After a season ravaged by injuries and one of the worst pitching staffs in recent memory, not to mention an experimentation with a four-man rotation, can the Rockies do anything to turn around their fortunes in 2013?
Rockies on TOC
End of Season Postmortem
Hope for the Hopeless
2013 Season Preview
You May Say I'm a Dreamer (12:00 PM)
2013 Burning Question (1:30 PM)
This Is My Nightmare (3:00 PM)
2013 X-Factor (4:30 PM)
Depth Chart (As of 3/18)
C: Wilin Rosario
1B: Todd Helton
2B: Josh Rutledge
SS: Troy Tulowitzki
3B: Chris Nelson
LF: Carlos Gonzalez
CF: Dexter Fowler
RF: Michael Cuddyer
SP: Jorge de la Rosa
SP: Jhoulys Chacin
SP: Drew Pomeranz
SP: Chris Volstad
SP: Jeff Francis
CL: Rafael Betancourt
It wasn't exactly a banner off-season for the Rockies. Their biggest acquisition was reliever Wilton Lopez, but he was only acquired in a sloppy seconds deal after health concerns scuttled a deal to send Lopez to Philadelphia. After that, Colorado mostly just picked up retreads and reclamation projects like Chris Volstad, Miguel Batista, Bobby Cassevah, Reid Brignac and Yorvit Torrealba. Half of those guys probably won't even make the team and Volstad is likely the only one of the group with any chance of playing a major role. They also brought in a new manager, Walt Weiss, a hire they were so confident in that they only gave Weiss a one-year contract.
The Rox didn't suffer many roster losses either. Jonathan Sanchez took his gas can to Pittsburgh and Jason Giambi signed in Cleveland. While Giambi only made 89 plate appearances for the Rockies in 2012, but he was a presence they valued so much in the clubhouse that he was actually a finalist to take the vacant manager's job.
In their constant search for something resembling starting pitching, there is no doubt that the Rockies will run a few rookies through the ringer at some point this season. None of the potential names are really worth talking about. The rookie that should be garnering all the attention is third baseman Nolan Arenado. He was in Double-A last season and didn't exactly post monster numbers, but he is one of the best prospects in Colorado's system and is really starting to force the issue this spring as he has been tearing the cover off the ball. Even if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster, which he very well might, the Rockies won't be able to hold him down for long.
As alluded to above, the third base job is up for grabs. Arenado could very well steal it, but if he doesn't, Chris Nelson should see the bulk of playing time there with Jordan Pacheco also in the mix. The rotation is fairly wide open. Jorge de la Rose are guaranteed spots, but after that it gets much hazier. Drew Pomeranz is a promising young arm that they very much want to have in the rotation, so he'd have to really pitch himself out of a job this spring. After that it will be a free-for-all amongst Chris Volstad, Jeff Francis, Juan Nicasio, Christian Friedrich and Tyler Chatwood. It isn't an inspiring group but at least guys like Nicasio, Friedrich and Chatwood offer something in the way of upside.
Injuries have really killed the Rox the last few seasons and this year isn't shaping up to be much differently. Rotation candidates Juan Nicasio and Christian Friedrich are banged up in camp as is Ramon Hernandez who might end up being trade away anyway. Wilton Lopez is healthy for now, but those mystery health concerns that caused his trade to the Phillies to fall through are lingering somewhere. Todd Helton has also been struggling with his surgically repaired knee, which actually might be a good thing since it will hopefully dissuade him from making anymore trips to buy lottery tickets. The more pressing concerns though is that their nominal ace Jorge de la Rose is still rounding into shape after Tommy John surgery and Troy Tulowitzki, of course, is going to have to prove he can stay healthy for a full season after a few injury-plagued years.
Do the Rockies have an actual plan?
With the Rockies bringing back mostly the same roster as last season, it is hard to imagine their fortunes wildly improving. The best they can really hope for is Troy Tulowitzki re-establishing himself as an elite player in the game and some of their young pitching finally coming into their own. Even then, the Rox probably can only hope to finish in the middle of the pack in the top heavy NL West.
It turns out that hiring a guy who has no managerial experience outside of one year of coaching his son's high school team may not be such a good idea. Weiss quickly loses the clubhouse and butts heads with Colorado's meddlesome front office. The result is the front office sticking their nose into the day-to-day to goings on of the team, instituting more well-intentioned but hastily conceived experiments like last year's half-baked flirtation with a four-man rotation. The players ultimately revolt after being jerked with so much for the scond straight year resulting in both Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki demanding trades as the team struggles to win 60 games.
The Rockies are able to revive their offense a bit with a much healthier season from Troy Tulowitzki and get a little insight into their as some of their young pitching shows promise while others reveal that they just aren't ever going to be able to hack it in Coors Field. Still, with their obvious problems in the rotation hold them back from doing anything other than competing with the Padres for fourth place in the NL West which they might be able to do given their underrated bullpen.