There's an interesting article by Tim Marchman at the New York Sun today that talks about undervaluing pitchers. He brings up several interesting names, and gives free passes to a few that had injuries one of the last two seasons, but he doesn't seem to notice Rockies pitchers. Aaron Cook would have been close to a top 30 pitcher last year had he been given a full season (projecting his 13 game VORP over 32 starts would have ranked him 35, the same spot as Jake Peavy this season) and here in 2006 he just cracked the top 30 at #29. That's certainly the definition of a prototypical #2 at least, if not a fringe "ace" according to Marchman. The real question is with Francis and Jennings. JJ ranked 258 in VORP last season but this year was just out of the top ten, ranking eleventh in all of baseball with 50.8 VORP. That was easily the best performance of his career, but the quandary we have is whether it was a fluke or for real. Franchise, meanwhile, could only muster a 398 rating in 2005, his first full season in the bigs, but pulled himself up to #43 on the list this year. I think with Jeff the likelihood of this past season being a step forward in his maturation as a pitcher is greater than it just being a one-off. With Jennings, given his career to this point, I'm not entirely convinced.
The key for the top of the Rockies rotation in 2007, assuming all three of our top starters remain on the team is for both JJ and Cook to stay at least in the 10-35 range and for Francis to take another step forward to join them. This would give us three legit #2's which should be as solid a top to the rotation as you'll find in the division (especially if Peavy gets dealt from San Diego). Unfortunately it won't really represent a step ahead of our major rivals as both the Dodgers and Padres have well stocked staffs and the D-backs have Brandon Webb, who's a pretty good stock by himself.
Like I've mentioned before, our focus at this point should be to shore up the bottom, Byung-Hyun Kim ranked #319 in VORP this season, and Josh Fogg ranked #326. Assuming that the bottom of a rotation starter should rank no lower than 180-200 (teams will usually have their best relievers get more VORP than their worst starters so there will be some overlap) you can see the work that's been cut out for us here. Still, BK managed a #166 ranking starting for us in 2005, so an improvement is certainly possible for him. I think Fogg's capable of better, he's shown glimpses of it on several occasions, but he's also shown that he gets derailed frequently. Of course if either Kim or Fogg get derailed this season, the moment one of them blinks, my hope is that we'll see the one pitcher to watch who will be most likely to take us to that next step in Ubaldo Jimenez. Jimenez' appeared in just two games -one start- and already cracked the top 450, there should be no reason to expect the Rockies to carry a dead weight in the rotation next year.