Purple Row staff picks: Candidates for progression and regression in 2014

Doug Pensinger

Which players on the Rockies roster are poised to take the next step forward or backward? The Purple Row staff offers its predictions.

There are the things you know and the things you don't. Then there are the things you know you don't know and -- scariest of all -- the things you don't know you don't know.

Most of baseball takes place in one of the latter two categories. We don't know for sure who will be injured or stay healthy or have trouble in their personal lives or have something click that turns them from an okay player into a dynamo. We can't say for certainty who will be this year's Chris Davis (or on the flip side Roy Halladay) but that absolutely will not stop us from pontificating.

The Colorado Rockies still have a young roster and as such I've noticed a fair amount of debate about who is likely to have either a noticeably better or worse 2014 than 2013. I put that question to our staff here at Purple Row and asked each one to come up with two names that they expect to progress past their production in 2014 and two names they expect to do the exact opposite. Here are those results:

Most likely to progress

Brett Anderson (3 votes)

From RhodeIslandRoxfan:

He seems to be the perfect fit if he can stay on the mound. He's only thrown 163 innings over the last three seasons combined, so even three months of good health will allow him to raise his average innings number since the start of 2011. More importantly though, Anderson's career batted ball ratios are ideal for Coors Field -- 54.9% ground ball ratio (11% more than league average), 28.3% fly ball ratio (7% less than league average), and 16.8% line drive ratio (4% less than league average). Combine that with the Rockies' infield defense and he's really set up for success. Twenty-fourteen is only Anderson's age-26 season, so expecting it to be one of the best of his career is not really asking too much.

Justin Morneau (2)

Arguing about Justin Morneau won't stop until we actually start playing games and maybe even then. Still, his numbers the last few years have clearly been hurt by injuries and unless you think Morneau is simply done, it's hard to see how a move to a new environment and lineup wouldn't help him improve on those numbers at least some. The vast tundra that is the Coors Field outfield is a paradise for a spray hitter like Morneau, and being surrounded by Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki (among others) will only benefit a cerebral player like Morneau. Furthermore, his propensity to not strike out and hit well on the road could be panaceas for the maladies that have troubled this offense in the past.

Wilton Lopez (2)

Wilton Lopez was a massive disappointment who showed signs of brilliance when it mattered least and was perhaps the most frustrating player on the roster when it mattered most. He developed an early reputation for blowing leads out of the bullpen and despite that, it regularly appeared as though Lopez couldn't catch a break -- often giving up weak hits on nasty pitches that fooled the hitter. Lopez had to turn in his fireman badge and trade it for a mop. His peripherals (especially his 3.57 FIP) suggest that Lopez should be able to have a stronger 2014 just by sheer luck.

Beyond that, it's clear Wilton still has great stuff and his improved performance at the end of the season also suggests there may have been an adjustment period to pitching in Coors Field. One season of poor performance when it mattered most does not a career make, and most of 2013 seemed to be mental. If Lopez can get that side of things under control, he clearly has the physical talent to be a weapon the Rockies could get a great deal of value for in 2014.

Drew Stubbs (1)

The case for Stubbs is much like the case for Morneau: a change of scenery to a hitter friendly environment that takes advantage of his specific skill-set combined with a hope for a return to form could lift Stubbs from an afterthought offseason addition to a valuable everyday player. While the impact of Coors Field on power numbers is often oversold, it still helps line-drive hitters and certainly can't hurt a guy who generally sits around the 15 home run mark. Again, his numbers have been unimpressive the last two years but he showed a lot of promise earlier in his career. Given that, Stubbs at least has the ability and the room to improve in 2014.

Josh Rutledge (1)

From RhodeIslandRoxfan (for more on RIRFs case for Josh Rutledge click here!)

By trading trusty Jonathan Herrera away, the Rockies may be telling you that they like Rutledge's chances too. If Rutledge's bat turns out to be a weapon, LeMahieu's defensive versatility may actually become even more useful as you can give Arenado and Tulo days off without blowing a hole in two positions.

Either way, I think Colorado fans are about to be treated to a competitive and hard-fought battle for the second base job between two guys who each bring a unique set of skills to the table.

Troy Tulowitzki (1)

Stay healthy and win the MVP. Just this once. Please? In the immortal words of Sansa Stark, "it's the only thing I've ever really wanted."

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Most likely to regress

Michael Cuddyer (6 votes)

Michael Cuddyer won't win the batting title in 2014. He likely won't be anywhere near winning the Home Run Derby and might not even be an All-Star. None of this is to say that Cuddyer won't still be an important player for the Rockies in 2014, maybe even more important. As Greg Stanwood put it:

There's a possibility that Cuddyer's net value may increase even if his offense drops just by playing fewer games in right.

But in the overall encompassing view of things, it's simply hard to believe that Cuddyer can match his slash-line from last season.

RhodeIslandRoxFan writes:

It may be the easy pick, but there's good reason for that. As far as on field performance is concerned, Cuddyer only provides real value at the plate. He doesn't play a premium position, he's a poor defender in right, and he's not a threat to run wild on the base paths. So to avoid a significant regression, you're essentially asking a guy entering his age 35 season who just came off a batting title, a career year overall at the plate, and a .382 BABIP to repeat his performance. It could happen, but it's not where my money is going. I'll be happy if he plays well enough for the Rockies to slap a qualifying offer on him that he'll reject.

