Season Expectations, Predictions, and Forecasts

584199744.jpg

The Rockies may very well have their best team in quite a while. Filling out a strong lineup is a young rotation that has the most potential perhaps in the Rockies young history. With Jon Gray poised to become an ace, Tyler Anderson finally living up to his draft spot potential, and a number of other pitchers who have number three starter potential, the Rockies have a young staff that could shut some teams down. The weakest spot is once again the bullpen, but even that has (hopefully) improved from last year. With the additions of Mike Dunn and Greg Holland, along with a recovered Adam Ottavino and hopefully improved Jake McGee, the Rockies may have a back end that will keep teams from rallying late.

But all of these are best case scenarios, what will the Rockies actually do over the course of the year and how will they finish?

With a projected record of 82-80, the Rockies will finish short of a playoff spot, but could finish over .500 for the first time since 2010. That alone would be reason for fans to be happy, but the expectations are higher and the potential for a wild card spot are certainly there.

jon-gray-dustin-bradford-getty2

Best Case Scenario: 88-74, finish with a wild card spot

The Rockies will not win 90 games this year and will not win their first division title. The Giants are too good at competing with whatever they have and the Dodgers staff is too good to not finish near first. With the Diamondbacks also hoping to recover from an awful 2016, the Rockies will really have to dominate outside of the division to fight late in the season. This also means keeping the injuries to a minimum and having depth that fills in for those injuries. The starters will have a little more flexibility this year than they have had in the past, but it is still not something you would want to count on if a few starters get injured. And the bullpen is another place that cannot really afford any injuries, especially to guys who will be closing games down. Ideally, David Dahl, Ian Desmond, and Tom Murphy will all come off the DL by May at the latest, and start impacting the lineup immediately. The starters will pitch with a 4.50 ERA at home and a 3.50 ERA on the road, with the bullpen blowing no more than three saves in the first two months, and the starters will pitch into the sixth inning or later for a majority of their games. Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and DJ LeMahieu will continue to hit for their 2016 success, Trevor Story will start where he left off before he was injured, and Tony Wolters will come into his own as an offensive and defensive catcher. But these are all best case scenarios and things like that can only be hoped for, not expected.

9522361-mlb-san-francisco-giants-at-colorado-rockies.jpeg

Actual Expectations: 83-79, Rockies finish 4 games back of Wild Card

This would be a more realistic expectation and even it might be a little generous. More than likely two of the young starters will struggle over the course of the year posting ERAs of 5.00+. The other starters will hover around the mid four’s and the offense will be streaky on the road while not posting enough runs at home to cover for a bullpen’s blown late game. If the Rockies can limit these fallbacks, they may reach the .500 mark, but it will not be easy. Players need to step up with the big names being Jon Gray and one of Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, or Kyle Freeland, Adam Ottavino and Jack McGee, and a depth player, most likely someone like Jordan Patterson. This team will ride on the backs of its young players, and succeed because of the older guys motivating and leading when the going gets rough. This team has veteran leadership in the form of Ian Desmond, Carlos Gonzalez, and Mark Reynolds for the offense, but the rotation will need a lot of self-learning to get by. Chris Rusin is really one of the veterans of the starting rotation and even he does not have much experience.

This year for the Rockies could very well lead to another Rocktober, but if they falter late into the year, the fans will have a lot to be frustrated about, as this is the year the Rockies finally start to fight for a playoff spot. This team is still young and still has a future over the next five years, but the earlier they can compete, the better.

Advertisements

Position Preview: Starting Rotation

jon-gray-dustin-bradford-getty2.jpgSports Illustrated Online

The Rockies have one of the best rotations they have ever had and they also have some depth to go along with that. While a lot of the pitchers in the rotation are young and mostly unproven, they still have high ceilings and the potential to be great is there. With Chris Rusin as the oldest potential starter at age 30, the Rockies have a young staff filled with high upside.

Number 1: Jon Gray

Jon Gray will likely make the opening start of the season and he has earned that right. As a top pick for the Rockies, Gray has fought his way into the rotation and had mixed success. Gray made his major league debut in 2015 and had a pretty rough year. He finished nine starts with a 5.53 ERA. Last year however, Gray showed why he was a top pick as he started to shine through as the Rockies potential ace. Gray threw 168 innings and struck out 185, finishing with an ERA of 4.61. There were certainly some rough starts for Gray over the course of the year, but his 16 strikeout shutout performance was more than enough reason to believe this young guy could lead the rotation to a playoff spot.

