The Rockies are once again destined for the National League West cellar, according to the combined ZiPS and Steamer projections used at Fangraphs to determine depth charts and projected standings. However, this time it feels a bit different.
Colorado is projected to finish with 80 wins and a total team fWAR that ranks 13th in MLB. That, to me, is a pretty accurate description of what this team is, as well as what it would have been last season without the injuries. With any sort of luck, the Rockies could be a playoff team, but luck has already gone against the team in the form of Jhoulys Chacin's injury before a single spring training game has been played. Just as it went bad a year ago when Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and a host of others missed extended periods of time due to freak injuries.
Speaking of Tulo and CarGo, they're projected to be the best and third-best in all of baseball at their respective positions in 2014 in terms of fWAR. And that's with each player missing roughly 30 games. A stroke of good luck from the baseball gods would mean both guys miss fewer games than that and, as a result, represent the best middle-of-the-order duo in the game. Of course, that good luck has been few and far between, and it's much more likely that the Rockies' stars miss a lot more games than 30 apiece.
The combined projection systems have Juan Nicasio as Colorado's best pitcher by fWAR, which is just crazy. Part of that is due to expected regression from Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa, but another major factor is a projected lack of innings out of Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood. Still, the Rockies would rank in the top 10 among all starting pitching units in baseball, so a little luck -- there's that word again -- in all likelihood would push them a few spots higher.
The best Rockies teams have been the ones with pitching that ranks in the upper echelon in the league. When including the projected bullpen fWAR, the Rockies' staff has a combined projected pitcher fWAR of 17.2. That's good for fifth in all of baseball. This is without luck factored in, folks. Again, the above-average pitching staff and slightly below-average offense puts this team right square in the middle. A .500 club. That's not necessarily what we WANT, but other teams in the Rockies' vicinity on this list -- the Diamondbacks, Indians, Braves, Royals and others -- either made the playoffs or were at least in contention for the long haul in 2013. Those teams had a little luck bounce their way. If the Rockies can get some of that for once*, who knows what could happen.