by Jason Martinez
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COLORADO ROCKIES 2012-13 OFFSEASON PREVIEW
While the Rockies offense, when healthy, has the potential to be one of the best in the National League, their pitching staff goes into the offseason as probably one of the worst. The effects of Coors Field appeared to be lessened somewhat by the humidor that was being used to store baseballs over the past several years but that wasn't the case in 2012. Or maybe it was just really bad pitching that made it seem like the mid-90's all over again.
An injury-plagued lineup combined with a young and ineffective starting rotation has the Rockies on their way to the worst finish in franchise history. They've twice finished with a .414 winning percentage in their 20 year history. They are currently sitting at .390. Major changes could take place in the offseason. In fact, I wouldn't even rule out a trade involving one of their superstars, Carlos Gonzalez or Troy Tulowitzki. This is a team with some position player depth in the middle infield and the outfield so they should be somewhat covered if they were to make a blockbuster deal involving CarGo or Tulo.
STARTING LINEUP ANALYSIS
The potential of the offense has much to do with Gonzalez and Tulowitzki being at full health, but the talented young players surrounding them is what could make them great. Center fielder Dexter Fowler, still only 26 years old, has a .300 BA, 13 HR, 18 2B, 11 3B, 12 SB, and 68 BB despite being hampered by multiple injuries throughout the season. Young catcher Wilin Rosario is closing in on 30 HR despite splitting time with Ramon Hernandez for much of the season. He has some holes in his overall game but he's only 23 and should continue to improve. Josh Rutledge, who projects as the starting second baseman in 2013 after filling in for Tulowitzki at shortstop, is wearing down late in the season after making the jump from Double-A in mid-July but should provide more than enough offense for either middle infield spot.
Chris Nelson (.925 OPS in September) has likely done enough over the past few weeks to ensure he starts the 2013 season at the hot corner, allowing top prospect Nolan Arenado some more time to develop in Triple-A. With Michael Cuddyer and Todd Helton returning, Tyler Colvin gives the team someone who will allow those two to rest sufficiently while filling in at first base or right field 4-5 days per week. Jordan Pacheco should also get a few starts per week playing at different spots around the diamond.
It will be interesting to see what the team does with Eric Young, Jr., a speedy outfielder who appeared to be coming into his own before an oblique injury ended his season. If a team around the league has an opening in the outfield, the switch-hitting Young could be an ideal leadoff candidate He has a career .388 OBP in the minors but hadn't been given an extended look with the Rockies until enough guys were injured earlier this season. From July 31st through August 18th, the 27 year-old hit .439 with 3 HR, 5 2B, and 3 SB as the starting right fielder. It is a small sample size, but given the lack of good leadoff hitters around the league, the Rockies could get a nice return if they traded EY, Jr.
STARTING PITCHING ANALYSIS
After holding out hope that Jorge De La Rosa would return from Tommy John surgery in May, it wasn't until September 20th that he made it back to the big league rotation after multiple setbacks. Having the veteran left-hander, who is a near lock to exercise his $11M player option in 2013, back to lead the rotation from the start of 2013 should help. A healthy Jhoulys Chacin, who has been much better since returning from a DL stint for shoulder inflammation, and Juan Nicasio, who has been out since early June with a knee injury, will also be a huge boost to a rotation that has struggled mightily for most of the season.
How they fill out the rotation is a big question. Drew Pomeranz is easily the most talented young pitcher on the roster but he's been bad -- both at both Coors Field and on the road. Edwar Cabrera, Tyler Chatwood, Christian Friedrich, and Alex White will also be in the mix but there's a chance they bring in at least one veteran via free agency and could also acquire more pitching through trade(s).
There's not much help on the way from down on the farm anytime soon. Their top pitching prospect, Chad Bettis, missed the entire season with a shoulder injury, and will likely start the 2013 season in Double-A or Triple-A if he's healthy. Some feel Bettis is a better long-term fit, however, as a late-inning reliever.
RELIEF PITCHING ANALYSIS
I wouldn't expect much turnover with the bullpen. You have to figure that, with several other problems to address, the Rockies are happy to return closer Rafael Betancourt, setup men Matt Belisle and Rex Brothers, lefty specialist Matt Reynolds, and a few other relievers from the current roster in 2013. Adam Ottavino and Josh Roenicke have struggled recently but have been solid overall. Edgmer Escalona and Guillermo Moscoso have been good over the past few weeks.
Moving White to the bullpen permanently is an option if they want another potential 7th inning guy. Before being taken out of the rotation to accommodate De La Rosa, he had been solid in his last 10 starts and he does have a ceiling of a good #3 starter. But a move to the 'pen could help solidify the late innings if the Rockies can go into the season healthy and with enough starting pitching depth behind De La Rosa, Chacin, and company. Rob Scahill, a minor league starter who has 5.2 scoreless innings in relief this month while averaging 94 MPH on his fastball, could be another dark horse candidate.
I will point out the obvious once again. The Rockies really need starting pitching help. They loaded up on young starting pitching before this season and while they did have plenty of options, the results have been ugly. Health will once again play a major factor but building rotation depth with veterans who can provide more consistency and stability would be a more likely path this offseason. Keeping their fingers crossed and hoping that Pomeranz, Chatwood, Friedrich, and White can improve will also be part of the offseason agenda.
TOP OFFSEASON PRIORITIES
1 Starting Pitching
2 Starting Pitching
3 Setup Man
2012 HITTING STATS
2012 PITCHING STATS