Number 2: Tyler Anderson

Tyler Anderson is another of the Rockies top picks, coming in the 2011 draft. Anderson took a long time to get up into the bigs, but he showed some excellent success once there. Anderson pitched in 19 games and had an ERA of 3.54 with an ERA+ of 138. Anderson started to show some fatigue towards the end of the year, but that is likely from pitching in the rigor of a big league club and schedule. Anderson is a finesse pitcher which doesn’t always bode well for a Coors Field pitcher, but if Anderson can do what he did last year the Rockies will have an excellent 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.

Number 3: Tyler Chatwood

Coming off of Tommy John surgery, Chatwood was one of the best road pitchers in the game. His pitching at home was a completely different story though and that will define his season. Chatwood has had good success at Coors in the past, having a 3.50 ERA in 2013, so we know he can pitch at Coors. This year will be a showcase for Chatwood at home and not coming off of Tommy John surgery should be beneficial to the 27 year old righty.

Number 4 & 5: Up for grabs

With Chad Bettis sidelined as he goes through Chemo, the Rockies will have a couple of rotation spots up for grabs. Between German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Jeff Hoffman, Antonio Senzatela, and Chris Rusin, there will be some competition for the spots. The front runners now appear to be Chris Rusin, because of his success with the club and his experience in the big leagues, and either Hoffman or Marquez. Rusin is likely to start with the rotation until he starts to struggle and then he will give way to whichever of Hoffman or Marquez doesn’t make the rotation. It is a good problem to have with too much depth as there are always injuries over the course of the season. This will allow the Rockies to slot in their extra pitchers as need be, and will also allow them to have a sold long relief guy coming from the pen, a spot always needed when at Coors Field.

Position Preview: Catcher

GettyImages-489714960.0.jpgDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Rockies may finally have a couple options at catcher, filling the hole that has seemingly been there for years. They have a tandem of catchers, one a defensive strongman, the other an offensive juggernaut, or so the Rockies hope. Tom Murphy and Tony Wolters will man the majority of time behind the plate and while neither is the for sure starter yet, there will likely be a more clear answer by years end.

Probable Starter: Tony Wolters

Tony Wolters is basically guaranteed the start on opening day. With Tom Murphy starting the year on the DL, Wolters will get the start and have a chance to prove himself as a top level starter. Wolters came to the Rockies last year and exceeded expectations, but only barely. Wolters had a streaky year at the plate, finally proving himself to be of some value later in the year. He was great all year defensively, however and will be a commendable starter for his game calling regardless of his offensive output.

Backup: Dustin Garneau

Garneau will get what is likely his last chance with the big league club filling in as the backup while Murphy is out. He has only played a little over 40 games at the majors, but has been underwhelming both offensively and defensively and with two younger, higher roof catchers on the roster, Garneau will likely have a short year with the major league club. He is not a catcher of the future and he is just another weak spot in the roster when in the lineup.

Player to Watch: Tom Murphy

Starting his year on the DL, Murphy will have to wait a few weeks into the season before seeing playing time. He will rehab in AAA before seeing major league time, but after a few games, he should find his way into the lineup immediately. With him as a right and Wolters as a lefty, Bud Black will get a chance to platoon the two until one proves themselves as the starter. Murphy is a top rated prospect for the Rockies and has potential to be an excellent starter for his offensive prowess alone. Murphy tore up AAA last year and earned himself playing time at the end of the year, but with Hundley and Wolters as the primary catchers, he did not get as much time as he should have. This year will be the first real look at what Murphy can do and there should be a lot of excitement when he comes off the DL.

 

 

 

Position Preview: Outfield

534543174.0.jpegMaddie Meyer/Getty Images

All three outfield positions will get lumped into one post because of the nature of the position for the Rockies. There is really only one questionable position, left field, as to who the starter will be on opening day, but that does not mean there will not be lots of different outfield lineups over the course of the year.

