Editor's Note: The following post is a part of the 2013 Purple Row Writer Search -- our quest to find some great new contributors to Purple Row.
This is the follow up to my first Rockpile exploring some of the likely scenarios that lead to a likely worst case season. In this one I wanted to explore "How good could it get?"
I would love a scenario that puts the Rockies in the postseason. This is extremely unlikely, but if everything breaks perfectly, it's not impossible.
The Starting Pitching "add's a cutter"
One of my favorite offseason stories are about all the pitchers who added a pitch that is going to lead to a "breakout season" or "returning to *fill in year here* form." The reality is that this is the exception rather than the rule. The thought process applies here though. The current projected Rotation for the Rockies is five of the following list:
- Jhoulys Chacin
- Drew Pomeranz
- Juan Nicasio
- Jeff Francis
- Jorge De La Rosa
- Christian Friedrich
- Daniel Rosenbaum
- Josh Outman
- Chris Volstad
This is not in any order because the reality is none of these guys are a definitive number one. At least not as we sit now. The fact is though that 2 of the 5 could become that number one pitcher. Specifically Jhoulys Chacin and Drew Pomeranz. both are 1. Young 2. Talented and 3. have experience at the major league level. Chacin has 82 major league starts already. In this scenario BOTH become what their potential shows they can be. Suddenly you have a 1-2 punch that can lead the staff. Double bonus is that this can be the status quo for a long time.
Further in this scenario the Rose blooms and returns to the form that made fans excited every time he took the mound. de la Rosa has the ability to be a great 3rd starter where he goes out and uses his ability to get strikeouts to dominate weak lineups and give us a chance where his ability gives our lineup the start they need to then beat up the other teams' weaker starter and win some 5-3 games. The challenge here is that while de la Rosa is a good pitcher when healthy, he is 31 and will turn 32 on April 5th.
Basically I am projecting 2 pitchers to develop into number 1 production in the same season. Further I expect a 3rd to performer at a number 2 level of production for a whole season after a major injury and only 3 starts the year before. This absolutely COULD happen, but it is highly unlikely.
The rest of the pitching staff meets expectations
At this point, The Rockies need a 4th and 5th starter. Assuming health is not an issue Juan Nicasio can become a very good 4th starter. After that the Rockies have plenty of 5th starters in that list. They also need Betancourt, Belisle, and Brothers all to be shutdown pitchers when called upon. Then further the remaining pitchers who do not start fill in where needed giving the Rockies the deep bullpen that is needed for success in Colorado. Of all the possible scenarios this is the most likely to happen. It is not enough by itself though.
Betancourt is likely to hit a wall with age at some point. Belisle has pitched 92, 72, and 80 innings the last 3 years. Brothers still walks players at a prodigious rate. And at some point injuries will hit meaning we start to see pitchers in the majors that likely need to be in the minors for more experience. When the team needs that 6th, 7th, 8th starter they will be more challenged to maintain a solid level of perfomance.
We get to see the top players on the team play 150+ games
Tulo, Cargo, Dex, and the Toddfather all blessed with a healthy 150 game season. More likely 140 for Helton, but 140 healthy games. If this were to happen we have players that likely are putting up 6, 4, and 2-3 WAR driving the team's offense. This is a good core to start from where other players can then fill in their additions.
Tulo and the ToddFather have unfortunately missed the level of 150 games at least as often as they hit it over the previous 6 seasons. Cargo could be more of a 2.5 WAR player who is tentative on defense and when his protection in the lineup is gone due to injury he presses too hard making things worse. The team struggles and Dex is a Yankee by June.
Further reinforcements arrive for the offense
Nolan Arenado shows up to spring and just makes it so the team has no choice but to give him the 3rd base job on the way to his Rookie of the year campaign. Josh Rutledge continues to be a huge plus offensive player at 2nd base, Rosario's defense develops enough that the pitching staff doesn't demand his removal and the promotion of Yorvit Torrealba. Tyler Colvin is not just a Coors Field product and we trade Cuddyer for a bag of magic beans allowing Colvin to be the everyday Right Fielder. And all of this works in the most perfect way possible where we see at least 1.5 WAR from each player with a defense that does not create extra opportunities for the opposing team.
This is a lot to go right for the team. None of it is implausible, but Colvin could be a Coors Field product who doesn't hit enough on the road to make the front office trade him. Arenado likely will take some lumps and see a significant slump at least once during the year. IF he earns the starting nod. Rosario could be the replacement at first for Todd when he has to go on the DL just so we can keep that bat in the lineup after he has his 10th passed ball of April. While there is a bit of sarcasm, it is only a bit for all of these scenarios.
De-fense (clap clap) De-fense (clap clap) De-fense (clap clap)
First and foremost Tulo needs to return to the form that made him the defensive stud that he can be. Injuries have made a difference in his ability to play short. If he is truly healthy that shouldn't be an issue. Now the rest of the team needs to join in. It has been discussed previously multiple times. Our defense was horrid last season. It is discussed in detail here, here, and here. Oh, and here. If this team does step up their game though on such a critical facet of the game they can quickly see improvement overall. We will have a young staff, if they are not afraid to throw strikes, they may not even need that cutter they learned this offseason.
Under this scenario our young players play so well Cuddyer is on another team before the season even starts. He is simply a liability no matter where they put him. Arenado is our third baseman which eliminates the Pacheco/Nelson issue and the Toddfather spends most of the season at first healthy for one last swan song before he moves to the Rockies front office.
Did we discuss the defense last year? Ok, good. The reality is, the team performed poorly. There are opportunities to improve, but players have to take advantage of them. Unless there is real effort to play better in the field it is going to be another season of frustration. There are the stories available about players like Wilin Rosario improving through practice this offseason, but the results have to show on the field. And the Rockies sill seem to like Cuddyer who will remain a defensive liability.
Management at all levels make good decisions
This starts with who plays and continues all season. I was a fan of Walt Weiss as a player and I am hopeful that he is successful as a manager. The best players should play. In the best case scenario the young players step up and make it so that the older players that we know their ceiling are pushed out by performance. at a high level from young players still working up to their best performance. We end up seeing less of players like Pacheco, Cuddyer, Nelson and more of Colvin, Rutledge, and Arenado. This allows the defense to be better. Since our defense is better our pitchers are able to be more confident in pitching to contact and therefore we end up seeing significant improvement overall.
By having this improvement and the ideal situation the front office can then look into trading away pieces like Cuddyer for the kind of support and players that can help the team longer term.
We have seen evidence that Rockies management needs to improve in two areas. Assessing where we are realistically and letting go of players who have no short term benefit. The Rockies waited too long on Atkins, Hawpe, and now seem to be in a similar spot with Cuddyer. This leads to potentially even holding out too long this season if they are in a position where trading pieces makes sense. Hopefully our Rockies can move the right direction and find ways to further improve throughout the season.
What happens if this shakes out?
In all likelihood this scenario leads to the team outperforming expectations, but falling short of the post season. The challenge is that the Giants are the world champions with most of their team returning intact and the Dodgers did a lot with the money they had this offseason. Even with major strides it is more likely we are looking at a nice 80-85 win season and 2nd or 3rd place finish.
Dark Clouds for the rest of the NL West?
It is entirely possible that all the efforts the Dodgers put in are negated by the old fashioned bad luck bug. And the Giants may have an old fashioned World Series hangover. Were these scenario's all to break right we could be cheering for the Rockies in the postseason again!