Thursday Rockpile: Opportunities for Optimism in 2013

Josh Rutledge, displaying his ability to get the angles right at the plate... - Justin Edmonds

So if we park adjust projections, we're still not smelling so rosy, but what if they are missing something? We take a look today at a few positions where the Rockies may be flying under the radar.

So now that Fangraphs crushed all our hope in the numbers by realizing that, as Heltonfan asserted yesterday, they had not calculated park factors into WAR, we're back to square one in looking for reasons for reasons to be optimistic heading into 2013, but in a way, the revised numbers did actually provide some glimmers of opportunity from what the projections expect for the team and positions where the optimists among us can reasonably expect the Rockies to perform better. This will most often happen with young players with star potential as the veterans on the team will be far less likely to diverge greatly from the projection. So for me, I'm looking at catcher, second base and third base as the positions the Rockies can most likely squeeze extra wins out of the offense beyond the projected.

The Rockies projected 3 WAR at catcher seems solid enough, but it now ranks as last in the NL West, and with Wilin Rosario seeing more time and improving at the plate, that actually strikes me as a bit pessimistic if there's any defensive improvement at all from him. I don't think he'll be catching Buster Posey any time soon, but I really do believe that he's not far off from being the second best catcher in the division and All-Star season capable. With improved backup performance as well, I think an optimistic read could see a win to a win and a half of opportunity here.

Similarly at second base, Josh Rutledge's offensive capabilities may not be completely appreciated by projections that are taking his one full minor league season at Modesto in 2011 with a grain of salt as it was so far removed from the majors, but to me the bigger opportunity here will be in his defensive work, which I'm expecting to be above neutral at second compared to the below neutral fielder he was at shortstop in 2012. I see the defense and baserunning adding a win to his projection and if he is able to take a step forward in his plate discipline, he too could be capable of a 3.5 to 4 WAR season this year.

Finally at third, we have a 1 WAR projection which suggests that a good chunk of the season will get played by NNA (Not Nolan Arenado.) I'm not advocating calling Arenado up before the projected Super-2 arbitration cutoff, but I wouldn't wait a day beyond that if I were the Rockies. If Chris Nelson, DJ LeMahieu and Jordan Pacheco can somehow manage to be a bit above replacement until then, this position should be a relatively simple place to add a win to what the projections see.

Of course, there are areas of concern, one look at the depth chart at short and in the outfield tells us that if the Rockies see significant injury to Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez or Dexter Fowler, all of the above daydreams become moot. Health is going to be a big factor in any chances the team has this season.

Which allows me to segue into the other article on Fangraphs that mentioned the Rockies yesterday, that being Wendy Thurm's snapshot of team finances, which places Colorado on the bottom tier, citing the evidence of dropping attendance and, more importantly, dropping payroll to indicate that the fiscal health of the franchise has seen a similar downturn with the team's record over the last three seasons. Due to a relative lack of long term debt with the owners, pending TV (2014) and park lease (2016) renewals coming up in the next few years (both of which should or could be more favorable to the club than their current deals) and a consistently expanding media market, I actually think that the Rockies are in better fiscal shape than this snapshot indicates, but the payroll tightening does indicate that the attendance drop is being felt.

Former Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs gives a dispatch from Japan.

The odds of Tulowitzki winning the MVP are 20-1 heading into the season according to Las Vegas bookmakers. Also noted was another effective Spring outing from Jeff Francis, who remains an under-appreciated asset the Rockies have heading into 2013 as well.

While he might not be here in time for 2013, at least until the very end, the Rockies relatively low ranks in RF and 1B could be impacted greatly in 2014 by Kyle Parker, who's been performing well in Tulsa Drillers camp.

Mark Townsend shows off his Blake St. Bombers fanclub cred by appreciating the Dante Bichette commercial as much as any 90's era Rockies fan should. Use it before you lose it.

Off-topic.

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