Over the past couple seasons, the Rockies have started to get more of a clue of how of how to run their organization. A couple years ago, they implemented one of the worst pitching staffs in the history of the game and it had nothing to do with personnel. The Rockies switched to a four man rotation giving each starting pitcher a limit of 75-80 pitches. They would then employ a piggy back pitcher who would generally enter the game in the 3rd or 4th inning. While the Rockies may have slowly been getting more talented pitchers, this policy hurt them very much.
This off season, in my opinion, left much to be desired. It was common knowledge that the team intended to trade CF Dexter Fowler. But, to get just Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes in return was not a good trade. They then acquired OF Drew Stubbs from the Indians in exchange for RHP Josh Outman. In essence, the Rockies replaced Fowler with Stubbs. Other moves included adding LHP Brett Anderson from the Athletics in exchange for Drew Pomeranz and reacquiring LHP Franklin Morales from the Red Sox for infielder Jonathan Herrera.
The one part of the Rockies team I feel good about is the bullpen. The team added RHP Latroy Hawkins, coming off a solid season in 2013 for the New York Mets (3-2, 13, 2.92 in 72 games) at age 40. Hawkins will get a chance to close, but LHP Rex Brothers (2-1, 19, 1.74 with 10.2 Ks/9 IP) likely to get a chance to earn his job back. Rafael Betancourt retired, with Hawkins essentially getting his spot. They also added LHP Boone Logan from the Yankees, who went 5-2, 3.23 in 61 games last season. RHP Matt Belisle (5-7, 4.32 in 72 games) has logged a lot of innings over the past couple seasons and so has RHP Wilton Lopez (3-4, 4.06 in 75 games). RHP Adam Ottavino (1-3. 2.61 in 51 games) was solid last season and the team has three relievers in camp on minor league deals that can all play roles if needed: Greg Burke, Nick Masset and Manuel Corpas. I believe in this bullpen because Brothers is going to be solid and Belisle and Lopez will be better than last season as they will not have to pitch 70 games. Brothers will eventually be the closer, with Belisle and Hawkins getting up. Logan will be the LOOGY, with Lopez, Ottavino and likely Masset rounding out what will be a solid pen.
I cannot say the same about the starting pitching, though the top two starters last season, Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De la Rosa, pitched as well as any two starters in the history of the Rockies franchise. Chacin went 14-10, 3.47 in 197 1/3 IP in 31 starts in 2013. De la Rosa was a surprising 16-6, 3.49 in his 30 2013 starts. Anderson was a good acquisition, but after making 30 starts as a 21 year old in 2009, he has made a total of 43 starts over the past 4 seasons. He was 1-4, 6.04 in 16 games, 5 starts for the Athletics last season. It is a hope that his arm is gaining strength after the Tommy John surgery. RHPs Tyler Chatwood (8-5, 3.15 in 20 starts) and Juan Nicasio (9-9, 5.14 in 31 starts) round out the rotation. Perhaps Lyles (7-7, 5.59 in 27 games, 25 starts) can provide some insurance if necessary with top pitching prospect and number two overall pick in the 2013 draft Jonathan Gray on his way. The Rockies rotation can start out by staying healthy and if Anderson and Nicasio can get back to form, they can be pretty solid. However, I think that is a big if.
The Rockies traded Fowler so Carlos Gonzalez can play CF. There is no doubt that he can play the position, but do you want the off injured OF who played in just 110 games last season, playing a position that will wear him out and that requires more strenuous athleticism? I do not agree with the move and while it will not hurt the Rockies defensively, the thought of Gonzalez being out for any length of time has to scare the city of Colorado. SS Troy Tulowitzki has played in 143 games just once over the past four seasons and over 150 games once through 2008. We know what he is capable of when he is out there; he hit .312, 25, 82 in 126 games last season. Michael Cuddyer (.331, 20, 84) was outstanding for the Rockies last season. The team signed Cuddyer's former teammate 1B Justin Morneau (.259, 17, 77), who played over 150 games in a season for the 1st time since 2008. He will be replacing Mr Rockie, Todd Helton, who hit .316 in his 17 year career with 2519 hits and 592 2Bs, of course all Rockies records. 3B Nolan Arrenado (.267, 10, 52) is expected to improve as he is just 22. He did win the Gold Glove Award for NL 3B last season as a rookie. Catcher Wilin Rosario (.292, 21, 79) has tremendous numbers for a catcher, unfortunately the Rockies do not view him as a catcher for long. In the off season, they looked at Brian McCann, Carlos Ruiz and even Travis d'Arnaud with the thoughts of moving Rosario to the OF. It still might happen, though the Rockies do not have a backup catcher on the roster. In fact, the Rockies are toying with the idea of using infielder Jordan Pacheco and OF Matt McBride as part time catchers while Rosario is not playing. Relax, as it seems former Pirates backup Michael McKenry will get the job on a minor league deal. DJ LaMahieu (.280, 2, 26) will start at 2B, but I would not be surprised if Josh Rutledge (.235, 7, 19) fights for playing time. I would line the Rockies up like this: Stubbs LF, Tulowitzki SS, Gonzalez CF, Cuddyer RF, Rosario C, Morneau 1B, Arrenado 3B, LeMahieu 2B. 2-6 will be great if everybody can stay healthy and that is a big if.
The Rockies went 74-88 last season and that was with some very good pitching by Chacin and De la Rosa. They can improve if the pitching gets better and if the players in the lineup stay healthy. I am not banking on it. I see a step back this season, 66-96, last in the NL West. In fact, I think it will get so bad some veteran players like Cuddyer and maybe even Tulo and CarGo could get traded. I expect to see Rosario out from behind the plate, which requires somebody to be out of their respective position. I thought the Vegas over under of 76.5 was a little too high. I am betting low, but there is enough talent on this team that they can throw it in my face.