Probable Left Fielder: Gerardo Parra

Parra looks to be the frontrunner for left field as David Dahl will probably start the season on the DL and Raimel Tapia will likely play a role off of the bench because of his lack of big league experience. But Parra should be on a short leash as he was absolutely terrible last year for the Rockies. Parra posted a career low -2.8 WAR and was below average defensively making up for that with only one highlight throw where he nailed a runner at third, more to the credit of Nolan Arenado than Parra. With an abysmal walk rate, a terrible eye at the plate, and no real power or ability to create offense, Parra’s contract is looking like the worst move of Bridich thus far. Parra could redeem himself this year with a really strong year, but without a hot start he will find himself riding the bench as the Rockies have a surplus of left felders, with more promise and potential than an aging Parra.

Probable Center Fielder: Charlie Blackmon

It can be argued that Blackmon was the Rockies most effective offensive player last year. From the leadoff spot, Blackmon put up career highs in a number of categories. He hit 29 home runs, tallied 82 RBI, hit for a .324 average, and had an OPS+ of 130. The year for Blackmon sets up high expectations for the 30-year old outfielder and will leave the Rockies with some difficult decisions at the deadline. The Rockies very well may move Blackmon for a young starter or a couple high end bullpen pieces if they are competing, and they could also trade him for prospects if they are behind at the deadline. As much as the Mile High city loves The Beard, there just isn’t much room for Blackmon in the future. Either David Dahl or Raimel Tapia have potential to replace Blackmon and they are both way younger, giving the Rockies more control for cheaper. Blackmon is arbitration eligible this offseason and can become a free agent in 2019.

Probable Right Fielder: Carlos Gonzalez

Cargo is yet to sign an extension with the Rockies, even though he has expressed interest in one, but is in much the same boat as Blackmon. Cargo is a star player and is always good for 30home runs and 100 RBI from the middle of the lineup. Cargo is a free agent after this season and with the outfield market as it has been, he could easily sign a large contract that the Rockies would be better off not signing. If an extension can be made and Cargo can take over some time at first base, then he may find himself retiring as a Rockie, but that is a pipe dream with the way things have been going. Again, with the Rockies depth at outfield, they are better off either trading Cargo at the deadline to a contender who needs an outfield rental, extending him on a team friendly contract to play first base and maybe some outfield, or letting him walk in the offseason. Cargo is another fan favorite and has established himself as a prolific player when healthy, but his years in Colorado may be winding to an end.

Backups: Dahl, Tapia, Jordan Patterson

The Rockies have a trio of major league ready outfielders, all with different style and abilities. Tapia is a leadoff type slap hitter who will make a lot of contact and not strike out a lot. He can play plus defense and would slot in at center field or left, but probably not right as his arm is not great. Dahl is a potential star player and has three hole power and two hole contact. He could very well win rookie of the year if he remains healthy and could play and of the three outfield positions with effectiveness. Jordan Patterson is likely the utility player of the bunch and may very well see more time at first than the outfield this year. Patterson is an above average hitter and will be able to hold his own in the bigs at first or the outfield. All three of these guys could make the big league club, but it is more likely that Dahl starts on the DL and one of Tapia or Patterson starts with the AAA club.

 

 

 

 

Position Preview: Third Base

1166572_826819-nolan.jpgAssociated Press/Alan Diaz

On the back of more injury news, the Rockies will be relying on their star players ever more. David Dahl has been sidelined with a rib injury, Ian Desmond will start the season on the DL with a fractured hand, and Tom Murphy will be out at least 4-6 weeks with a broken arm. What that means for the Rockies is players like DJ LeMahieu, Charlie Blackmon, and Nolan Arenado will have to drive the offense in the early parts of the season. Luckily, that should not be a problem for the All-Stars.

Starter: Nolan Arenado

Nolan Arenado is coming off another 40 home run season and a season in which he won a gold glove. Expectations are high for Arenado but he has had no problem meeting this expectations. Arenado led the league last year in home runs, RBI, and total bases, for the second season in a row, and ranked fifth in MVP voting. Arenado is a defensive and offensive superstar, one of the leagues best players, and the National League’s best third baseman. There is little doubt over what Arenado can do and this year could see Arenado winning an MVP, pending a successful season from the Rockies as a team.

