Last offseason, I tabbed Ian Stewart as the key to the Rockies' 2011 season. I suppose that was accurate - both Stewart and the Rockies' contention hopes disintegrated in a fashion no one dared imagine. While Stewart might still have the largest range of possible outcomes in 2012, he won't be counted on for 500 PA in purple, if he remains a Rockie at all. So let's forget about him for a bit.
Let's talk about Dexter Fowler, the man I'll test to prove I don't have some evil powers to unintentionally kill the career of any player I deem the "key to the season."
Fowler has been every bit of an enigma as Stewart had been through his first three MLB seasons. Each season, he has performed well, then completely fallen apart, only to adjust and hit like an All-Star in the second half. 2011 was the most extreme, leading to a demotion to AAA, where he suffered through a 2-for-41 stretch with 22 strikeouts*. Since the date of his callup back to MLB, Fowler was among the league leaders in extra base hits.
Now Fowler has a wide range of potential outcomes in 2012. The possibility remains that he flounders for the fourth straight summer and works his way out of the Rockies' plans completely. He could harness that second half surge and new stance/timing to become an All-Star center fielder. Heck...he could be traded for David Wright (the Mets would surely covet Fowler, and with CarGo, Smith, Blackmon and Wheeler, Dan O'Dowd has the depth to move Fowler in the right deal).
If you are looking for a reason to be optimistic regarding Fowler, there is finally one beyond sheer hope. Fowler will be working out this offseason with Matt Kemp, who just earned the NL Hank Aaron Award for best hitter in the National League. Seem trivial? I wouldn't dismiss it.
The level of preparation required to compete in a 162-game MLB season is immense, and the off season routines of young players often are not enough. Emulating everything the best hitter in the league does can only be a positive. It worked last offseason, when Tim Wheeler and Nolan Arenado worked with Troy Tulowitzki. Wheeler became the organization's biggest breakout, while Arenado asserted himself as one of the top prospects in the game.
* might be a slight exaggeration
Links after the jump.
Phillies decline options on Lidge, Oswalt - The Denver Post - Immediately, all fans will immediately want the Rockies to jump into negotiations with these two. Both would be solid additions for the Rockies, but I'd be shocked if either considered offers seriously. Lidge, a Colorado native, would have to convince the Rockies to spend even more money on an already stocked bullpen. Oswalt would provide veteran innings, but he smells every bit like Victor Martinez last season. A great target, but multiple offers will far surpass the Rockies' by December. Big money teams need arms too badly.
Baseball Prospectus | Divide and Conquer, NL West: What are the Padres Getting in Josh Byrnes? The Red Sox collapse is creating a league-wide domino effect. Rox Girl detailed some of this Sunday, but with Theo Epstein moving to the Chicago Cubs, former Red Sox exec and recent Padres' general manager is moving on to become the Cubs' GM. Former Diamondbacks GM and Rockies' assistant GM Josh Byrnes will be the Padres' GM. Geoff Young details' Byrnes career track here.
Rockies celebrate last season’s failures with price hike | Sports | Jock Itch | The A.V. Club Denver/Boulder This sort of short-sighted reaction is inevitable. Never mind that the Rockies hadn't raised prices for four years, following the 2007 pennant, while Matt Holliday still wore purple. Never mind that that the Rockies' tickets were the cheapest in MLB. Or that season ticket holders still get 2011's unraised prices if they re-up in the next six weeks. Or that the price hike leaves the cheap seats largely unaffected. Outfield boxes are moving up...one dollar. A higher ticket price will increase revenue, and by the payroll = 50% of revenue formula, will allow the Rockies a little more room to bolster their roster that was found lacking in 2011. I have wondered how the Monforts held off on raising prices for this long. If you ask me, it is about time.
Winter Leagues: Arizona Fall League: Statistics | MLB.com: Events The Salt River Rafters lost 4-1, but you probably aren't shocked to find out Nolan Arenado drove in that lone run. Arenado, who led all of minor league baseball in RBI, also leads the AFL in ribbies. Tim Wheeler went hitless again to watch his batting average fall to .246 in a ridiculously offensive-heavy league, an indication he might not be ready for big league ball yet. Parker Frazier allowed two runs in 1.2 innings, and Rob Scahill worked a perfect ninth to lower his ERA to 2.25.