The days between now and Opening Day can be counted on one hand (!!!) and the Rockies will complete Cactus League play today, with only an exhibition game on Saturday in Salt Lake City between them and the regular season. As such, it's only natural that the 25 man roster has basically taken shape (and will be announced later today). In bullet point form:
- Yorvit Torrealba will probably be the back-up catcher, meaning that the likelihood of Ramon Hernandez and his $3.2 million salary being released outright is pretty high. Maybe the Rockies will find a trade partner for Hernandez, but at this point I see release and/or a salary dump trade as the more likely scenario. Hernandez has been a great player in the past (and a league average one as recently as 2011) - but his age (almost 37) and the fact that Wilin Rosario duplicates (and improves upon) his skill-set make Torrealba the better complement as a backup. The economist in me calls it a sunk cost, but the aspiring GM says it's a shame to lose a potential asset for nothing.
- Reid Brignac looks like he'll beat out Jonathan Herrera for the middle infield back-up position. Obviously I'm a fan of not letting Jonathan Herrera hang around over better players, though it's unclear whether the 27 year-old Brignac still is a better player. He's a former top prospect who has lost his way as a hitter - if Coors helps him find it, he'll be a much better bench option. I don't mind giving Brignac a shot to see if he's a good fit (lest Colorado lose him for nothing), because DJ LeMahieu is a very capable player only a bus ride away.
- In the bullpen, the final two slots are probably going to be filled by Edgmer Escalona and one of Chris Volstad or Manny Corpas. The 26 year-old Escalona has a leg up because he's an asset Colorado will lose if he doesn't make the team, plus he's got some filthy stuff in middle relief. Of the other two, I would prefer hanging on to Volstad, not only because I think that Corpas will stay put in AAA if he doesn't make the big league roster, but also because Volstad has starter potential and is a better fit as a good long man for the rotation. Given the amount of innings thrown by the pen last year, I'd say that guy could be pretty valuable.
- Finally, in the 3rd base derby it will probably be Chris Nelson maintaining the starting position, with Nolan Arenado lurking in AAA, gaining experience in a quasi-Coors environment (and probably giving the Rockies an extra year of team control over him). I fully expect to see Arenado up by the All-Star break, but I'm intrigued by Nelson's hot streak at the end of 2012 and want to see him be given a little rope this year.
On the whole, it will be a much more flexible roster in 2013 than last year simply because Jason Giambi's immovable form will no longer be taking up a bench spot. Every major contributor (knock on wood) is healthy, and the spring is full of possibilities. Baseball time is nigh Rockies fans.
BIG news for sabermetricians this morning, as Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference have finally unified their definition of replacement level - a replacement level team will now be defined as a .294 winning % squad, or 47.7 wins. The changes are now reflected in Fangraphs' player pages. Mind you, fWAR and rWAR will still differ in methodologies and results, but the gap won't be as wide. It'll be interesting to dive in deeper to see what the effect was on past years' numbers.
Final Fangraphs Power Rankings update - Rockies projected to win 80 games (with a sortable chart that summarizes the series nicely). This is interesting because Dan Syzmborski, whose ZiPS projections make up half of the Fangraphs formula, projected the Rockies to win 70 games for ESPN Insider. Put me down for halfway in between the two.
Baseball America looks at players who still have their ROY eligibility across MLB and ranks the Rockies 21st in talent.
Speaking of prospects, MiLB.com has a nice interview (and a terrible headline pun) on #1 PuRP David Dahl.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! writes about the dominance of Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. He's the single biggest competitive advantage the Rockies have and the only reason I can see them moving above .500 this year.