One of the things being overlooked right now when it comes to the 2014 Rockies is Walt Weiss. It makes sense as he's no longer brand new and very good a defusing questions from the media, but I actually think his role is going to be much more important than last season.
2013 was a mixed bag for the Colorado skipper in the game decision making process. There were some things to complain about as some fans didn't like his lineup construction, but overall I thought he held his own in this department for a first year manager and didn't have any overwhelming complaints. However, the depth of this club was so horrendous last season that it largely kept us from knowing how well Weiss really uses the pieces given to him.
This was true in pretty much all aspects of the game. The talent in the starting rotation dropped off immensely after Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De Le Rosa, and Tyler Chatwood as we've documented all winter, the back end of the bullpen became a big problem by mid summer (largely because the bottom of the rotation was poor and the large number of innings on the relief pitchers became taxing), and during many games leading up to September, Jonathan Herrera was the most reliable bat the Rockies had on the bench.
The complete lack of depth left Weiss with little to no options. All the decisions became kind of obvious. Rarely was there a moment where Weiss had to make an important decision to pinch hit a big bat in an urgent offensive situation while taking another position player out of the game because there just weren't any good bench players to work with on the roster. This combined with injuries really muddied the water regarding Weiss's decision making. By the time we reached September and a whole host of guys were getting playing time, the club was largely in 2014 preparation mode so even those decisions carry little weight.
All of this changes in 2014, because now the Rockies have a stronger bench. Not only that, but they've added several players with skill sets geared towards specific situations, many of whom can play multiple positions and / or open up the possibility of other players moving positions if they're not in the lineup.
Justin Morneau can mash righties but has struggled against lefties, Drew Stubbs hits lefties well and is an excellent base runner but leaves quite a bit to be desired against righties, Brandon Barnes can be a defensive wizard in center field but his bat is not strong enough to warrant playing there every day, Corey Dickerson might just be a pure hitter that needs to be replaced for defensive purposes late in games where the team has the lead, Josh Rutledge could serve as an excellent pinch runner, play the middle infield when others have a day off, or even challenge LeMahieu for the second base job if he does enough with his bat, and well, you get the picture.
Then in the bullpen, the use of Brothers (our best reliever) in non save situations will be fascinating to watch, especially with another lefty in Boone Logan on the roster who could be called on to get out of big jams in the late innings when a lefty is at the plate. There's also going to be more of a chance for Weiss not to burn the bullpen out by August this season as he'll actually have starting pitching and bullpen depth in AAA Colorado Springs. This means that he can rely on different guys to get big outs at different times of the game. The key however will be to push the right buttons.
I'm very interested to see how Weiss manages THIS roster, because the way the pieces come together is compelling. Last season he was in so many "damn if you do, damn if you don't" situations that it was hard to give him a true grade. Now, everything changes. This is a roster that demands proper tinkering in all aspects, and it's almost a complete reversal of last year.
I'm someone who believes that the way the manager handles the people is far more important then the decisions they make in regular season games (game managing becomes significantly more important in the post season), but with this particular roster, I think those in game decisions are going to matter more than usual, and it remains a complete mystery as to how good or bad Walt Weiss will be at making those decisions. One thing is certain, if he does things correctly, he should have his plate full. There are several ways to turn close losses into wins and close wins into losses with this group.