Spring Training is just around the corner, with Pitchers and Catchers reporting this weekend. Every team has new acquisitions, new faces in camp, new goals and a new hope for the new season. Every team also has their stories, their rejuvenated veterans and progressing prospects. This all boils down to the fact that every team has their stories to watch as the season begins.
OK, so Jeff kind of stole my article on Wednesday before I was able to write it. I still think there's relevant information in MY top 5 though, I think, so you're going to get it anyhow. Sort of. And it's totally different than Jeff's top 5.
ageless versatile pitcher infielder has joined the Rockies to provide some semblance of dependability and consistency depth in from the rotation minors/bench. The real question is how can a 49 31 year old pitcher utility infielder recover well enough from Tommy John surgery a seriously crappy 2011 in AAA Norfolk to make it back to professional baseball, never mind the Major Leagues?
Nolan Arenado Casey Blake unexpectedly make the Major League Squadbe a decent stopgap contributor? Nolan Arenado Casey Blake is 20 38 (he will be 21 38 for the majority of the 2012 season). While he hasn't yet played above A ball hit the point where he's a PH/defensive replacement, the Rockies have seen excellent contact defensive and strikeout rates leadership skills along with a sweet line drive swing beard. His defense has improved as well remained, changing his profile from a maybe who will likely have to move across the diamond bench player to a top flight 3B prospect stopgap starter at 3B. A lot of eyes will be on young Arenado the veteran Blake, just based on his upside beard alone.
3. Will the addition of veteran leadership push guys like Fowler to the next level?
Fowler's wRC+ by month: 99, 63, -43, 169, 109, 139. You'll notice that sharp uptick in July, all the way up to 169. June 30th, Mark Ellis was traded to the Rockies. The roster got older. Coincidence? I think not. This whole "aging the roster" thing has been all a ploy to get our talented CF to the next level of baseball mastery.
The real question here is: how much does Dexter Fowler like magic tricks?
4. What can Casey Blake and Marco Scutaro really bring to the table?
Well, aside from the intangible nature of making Dexter Fowler better by means of veteran voodoo, these two are going to drastically improve the Rockies just by being the players they are. The Rockies got well-below replacement level performance out of 3B and if you don't count Mark Ellis, similarly miserable 2B production. There's a reason that utility guys are utility guys, they should only start like 2 games a week, tops. Even if Scutaro can perform at a 2 WAR level (essentially a league average full time player), that's an improvement of roughly 3 wins on 2B last season (again, discounting Mark Ellis' production, as we're really stacking Scutaro vs the Rockies other 2B options), and 2 or so from Blake at 3B by the same logic. Interestingly, this is going to put a lot of onus onto Chris Nelson (who will be the Opening Day Utilityman, in my opinion) to really step up and hold the job. Also, this way, guys like Josh Rutledge and the aforementioned Arenado won't be forced to the majors before their proper time.
5. Will all of this young pitching actually amount to anything or will it just be more crappy depth?
The difference between this stable of young, cost-controlled pitching and 2011's pitching depth is that roughly all of the guys competing for rotation slots (excepting Moyer and Jeremy Guthrie) have the potential to be the future of Rockies pitching. It's not Billy Buckner and Claudio Vargas anymore, it's Alex White and Tyler Chatwood. While on the surface of that comparison they might seem similar in terms of performance, remember that guys like Buckner and Vargas are on their way down while White and Chatwood are likely to have more room and time to improve.
So there, AMart's top 5 totally unique stories going into Spring Training.
Matt Garrioch from Minor League Ball does a review on Trevor Story, the Rockies 2011 1st round comp pick.
I'm looking forward to seeing how he develops this season. Story is a player that could have a wide variety of outcomes. He could be an average defensive SS, an above average defensive 3B or RF and his bat should be good but I don't see great. I'm thinking he could be a .270/.340/.450 hitter with a dozen steals each year. That would make him a very good hitter for SS but average for 3B and RF. His defense should be good wherever he plays and could have a long MLB career if everything works out right. I think he was a great pick at 45 overall for the Rockies. There is a very small chance he could be a Tulo-type but if I were a Rockies fan, I'd compare him to newly acquired Michael Cuddyer for what I would hope for in a best case scenario.
SBN Regular Satchel Price makes his list of the top 15 Catching prospects in baseball. While the man topping the list is hardly a surprise, there are some interesting picks higher up than expected.
Regarding Wilin Rosario:
Everyone loves the power and arm strength, but it's impossible to simply ignore the issues with getting on base. If he ever figures things out, the potential is absolutely huge, but I'm worried that he's just a back-up eventually because of his inability to challenge pitchers and get on base.
There aren't any Rockies on this list.
While I wish I could say that the Rockies completely avoided this list, Drew Pomeranz certainly gets a dishonorable mention with his slider, having thrown it 41 times in 2011 and not garnering a single whiff. Small sample size and all that, I wouldn't give up on the kid just yet.
What's this? Fangraphs discussing Pitching Wins? Without snarkily informing the general public that Pitching Wins are Stupid? It's actually an interesting idea - which would really prove nothing other than pitching wins are still pretty arbitrary as far as actual contributions go. But it would give a way to more appropriately credit hard-luck starters in the event of a blown save. Greg Maddux could have up to 5 more wins credited to his magnificent total!
I feel like I'm in risk of starting a much bigger and potentially heated discussion, but Fangraphs brings up some really interesting discussion points about Women sports fans, and specifically how they're engaged by ESPN.