Picking the Padres to finish last in the NL West wasn’t difficult. And I know who I have finishing 1 and 2. I looked really closely at the other two teams, and, after really breaking down both rosters, the choice wasn’t as difficult as I originally thought. Then again, these are just predictions.
The Rockies are going to be filled with some familiar faces here in Cleveland. Casey Blake is expected to be the starter at third base after spending the last three and a half years with the Dodgers. Huston Street is in San Diego and former Indians great (any player who has ever worn an Indians uniform is considered a former Indians great) Rafael Betancourt will assume the closer’s role. Alex White and Drew Pomeranz (Ubaldo Jimenez trade) both made starts for the Rockies last year, with Pomeranz having slightly better success. I believe he will begin the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs, with a fast track to the big leagues. Jeremy Guthrie comes over from Baltimore, and while he’s not an ace by any means, he averaged 196 2/3 innings in his five years with the Orioles, including tossing at least 200 in the past three. Zach Putnam has an outside chance of making the bullpen out of spring, but if he doesn’t, he should be the first reliever up from AAA.
Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are two of the best four position players in the NL West. CarGo hit .295 with 26 home runs, 92 RBI and 20 stolen bases in 2011 and it was considered a down year because of his spectacular 2010 season. Don’t you wish some guys on your favorite team could have that kind of “down year?” Granted, Gonzalez only played 127 games because of a wrist injury, and, if he can stay healthy, should put up MVP-type numbers in 2012. While we’re talking about MVP-type numbers, Tulowitzki hit .305 with 30 HR and 105 RBI in 2011. And he’s a shortstop.
The Rockies are going to hit, and they’re going to hit well. If Dexter Fowler can get on base consistently, Gonzalez, Tulowitzki, Todd Helton and newcomer Michael Cuddyer are going to drive him in. Cuddyer is a great pickup for the Rockies from Minnesota. His numbers dropped a little after the Twins moved into spacious Target Field, but that shouldn’t be a problem now that he’ll play half of his games at Coors.
Pitching, on the other hand, is a huge problem. Trading Jimenez to Cleveland left a huge hole at the top of the rotation. Jorge De La Rosa had Tommy John surgery in June, so nobody knows what to expect from him. The rest of the starters are unproven. Jhoulys Chacin has shown flashes of brilliance over the past two years. The Rockies need him and Guthrie to pile up innings and be effective if they want any chance to finish near .500.
After finishing 73-89 in 2011, I don’t see the Rockies really improving this season. The starting rotation just isn’t good enough to compete on a nightly basis. You can’t win slugfests every night.
Position players: C Ramon Hernandez, 1B Helton, 2B Marco Scutaro, SS Tulowitzki, 3B Blake, LF Gonzalez, CF Fowler, RF Cuddyer
Bench: INF Jason Giambi, Jonathan Herrera, C Jordan Pacheco, Wilin Rosario, OF Tyler Colvin, Eric Young Jr.
Starting rotation: 1. Guthrie, 2. Chacin, 3. Juan Nicasio, 4. White, 5. Guillermo Moscoso
Bullpen: Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers, Matt Reynolds, Edgmer Escalona, Josh Roenicke, Esmil Rogers
Projected finish: 73-89, 4th in NL West