Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The worst winning percentage in franchise
history warranted a managerial change for the Colorado Rockies.
Former major leaguer Walt Weiss gets his shot for a Rockies team that has the
potential to raise a few eyebrows. Health, of course, is always an issue and
nobody understands that more than Rockies two-time All-Star shortstop Troy
Tulowitzki. Tulowitzki was limited to just 47 games last season because of a
nagging groin issue, but enjoyed an injury-free spring training.
Tulowitzki is not the only one Colorado has to keep an eye on in order to
shock the baseball world and notably the NL West. Aging veteran first baseman
Todd Helton could be in the final season of his career, second baseman Josh
Rutledge and catcher Wilin Rosario have question marks as productive leaders
and the rotation is debatable after Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa.
Weiss is not walking into a very intriguing situation with the Rockies. A lot
of work has to be done and he has the players to do it. Tulowitzki, Helton and
Carlos Gonzalez are the big three of the ballclub and will be expected to
carry the load and set an example for the younger crop of players.
"I have to get a club to play hard and play the game right," Weiss said back
in November. "That's all I'm focused on."
Colorado has missed the playoffs in each of the previous three season,
recording just one winning record in that time (2010). The Rockies are pegged
to finish last in a division which is expected to be a two-horse race between
the Los Angeles Dodgers and defending World Series champion San Francisco
Giants. The Arizona Diamondbacks could turn a few heads, but the Rockies and
San Diego Padres are slated to share basement duties in the division.
Below we take a capsule look at the 2013 edition of the Rockies, with a
personnel evaluation and prognosis included therein:
2012 FINISH (64-98) - Fifth Place (NL West)
KEY OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: 1B/3B Ryan Wheeler, IF/OF Reid Brignac, OF Kenneth
Williams, RHP Wilton Lopez
KEY OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: 1B Jason Giambi, 1B Mark Tracy, RHP Josh Roenicke,
RHP Alex White, LHP Jonathan Sanchez
PROJECTED LINEUP: CF Dexter Fowler, 2B Josh Rutledge, LF Carlos Gonzalez, SS
Troy Tulowitzki, 1B Todd Helton, RF Michael Cuddyer, C Wilin Rosario, 3B
PROJECTED ROTATION: RHP Jhoulys Chacin, LHP Jorge De La Rosa, LHP Jeff
Francis, RHP Juan Nicasio, RHP Jon Garland
PROJECTED CLOSER: RHP Rafael Betancourt
MANAGER: Walt Weiss
CAN THE ROCKIES' ROTATION KEEP UP IN THE NL WEST?
Jonathan Sanchez would have helped this rotation, but he left after making
just three starts with the Rockies last year after a trade with Kansas City.
The Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks all possess problems with their rotation,
leaving the Rockies and Padres grabbing for straws.
Jeff Francis led the starters with six wins (6-7) and 113 innings pitched a
season ago in a team-best 24 starts. But Francis isn't the one garnering most
of the attention among the starters. That title belongs to Jorge De La Rosa.
The left-hander was expected to return early on after undergoing Tommy John
surgery, but came back in September, making three starts and going 0-2 with a
9.28 earned run average. De La Rosa worked the kinks out in spring training
and is slated to follow Jhoulys Chacin in the rotation. Chacin, who will start
Opening Day, battled through a shoulder issue to make 14 starts and the righty
went 3-5 with a 4.43 ERA.
Again, health will be the underlying issue for this team. Francis, Juan
Nicasio and newly signed Jon Garland are expected to complete the five-man
rotation. However, there are others who will try to crack the rotation such as
Edwar Cabrera, Tyler Chatwood, Wilton Lopez and Christian Friedrich. Rockies'
starters went a combined 29-68 with a 5.81 ERA and averaged just under five
innings per start. The ERA was the worst in the majors among starters and the
second-worst in club history.
On paper, the Rockies' staff doesn't compare to the likes of Clayton Kershaw,
Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Ian Kennedy and many others in the NL West.
INJURIES ASIDE, DO THE ROCKIES HAVE A DANGEROUS LINEUP?
The Rockies' lineup is a dangerous one when it's clicking on all cylinders.
Helton can still get the job done in the twilight of his career and may hang
up the spikes at season's end. In early February, Helton was arrested for
driving under the influence in the Denver suburb of Thornton, but that won't
hinder his play both at the plate and on the field. Helton, who is 80 hits shy
of 2,500 for his career, played in 69 games in 2012 and batted a career-low
.238 with seven homers and 37 runs batted in.
Tulowitzki and Gonzalez are the studs of the lineup. When at full strength,
Tulowitzki can be one of the best in the business. He had played at least 100
games in five straight seasons until the groin problem and is 30 RBI shy of
500 in his career. Gonzalez can run down balls in the outfield, score runs,
steal bases and hit for both average and power. CarGo busted out on the scene
in 2010 and his numbers have dropped slightly in the past two seasons. Both
Tulowitzki and Gonzalez will be key to Weiss' first season as manager.
Weiss, though, has Dexter Fowler, Michael Cuddyer, Chris Nelson and Rosario
in his lineup. Fowler and Cuddyer are proven commodities in the majors, while
Pacheco and Rosario have exemplified much promise. Don't be surprised if the
Rockies' lineup is one of the league leaders in hitting early on.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A HEAVY NUMBER OF PITCHERS?
It's actually vital since the high altitude in Colorado cause balls to leave
the yard at a rapid pace. So expect to see several hurlers make their way to
the mound before closer Rafael Betancourt settles in for a possible save.
The Rockies didn't do much to bolster both the rotation and bullpen, and are
relying on a mix of veterans and youth. Some hurlers such as Tyler Chatwood,
Christian Friedrich, Wilton Lopez may head to the bullpen or the minor leagues
if they can't crack the top five. Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers, Adam Ottavino,
Josh Outman, Daniel Rosenbaum, Chris Volstad and Rob Scahill could all be a
lock for Colorado's rotation. Volstad also has starting experience.
Weiss was asked about the possibility of carrying extra arms.
"It's possible," Weiss said. "A lot of that will be play-it-by-ear stuff and a
lot of it will depend on what's going on. There is nothing predetermined going
into the season. There may be times when we carry 13 pitchers and times when
we carry 13 position players. It just depends on the circumstances."
X-FACTOR: JHOULYS CHACIN: The Rockies' pitching staff was so poor last season
that a reliever led the team in wins. Rex Brothers had a team-best eight wins
in 75 appearances. That can't happen again if the Rockies plan on surprising a
few teams this season. Chacin was tabbed as Opening Day starter and, along
with Jorge De La Rosa, has plenty to prove for the upcoming campaign. Francis
will start the home opener on April 5. Still trying to work out some
mechanical issues, Chacin, who was bothered by a shoulder issue last season
and started 0-3 with a 7.30 ERA, came on strong at the end with a 3-2 record
and a 2.84 ERA. The right-hander won a career-high 11 games in 2011 and is
hoping to make a strong return two years later.
Unless the Rockies can make a strong September push like in years past, they
will not be expected to do much in 2013. They do have a talented lineup, depth
on the bench and a few strong arms in the rotation. Will that amount to a
winning record? An 80-plus win season could be in the cards in Weiss' first
stint as a major league skipper. However, the Dodgers and Giants will be
shooting for 90-plus wins and that will leave Colorado literally out in the
cold since a wild card scenario is unlikely.
The Sports Network