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2013 Colorado Rockies Preview

 

After a difficult 2012 campaign, the Rockies will hope to get full seasons out of their best players in order to turn things around in 2013.

The Colorado Rockies went 64-98 in 2012 and finished in fifth place in the National League West. Luckily for them, the Houston Astros were even worse, and kept the club out of the cellar for at least one more season. Now with the Astros gone, the Rockies will have to do a lot to keep themselves from finishing last in 2013.

Pitching

The Rockies’ rotation was horrendous last season, winning just 29 games for the club and finishing with an ERA of almost 6.00. Much of that mediocrity can be attributed to the fact that three of the club’s four best pitchers, ace Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio made a combined 28 starts for the club last season due to various injuries and setbacks. All three are expected to be this season and having them back in the fold should help to improve the Rockies’ chance of besting their 64 wins from last season.

Between Chacin and Nicasio, Drew Pomeranz will pitch third in the rotation and after showing signs that he could live up to his hype last season, the ball club will be looking for him to step up and give them something better than his 2-9 overall record from 2012. Pomeranz came to the club a prized prospect from the Cleveland Indians during the 2011 campaign, and it remains to be seen whether or not he will ever turn out to be the pitcher that both ball clubs thought he was going to be. Lefty Jeff Francis will pitch fifth, and of all of the men expected to make up this year’s rotation he pitched in the most games (24), most innings (113) and had the most wins (6) of any of them in 2012.

Bullpen

Rafael Betancourt spent his first season as a closer last year and at 37-years old he did a fine job, racking up 31 saves and making 60 appearances for the club, finishing the season with a 1-4 record and a 2.89 ERA. He will get the nod again this season until Wilton Lopez is ready to take over for him sometime this summer. Lopez was brought in to be the team’s closer of the future and he came at the price of starting pitcher Alex White. If Lopez manages to live up to his expectations, the Rockies got a bargain. Last season with Houston, Lopez put up an impressive 6-3 record and 2.17 ERA in 64 appearances for the worst club in the major leagues. Until he makes the move to closer, he will be used as a set-up man for Betancourt along with Matt Belisle.

Belisle tied for the most appearances by any NL reliever last year pitching in 80 games, going 3-8 with a 3.71 ERA in the process. He has made a lot of appearances over the past three seasons, so fatigue could be an issue, but if he’s on this season, he and Lopez should do a fine job shutting down opposition and bridging the gap to Betancourt in the 9 th. Middle-reliever Rex Brothers made 75 appearances last year and led the club in wins with 8, he will return along with Adam Ottavino and Josh Outman to make up the middle-relief corps for the Rockies this season. Of the three, Brothers is the most consistent and has given the club two good seasons. He will likely lead the way again this year as both Ottavino and Outman struggled at times last season with Outman being the real goat of the bunch going 1-3 with an 8.19 ERA in 27 appearances. Daniel Rosenbaum will be the club’s long reliever after being picked up in the Rule 5 draft from Washington. Rosenbaum started 26 games for the Nationals last season and went 8-10 with a 3.94 ERA and should be a good fit for the Rockies pitching out of the bullpen.

Offense

For the Rockies to succeed, they will need to get full seasons out guys where were plagued with injuries last year. That starts with shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who was limited to just 47 games last year due to a groin injury. Tulowitzkiposted huge numbers for the club in 2011, hitting .302 with 30 homers and 105 RBIs, if he’s healthy all season and can post numbers similar or better to that, he will be one of the big keys to their offense and could be the spark the club needs to turn things around.

Tulowitzki is only one piece of the Rockies’ offense that needs to have a solid season in order to keep the club out of the basement in the NL West. Lead-off man Dexter Fowler will have to repeat his .300 season from 2012, and second baseman Josh Rutledge (.274) and left fielder Carlos Gonzalez (.303, 22 HR) will also need to be productive all year long if the team is going to improve on those 64 wins from last season. Right fielder Michael Cuddyer will hopefully be at 100% this season after being limited to just 358 at-bats in 2012, and he will be paired with first baseman Tood Helton in the number five and six slots in the Rockies’ line-up.

Cuddyer healthy could be a .275 hitter and give the club 22 or 23 homers, and Helton just hopes to make it through the final season of his contract before becoming a free agent this winter. Helton is in the autumn of his career, and he may not be able to best the .238 average he compiled last season, but the team isn’t likely to let him slip away this year as he finishes his 16 th season with the club and could be playing in the last year of what is likely a Hall of Fame worthy career. Catcher Wilin Rosario and third basemen Chris Nelson round out the line-up, and both had good averages last season. Rosario finished fourth overall in NL Rookie of the Year voting and proved that he was ready to take over behind the dish for the club last year, while Nelson will likely continue to be the stop gap at third until top prospect Nolan Arenado is ready to be called up this summer.

Outlook

The Rockies have not made the moves to compete with the likes of San Francisco and Los Angeles in their division, and with Arizona looking more like the club that won the division in 2011 than the club that faltered in 2012 and the Padres also improving, Colorado once again looks like the odd man out in the division. The club needs to build their farm system so they can compete again and do so for more than just a season or two. In order to do that, they are going to have to part with some of the few major-league quality players that they currently have on their roster including Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, who could both be on their way out of town by the trade deadline. The Rockies simply are not ready to be players in the NL West yet and will likely finish similar to 2012, winning 62 to 65 games and finishing in last place in the division.

 

By Robert Gonzalez
MLBcenter.com Staff Writer

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