Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE
Having a hard time getting yourself primed for the upcoming baseball season? Not to worry, we've got you covered.
The Colorado Rockies. Just let that resonate for a minute.
Okay. Now that you're all pissed off, your blood pressure is high and you're ready to put your head through a wall, try to take a step back and think of all of the reasons why you love this team. It may be difficult right now, being that we're, in the words of our good friend Andrew Martin, "an already-reeling fanbase" that just received "a giant kick in the teeth." But, give it a shot.
Take it from me. The above sentence is pretty much an accurate description of my life over the past few months. But, finally, I have mustered up enough excitement -- and, perhaps unfortunately, optimism -- to really be looking forward to the start of spring training tomorrow.
It was far from easy to actually be able to dig in and find TEN things about this team to hang my hat on, but once I did, I was very comfortable with the list, not to mention the fact that it did its job and got me all sorts of dimed about 2013.
Before I get started, just missing the cut is the fact that the Rockies have a new manager. Sure, that's a big deal, but managerial changes don't get me too excited; I'm more of a sucker for the players on the field and the atmosphere surrounding the game.
Here goes nothing...BEGAN SLIDESHOW
10. Eric Young Jr.
One thing that I learned over the course of the miserable 2012 season is that Eric Young Jr. can help this team, and thus, should be in the lineup as much as possible this season. Young provides something for the Rockies -- I'm not quite sure what it is, but it's there -- that they desperately need, particularly on the road. Maybe his small-sample hot streak in August is what got me, but I think there's more to this guy than just that.
Consider this: over the past two seasons, Young has posted a very respectable .358 on-base percentage in 425 plate appearances and has stolen 41 bags. However, the downside is that, until last year, EY Jr. had a sub-.300 career slugging percentage. He's not going to slug .448 over the course of a full season like he did in part-time duty last year, but if he can at least approach .400, the Rockies might have something here.
Prior to Tommy John surgery, De La Rosa was 39-26 with a 4.38 ERA in parts of four seasons in a Rockies uniform while striking people out at an impressive rate -- 8.8 batters per nine innings, to be exact. Can he return to being that guy in his age 32 season? At least the motivation factor is there; an $11 million club option for 2014 is on the table, and De La Rosa would not get that kind of money on the open market.
8. A full season of Troy Tulowitzki
I'm just going to keep on looking forward to this every season while keeping my fingers crossed that he doesn't make all of my hopes crash and burn, whether it's his fault or not.
Why? His career batting line is .292/.364/.504, and for the past couple of years, he has shown that he can get it done on the road. In addition, Tulo's career UZR/150 is 5.4. As strange as this sounds, people forget how good this guy really is. Unfortunately, he makes it easy for them to do so, and that's the reason why this doesn't rank higher on the list.
Fowler finally had that long-predicted breakout season in 2012, hitting .300/.389/.474. Of course, that begs the question: can he carry that performance onto road trips, and can those numbers survive an almost inevitable reduction in BABIP? Fowler has a keen eye at the plate, and if he can keep that skill intact, it will help offset any drop off in batted ball performance, as well as allow him to remain a weapon away from Coors Field.
6. The upper minors
The Rockies were almost completely devoid of talent in Triple-A for a few years, but it appears that won't be the case in 2013. There is a good chance that Nolan Arenado, Edwar Cabrera, Tim Wheeler, Joe Gardner and a host of others will start the season in Colorado Springs. And, while the talent level in AAA has diminished throughout the league as a whole in recent years, the competition at that level is closer to what you'll see in the big leagues than any other minor league level, meaning we'll have a chance to see what the four guys above can do.
Rutledge will move over to second base to accommodate the return of Tulowitzki, giving the Rockies an extremely intriguing set of up-the-middle players. Rutledge had 33 extra-base hits and slugged .469 in less than a half-season with the Rockies last year, but he really needs to improve his patience and pitch selection at the plate.
All that stands in the way of Rosario and stardom, in my mind, is defense. At the plate, Rosario honestly reminds me a bit of Justin Upton ; he can look terrible early in an at-bat, then suddenly make several adjustments and end up walloping the ball to the opposite field or pulling a majestic home run into the left field seats, depending on the location of the pitch. We all saw that from Rosario many times at the plate a year ago, and there's no reason to think he can't continue that type of performance or even improve upon it, especially because he has shown the ability to carry it over into road games.
However, he's a mess behind the plate, so it will be interesting to see what kind of priority the Rockies place on improving Rosario for the future.
Chacin pitched wonderfully upon his return to the rotation late last season, as has been well-documented, which should serve him well in 2013. However, if he can regain the strikeout tendencies from earlier in his career, I believe we could be looking at a breakout season from the 25-year-old righty. Even if he doesn't (which is the most likely scenario), the Rockies will be much better-suited with a healthy and motivated Chacin in the rotation.
Pomeranz has the prospect pedigree to bust out at any point now. He has shown flashes of brilliance in his young career, but seems to become extremely flustered when dealing with bouts of wildness. Pomeranz may have been well-served with a trip to the minors last season, allowing him to focus on repeating his delivery more consistently which helped him regain lost velocity but hasn't helped his control yet.
On several occasions in 2012, Pomeranz expressed frustration with the Rockies' pitch count limit, so the news of that being scaled back a bit will hopefully help him relax and just pitch -- something all Rockies hurlers with the possible exception of Jeff Francis had trouble with a year ago.
CarGo's 2012 was a tale of two seasons. In the first half, Gonzalez carried the Rockies offensively, looking like he was in 2010 form while hitting .330/.389/.578 with 17 homers. However, as the Rockies' lineup continued to be decimated by injury and poor performance, CarGo's protection disappeared and so did his production; in his final 57 games, Gonzalez hit just .261/.345/.404 with five home runs.
With a healthy Tulowitzki in the lineup, along with somewhat-productive versions of Todd Helton and Michael Cuddyer, Gonzalez should thrive again while being one of the most exciting players to watch in all of baseball.
1. Denver in the spring and summer
Seriously, guys. I don't live in Denver so maybe I appreciate it more than you do, but there is nothing -- NOTHING -- better than LoDo and Coors Field in the spring and summer. Just enjoy it for what it is, and cheer for the Rockies along the way.