackmon.  Stubbs looked to get the first chance to take it with his 40/40 potential. But that comes with an AVG around 230 (233 last year) and about 200 Ks.   I expected him to platoon and rarely lead off.  He still has an outside shot to be a 20/20 man, but only with 100+ games, which he may not get now.  Before the season started, Dickerson was believed to be the best hitter, but worst defensive player in center.  Barnes could play the position defensively, but hasn’t hit in his time.  Blackmon was the forgotten man.  The one who hit better than Barnes and played better defense than Dickerson.  But then he broke out in a big way.  He’s currently hitting 321 with 9 HR and 9 SB.  Not to mention 35 R.  He’s having the surprise breakout of the year.  As a potential All Star, it’s safe to say the leadoff job is now his.  He plays mainly center, but has the ability to move all over the field, and actually still isn’t the best defensive centerfielder the Rockies have (that’s probably Stubbs).  When it looked like Stubbs would play a lot, I thought second baseman D.J. LaMahieu would lead off.  Despite hitting 280, his 311 OBP isn’t what you want from the leadoff position.  With someone else seizing the job, he will drop to the bottom of the lineup, where his OBP isn’t a liability and the speed he brings to the table is a bonus.  If Blackmon burns out or there is an injury, he’s still a solid leadoff option, though he’ll have to play better than he has thus far.  With Blackmon leading off, you have the 3 All Stars.  Behind the 3 All Stars you have free agent signee Justin Morneau hitting 5th and playing first.  He’s not the MVP he used to be, but was finally healthy last year playing in 150+ games.  He hit 259 with 17 HR and 77 RBI between Pittsburgh and Minnesota last year.  I’m thinking 270 with 20 HR and 80 RBI in Colorado, which is great.  Catcher Wilin Rosario will hit 6th for the most part, though he may move up a spot and switch with Morneau against tough lefties.  Rosario has great power with 21 HR in 121 games to go with a 292 AVG.  Expect another season of 280+ with 20+ HR and 70+ RBI.  After those two RBI guys, Then Gold Glover Nolan Arenado will hit 7th and play third.  His bat wasn’t as good as his glove, but he still hit 267 with 10 HR in Coors last year.  This year he’s hit over 300 to start off with 6 HR and 28 RBI.  He just broke a finger, so he’ll miss time.  But he’s another potential All Star from the beginning of this season.  The bench will feature Jordan Pacheco as the back up catcher, Josh Rutledge to back up the middle infielders and then Barnes, Stubbs or Dickerson.  There is some depth, but this team is top heavy.  And they rise and fall with their stars.

Defensively the team is in good shape in some areas, but not others.  The infield features Gold Glovers at third and short in Tulo and Arenado.  Those are the two toughest positions so that’s good.  LeMahieu is fine at second and Morneau is serviceable at first.  Rosario is bad behind the plate, but Pacheco is okay.  And, to be fair, Rosario is improving and will be a catcher for the long haul.  Backup infielder Josh Rutledge is good with the glove at second, and serviceable at short and third.  Carlos Gonzalez is great in left, but then it falls off a bit.  Stubbs is phenomenal in center, but looks to get the short end of the platoon.  Barnes is okay, but can’t hit, so he won’t play much.  Corey Blackmon has been great this year, but isn’t the best defender.  And Michael Cuddyer is good in right, but getting up there in age.  Keeping the ball on the ground will be very important for the Rockies staff. 

Jorge de la Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin will lead that staff.  Both had pretty solid years in Colorado last year.   De la Rosa was 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA and Chacin was 14-10 with a 3.47.  Neither ERA jumps off the page, but in Coors Field that’s fantastic.  However I would worry about some regression as de la Rosa’s WHIP and BAA were not great and Chacin’s were also pretty average.  Neither one strikes a lot of guys out.  So while they did a good job stranding runners last year, who knows if they can have that much success again.  The one thing we know is that both will put runners on, and pitching in Colorado, that’s never a good thing.  I’m thinking both have ERAs over 3.50, perhaps closer to 4 and Win totals around 12.  And while 200 IP is possible, it’s certainly not a lock.  Beyond them, the questions start.  Brett Anderson was added from Oakland as a free agent.  He’s got ace stuff, but has had serious injury issues over his career.  He hasn’t made 20 starts since 2009.  The last two years were both single digit start totals.  And the 5 he made last year weren’t good.  They think injuries attributed to the bad numbers in the small sample size from 2013.  But he has to stay healthy.  And that’s far from assured.  Two youngsters make up the back end of the rotation this year in Tyler Chatwood and Juan Nicasio.  Chatwood won the job of the number 4 starter after going 8-5 with a 3.15 last year for Colorado in 20 starts.  However his numbers are due for serious regression as his WHIP (1.43) and BAA (278) were straight up bad.  There’s no way he can continue to strand runners at that rate.  So I am pretty concerned about him coming into this year.  And that leaves Juan Nicasio as their 5th srtarter.  He was pretty bad last year with a 5.14 ERA in 31 starts.   He was strong this spring, so maybe he’s turning things around a bit.  But we all know spring numbers aren’t the best barometer for what a guy will do once the season starts.  And pitching in Coors is one of the toughest places to pitch in baseball.  It’s a vast expanse where the ball carries better than anywhere else in the game, and these guys don’t miss a lot of bats.  So far, it’s been tough for the Rockies.  Anderson made 3 starts before going down with an injury and Chatwood only made 4.  The real loss was Jhoulys Chacin, who also only made 5 starts so far.  So there have been heavy doses of Franklin Morales and Jordan Lyles.  Lyles has been solid, but Morales has struggled mightily.  Luckily, Nicasio has been good and de la Rosa has been even better to power the Rockies to their hot start.  The bullpen added LaTroy Hawkins to close and Boone Logan as a lefty specialist.  They join Rex Brothers, who is a great setup man and Matt Belisle, another good arm.  Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle have also had strong seasons to this point.  But the rest of the bullpen has been as suspect as people thought.

Outlook/Prediction:


I have to admit that I saw neither the outlook nor the prediction for this season as being bright for this season.  What we knew was that the Rockies had a great offense and a terrible pitching staff.  I recognized that there were some strong arms at the top of the rotation with potential beyond them.  But with Anderson’s injury history and the potential for regression from their aces, I thought they would struggle.  And while Anderson and Chacin went down with injury, Franklin Morales and Jordan Lyles stepped right in.  Lyles has been great.  So has de la Rosa.  And Nicasio is pitching much better than a number 5 starter.  The middle of the bullpen isn’t great, but a few arms have emerged to help them out.  And the back end of the bullpen looks pretty good.  And we knew this offense could really slug it.  I saw this team as one dimensional, in a division where the Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks looked better on paper.  But they played great to start out.  However they did falter and fall to third place.  That’s where they sit, at 28-24 at the time of this writing.  I think they will continue to slide down the standings as I don’t trust the health of their hitters or the ability of their pitchers.  I think I’ll put them down for about 75 Wins and a 4th place finish.