Jorge De La Rosa (5)

From RhodeIslandRoxfan:

For all the flack other Rockies catch for being injury prone, Jorge De La Rosa is somehow able to largely avoid this criticism despite missing some pretty serious time in recent seasons. In the final series of the 2009 season, De La Rosa suffered a right groin injury that prevented him from pitching in the NLDS against Philadelphia and very well may have cost the Rockies their second pennant in three seasons. In 2010, he missed 74 games due to a finger strain. In 2011, he tore his UCL which required Tommy John surgery and the long recovery also wrecked his 2012, and then last season, he was shut down for the final three weeks after only pitching eight innings in September due to inflammation. De La Rosa is entering his age 33 season, and while I still expect him to pitch well, I'm not sure I expect him to throw more than 150 innings, something he's only done twice in his career.

Carlos Gonzalez (1)

Chris Chrisman writes:

I'm going against CarGo not because of any concerns about him, but because I think he'll be shuffled around in Lineupalooza 2014.

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Wild cards:

Nolan Arenado (5 votes progress, 1 vote regress)

Nolan Arenado might be the most interesting player to watch on the Rockies in 2014. A prospect who was touted for his bat and has only shown brilliance with the glove, Arenado stands as a candidate to both progress and regress. His hit tool (14% K rate, 82.2% contact on swings) and extremely impressive line drive percentage (23.8%) are indicators of a budding offensive powerhouse. Conversely, it may be next to impossible for him to improve on the defensive side of the ball considering how dominant he needed to be as a rookie to win a Gold Glove. He won't turn into Garret Atkins in 2014, but it's perfectly reasonable to expect both a little less and a little more from Arenado in 2014.

Mostly, though, Nolan Arenado represents a great deal of hope for this franchise. Young, under team control, clearly not scared of playing with the big boys, and with five votes of confidence from the Purple Row staff, Nolan Arenado feels less poised for a "sophomore slump" and more primed to become a household name in Rockieland.

Wilin Rosario (1 vote progress, 1 vote regress)

Rosario already holds great value for the Rockies because he brings premium power from the catcher position, which is becoming more and more of a rarity. The cases both for and against can be boiled down to offense vs. defense. Being a power hitter with propensity for strikeouts and slumps while not being particularly effective behind home plate yet means that Rosario has enough holes in his game that they may just be more exploited by the opposition in 2014 and his value could be heavily mitigated.

However, those same holes in his game are the places where Rosario could take a big step forward. It's pretty rare to have a guy on your team who is both a monster presence and has so much room to improve. While not world-changing, Rosario's improvements behind the plate were still notable in 2013 and give hope that a similar improvement in 2014 can be expected, especially given his famous work ethic. If somewhere in there Wilin Rosario has what it takes to be an average defensive catcher and steadily makes adjustment in the batter's box, he could become one of the most valuable guys in all of baseball. If he goes the other way, he could end up one of its biggest disappointments.

Corey Dickerson (1 vote for progress, 1 vote for regress)

When it comes to prospects in their second season, hope can be a four-letter word. While the term "sophomore slump" is probably way overused, the threat that a league of professional ball players will adjust to you in some way is ever-present. Corey Dickerson, on the other hand, has shown an ability at every level to shuck expectations. At his best, Dickerson offers solid power, contact, and onbase skills against both right- and left-handed pitchers. His defense has room to improve and he has already taken a few steps in that direction. The big key for Dickerson in 2014 will be playing time and taking advantage if/when he gets it. Battling out for the CF spot may end up sending Dickerson back to AAA or the bench for a period of time, but when someone inevitably gets injured or under-performs, Dickerson will get his chance.

Will his offensive prowess win him a spot and catapult him into one of the most valuable members of the lineup? Or will he struggle as pitchers adjust to him and his competition keep him from seeing too much of the MLB diamond?

Tyler Chatwood (2 votes regress, 1 vote progress)

This is what you get for dramatically over-performing expectations, Tyler! But in all seriousness, Tyler Chatwood could have a solid 2014 and still regress. His numbers last year -- especially when you consider what he was putting up before -- were absurd. Because of this, a fall back to earth seems inevitable. The other side of the coin is the service time that Chatwood was able to provide in 2013. He only pitched in 111.1 innings last year and landed on the DL for enough time to put a dent in his numbers. I thought it was a telling sign that he was able to pitch effectively after returning from injury and even after just a few setback games.

Still, in order for Chatwood to have a better 2014 than 2013 he would need to have an insane year that I think few people are expecting.

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In Conclusion:

Twenty-fourteen will be a telling season for both the Colorado Rockies and a number of players on this list. The young guys especially have a window of opportunity to prove they can be integral parts of a team that has the core talent to be competitive. While we have highlighted these players as the most likely to move in one direction or the other we know it's unlikely that it all unfolds this neatly.

When I look at this though, I can't help but think that the Rockies could survive these regressions and the progressions could be instrumental in making them a surprise contender in 2014. But that, as they say, is just one man's opinion. What's yours?

Progress Regress
Greg Nolan Arenado, Wilton Lopez Corey Dickerson, Tyler Chatwood
Jay Justin Morneau, Drew Stubbs Wilin Rosario, Jorge De La Rosa
Bryan Dickerson, Rosario Michael Cuddyer, Chatwood
RIRF Brett Anderson, Josh Rutledge Cuddyer, De La Rosa
Charlie Arenado, Chatwood De La Rosa, Cuddyer
Drew Arenado, Morneau Cuddyer, De La Rosa
Jordan Arenado (O), Anderson Arenado (D), Cuddyer
Chris Anderson, Lopez Carlos Gonzalez, Cuddyer
Jeff Troy Tulowitzki, Arenado Adam Ottavino, De La Rosa
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