Friday Rockpile: The events of an unfortunate series

Scott Cunningham

After getting broomed out of Atlanta, the Rockies know without much doubt that they are no longer contenders. So what shall we look forward to in August and September?

Well that was brutal.

The Rockies just completed a four game bludgeoning at the hands of the Atlanta Braves and now stagger to Pittsburgh, disabused of any thoughts of contending for the division crown in 2013. While it's disappointing to see the team drop out of it, there are still a number of story lines that will make August and September an interesting stretch.

The team stood pat at the trade deadline because they felt caught between contention and building for the future. While contending in 2013 was a stretch then--and even more so now--2014 could certainly be a different story. This team currently looks like it's cruising towards a mid-to-low 70s win mark, but how they finish their business in the last two months of the season will be key in determining the areas to address in the off season.

THE STARTING ROTATION

Starting pitching has started to crystallize over the course of 2013. Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge de la Rosa, and Tyler Chatwood have all put in very good work this year. All three should be back next year (Chacin is in arbitration, Chatwood is pre-arb, and DLR has a team option). But three men does not make a rotation.

August and September should be an open audition for those fourth and fifth slots in the rotation. Juan Nicasio will continue to get starts to work on his off-speed stuff. Chad Bettis, despite his shaky debut last night, ought to be in the mix. It remains to be seen if Drew Pomeranz can regain his stuff. Growth by any one of these guys would be a major factor in Colorado's chances in 2014.

IMPROVEMENT BY YOUNG PLAYERS

Nolan Arenado has already put his foot down at third base as a fabulous defender. Unfortunately, the bat hasn't quite caught up to big league pitching, as he's only managed a .253/.291/.405 line to date. Arenado profiles as a contact hitter with moderate power and a line drive swing. If he can adjust to big league pitching and become more of a league average bat (or better), then he would become a major weapon indeed.

Wilin Rosario is having essentially the same year at the plate as he had last year, but with slightly less power. His defense appears to be better, but the homers are down a bit. There are a couple areas of his game that could use further growth; his patience at the plate, the return of his big-time power, or more proficiency at stopping balls in the dirt.

Figuring out the young bench options is another important goal. Is either Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson a legitimate fourth outfielder going forward? Will DJ LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge become both quality hitters and defenders? The Rockies' bench has been a major disappointment this year; either these in-house candidates show marked improvement the rest of the year or the Front Office will have to get creative in the winter.

With the Dodgers beating the Cubs last night and moving 8.5 games ahead of the Rockies, you might as well raise your glass, because the Rocks are toast. But just because 2013 won't be a playoff year doesn't mean that the remaining games aren't important. The Rockies need to use this time as a springboard into 2014, which I believe can still be a contenting year.

LINKS

Troy Renck has all the gory details surrounding the Atlanta series.

Troy Tulowitzki got tossed by home plate umpire Marvin Hudson last night, an act symbolic of the team's frustrations. Renck writes that while the players are understandably reeling from the recent losses, they aren't letting it affect their preparations. It doesn't sound like Walt Weiss has lost the clubhouse.

Paul Swydan looks at possible candidates for comeback player of the year. Amazingly, on his top nine list for the National League, four Rockies show up.

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