Arenado is currently playing in the World Baseball Classic for team USA and hit his first homer last game, a three run shot that clinched the USA’s trip to the second round. The classic gives Arenado some good, high-leverage playing time before the season starts.

Backup: Amarista, Adames, Valaika

This is yet another position for Colorado where the starter is locked in and there will be no competition at all. This is also another position, like second base, where a backup will likely see very little playing time. Arenado played 157 games in 2015 and 160 in 2016. Pending some major injury, Arenado will again see playing time in nearly every game leaving little playing time for a backup player at third base.

Player to Watch: Ryan McMahon

Roadblocked by Arenado, McMahon may not ever see time with the big league club. What this means for the Rockies is a sell high type of player in hopes of going in on a big name trade. This is not something that will happen until midseason or next offseason, but it is something the Rockies may be able to do. McMahon is no Moncada or Giolito who will warrant star player type value, but a package deal at some point could yield the Rockies a decent name that improves their team.

Position Preview: Shortstop

25424279605_6870a12e6b_o_74nl5zbq_ckqffud8.jpg    Ross D. Franklin/AP

The Rockies earned some hard news yesterday when it was reported Ian Desmond had fractured his hand after being hit by a pitch. While this is a blow to their depth, the Rockies have some options to fill his void. Desmond may have filled some time at shortstop through the course of the year, but for the time being, that position will be manned by Trevor Story and whatever utility player makes it out of Spring training with the utility role.

Starter: Trevor Story

Story was the surefire starter going into Spring and that has not changed. While he has not had a great average so far, he has shown he still has power after being injured last year swatting four homers thus far. Story will hopefully grow this year at the plate, not so he hits more home runs, but so he strikes out less. Story had 130 Ks in only 97 games last year, but he did hit 27 home runs and still managed to get fourth in the MVP voting despite missing nearly half the season. Story will be the guy to watch early to see if pitchers start to exploit his holes or if he can adjust and turn into a legitimate shortstop of the future for the Rockies.

Much like second base, the backup role will go to either Amarista or Adames. Neither will play a large role this year, but with Desmond out they may see a little bit more playing time as the Rockies have to fill the infield holes will still giving days off to the everyday guys. The Rockies will hope for durability and no fluke injuries to Story otherwise they may find themselves struggling with infield depth. As of right now it should not be something to worry about, but it should be something to keep an eye on, pending an injury to one of the infield starters.

 

Position Preview: Second Base

rockies-spring-training-2016-012-XL.jpgAP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

The fight for second base is not one that is really prevalent as the Rockies go through Spring training. The position is DJ LeMahieu’s and no one will be taking that from him. He won a batting title last year, is the one of the premier second baseman in the league right now, and he is doing it all under the radar. There are a few different choices for backup since DJ will likely not play every game, but for the most part, who will play second is no question.

Probable Starter: DJ LeMahieu

LeMahieu posted career highs in almost all offensive categories last year while playing above average defense as well. LeMahieu is the prototypical 2-hole hitter. He was excellent bat control, he can hit-and-run, he doesn’t strike out a lot, he gets on base a ton, and he can hit with two strikes. The only thing to watch from the tall second baseman will be whether he can sustain his high average this year. LeMahieu hit nearly .350 while winning the batting title so some regression is to be expected, though expecting LeMahieu to hit around .330 should be no lofty goal.

Backup: Alexi Amarista

The Rockies picked up Amarista in the offseason as a new utility man and that is the largest role he will play. Amarista will not play a large role this year and the expectations will be low. It would not be surprising to see Amarista in the minors at some point in the year as the Rockies just do not need him if they get one of their younger guys to play a utility role.

Backup: Cristhian Adames

Adames will be the other player competing for the utility role against Amarista. Neither of these players have high ceilings and neither will play a large role. The only hope is that they can come off the bench once every few days and play solid defense and maybe throw out a hit.

Player to Watch: Brendan Rodgers

Rodgers only made it to A ball last year so a big league appearance would mean some speedy transitions through the minors. However, Rodgers is a top prospect and may be the Rockies second baseman of the future. Between him and Trevor Story, the Rockies have a couple power hitting middle infielders that may be manning the position in the near future. Rodgers will likely start in AA this year so if he tears up the minors, seeing him with the September call-ups is not totally out of the question.