Sunday, March 23, 2008

Colorado Rockies baseball preview

by Steve

The question is, was 2007 the aberration or the norm? Other than getting hotter than shit for 25+ games the Rockies were mostly an average team for all of last season. Can Clint Hurdle, Matt Holiday and co. play consistently well and be a force in the NL West and the National League in general? Most signs point to yes. Having a beast like Holiday in the four hole and veteran leadership splashed with youthful exuberance, the Rockies may just prove they weren't a one hit wonder.

Willy Taveras in centerfield is a prototypical lead off man, and if he can duplicate or even come close to his .320 average and .367 OBP, he will become one of the most underrated CFs in the game. I say he will have a down year, we'll see. Another unsung hero is Rox right fielder Matt Hawpe. At 28, Hawpe is still getting better. He is a dangerous 5 spot in the order who can give you 30 hr's and 130 rbi especially in the thin air of Denver. Matt Holiday, needs no insight or explanation, he is a perennial all-star and mvp candidate each year. Colorado's outfield is good if not great and with Ryan Spillborghs as the 4th guy, they are extremely dangerous in any park.

Does Todd Helton age? True his power numbers are down the past few years, 20 home runs or less the past 3 seasons, but he still hits for average, drives in runs, and gets on base as well as anyone in the majors. Maybe 35 is the year he slows down but I doubt it. Troy Tulowitzki at SS is a rising star in this league, and if Ryan Braun didn't set records in 2007 TT would have walked away with the ROY award. Sophomore slumps are always a possibility but don't expect it out of this guy. Who the hell is Garrett Atkins? Wow, he has hit 25+ hr's 110+ rbi and hit over .300 in 2006 and 2007. Is he getting better as well? Yorvit Torrealba is a solid catcher who is less on offense and more on defense, but this is the NL after all. The final starting spot appears to be going to Jayson Nix at second base. In his minor league career he hasn't shown a propensity to hit for power or average although he has 3 dingers in 28 spring training ABs. A potential weakness at second base is meaningless at this point with all of the power and batting average on this squad.

Jeff Francis isn't an upper echelon ace but he is an ace on this squad. He cleared 215 innings pitched in 2007 and flat out won ball games. He is going to get better. Aaron Cooke is a 3 or 4 on most rosters but with young Ubaldo Jimenez with only 17 career starts, why push this young stud when you probably don't have too. Franklin Morales is another young arm who showed potential in 2007. With only 8 career starts the jury is still in the early stages of deliberation with this young lefty however. The bottom of the rotation is pretty clouded but with a mix of young players like Morales and Jason Hirsh as well as whiley "vets" in Kip Wells and Mark Redman the cupboards aren't completely bare. All in all the staff is average with high potential.

The youth of the pitching staff is a bit nerve racking, but with the potential offensive output, the Rockies will be in most games regardless of the first six innings. The playoff experience Hurtle and the rest received in 2007 could go along way for this squad in 2008. Denver baseball is back if it was ever around to begin with.


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