Leading up to the start of the 2009 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the Colorado Rockies. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
Gone are Matt Holliday, Wily Taveras, and Brian Fuentes. The Rockies are depending on new hope that the continued improvement of their young talent, not to mention the infusion of more, will give them room to better themselves over the next few years, helping them avoid the standstill an overreliance on veterans might bring.
Colorado still has two longtime veterans in Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins. Longtime prospect Ian Stewart will spell Helton off the bench and if he shows anything in the way of the power he is supposed to have he might make Helton available come July.
The outfield contains a couple of non-interesting players in Ryan Spilboroughs and Seth Smith. One guy who will be in that outfield is Carlos Gonzalez, the centerpiece in the Matt Holliday deal acquired from the A’s.
The two guys in the lineup to get excited about are Troy Tulowitzki (pictured) and Chris Ianetta. The Rockies organization feels that each are going to be excellent big leaugers. Tulowitzki was on the verge of becoming a superstar when he had an injury derail his 2008 campaign. Clint Barmes should hold off Jeff Baker to be the starting second baseman. Barmes has good power and while getting little to no recognition, might end up being one of those guys who is solid throughout his entire career. He is a darkhorse to put up numbers in that lineup.
The bullpen is a strong point for the Rockies, perhaps even stronger then their hitting which always does a passable job at Coors Field. Manny Corpas will try to hold off Huston Street for the closer’s job. Corpas was unreal two years ago when the Rockies went to the World Series and then took a step back last year, losing the job and getting it back during the season. Taylor Bucholz gives the Rockies perhaps the most underrated setup man in baseball with his 2.17 ERA and 0.95 WHIP.
The starting rotation has a ceiling on it, and will probably always be that way. They only have the chance for a limited amout of success because of their home park. Aaron Cook is the staff ace and was an All-Star selection last season but got hit all over the park in the second half of the season. Jeff Francis might be lost for all of 2009 with a pending shoulder surgery. Jason Marquis brings what he brings, which is a guy who can shut you out on any given day but also give up 9 runs in a ballgame in 2 and 2/3. Ubaldo Jimenez is a 23 year old hopeful with good stuff that should be the #3 or #4 starter. From there look for Jason Hirsh and Franklin Morales to get some starts. Jorge De La Rosa is another guy who will just hang around the AAA level, just good enough to get to the majors and get released shortly thereafter because he’ll be out of options.
You have to like Clint Hurdle. We remember reading an article on Clint Hurdle in Sports Illustrated when he took this team to the World Series. He is the ultimate players’ manager. He is a friend to his players and they undoubtedly love playing for the guy. He was supposed to be a superstar player but partying and late nights made him a bust for the Royals. He’s a candidate for a guy whose life could have a movie made about it, but he’ll need a few more cinderella runs as a manager. We don’t think the Rockies have enough firepower this season to be better then a 3rd place team at best who unloads every valuable veteran they have towards the trade deadline.
Don’t expect the Rockies to finish .500 or do much to shake up the NL West. This year is more about building around their youngsters and guys like Atkins and Helton will be moved for more youngsters that can be there when this team is ready to make another run. The ship has sailed on any large hopes for this group at the present time.