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Rolling the dice

So, who else noticed that Choo Freeman and Ryan Spilborghs went a combined seven for ten for Obregon yesterday? Freeman had three doubles and three RBI, both scored two runs, and after gettting seven hits in his first twelve AB's, Spilborghs now sports a healthy .583 average with a 1.596 OPS. Freeman's better sample size brings his numbers a little more down to earth, but still his .892 OPS in over a hundred AB's bodes well. The growth of these players becomes increasingly more important as the offseason rolls along and it becomes apparent that the Rockies are unlikely to acquire anybody better.

What I'd rather do than going out on a limb with #3, #6 or #7 on Troy Renck's list of "realistic possibilities" is stick with what we have. If we can get any of the other four on that list, great. If not, save that money to make a serious play for Octavio Dotel or a fifth starter. Now let's go into some possible scenarios for the first couple of months of the season:

Scenario A (Purple Haze): After having signed Danny Kolb, Darin Erstad and Geronimo Gil in the offseason as their big acquisitions (but failing to retain Kaz Matsui or Josh Fogg), the Rockies enter the season excited about the prospects of building on last season's early success. NRI Bruce Chen has been named the fifth starter after Clint Hurdle opted for his experience over phenom Ubaldo Jimenez, this despite Jimenez's staggering spring in which he held opponents to a sub .200 batting average and finished with 1.32 ERA. Chen on the other hand stumbled out of the gate, but still wound up with a respectable 10.64 ERA after finishing strong. By finishing strong, I mean he got a minor league scrub from the Giants to ground into a double play to get out of a jam in his final Spring appearance.

"I just thought that U-ball could use a little more seasoning in AAA, and that in order to compete we've got to have players who know what it takes to win in the majors," Hurdle said.

Anyway, for some odd reason the Rockies get off to a slow start to the season, falling to fifteen games below .500 by May 15. Certain changes are made (Erstad is given a few more days off each week, and Chen is replaced by Miguel Ascencio) and the team rebounds somewhat, but is way out of it by the trade deadline. Jason Jennings is dealt at that point to the Yankees for Kevin Whelan and Scott Proctor.

Scenario B (Purple colored glasses): The Rockies enter Spring excited to build on last season's success having retained almost all their players from last season (including Jose Mesa, Josh Fogg and Kazuo Matsui) and adding Octavio Dotel to the mix for the eighth inning. Like last year, they get off to a surprisingly fast start, this time getting unexpected production from Choo Freeman in center and Kaz at second (Matsui is named player of the month in April and has Mets fans banging their heads in frustration with three homeruns against his former team when the Rockies come to visit in the middle of the month). Dotel has stabilized the bullpen and has proven an ideal set-up man for Brian Fuentes. With Rami and Corpas being automatic, opponents would rather stretch out Rockies starters and hope to break through early then have to deal with the pen.

Climbing to a three game division lead by the end of May, the Rockies replace the struggling Fogg with Ubaldo Jimenez who goes on to win sixteen games and the Jackie Robinson award by three points over Chris Iannetta. Troy Tulowitzki finishes fourth in the ballot.

Scenario C (Uhm.., 'shrooms?): The Rockies made a splash this past winter by signing Daisuke Matsuzaka (no one even saw it coming, imagine only $3 million dollars was all it took) and trading prospects Chris Nelson and Seth Smith for Vernon Wells. In addition, Eric Gagne signed a three year contract for a discount rate, saying he wanted to stay in the NL West to show the Dodgers a thing or two for letting him go. Matsuzaka has proven every bit the ace he was labelled to be coming out of Japan, racing out to an 11-0 record by the middle of June. What's more, Jason Jennings isn't far behind at 8-2 and Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis give the Rockies perhaps the best rotation in the majors. Sitting on top of the NL West by a comfortable 15 games, everybody's saying that they are this year's Tigers. There is speculation that the Rockies will sweep the major post season awards, as Matsuzaka and Jennings are the early favorites for the Cy Young, Wells and Matt Holliday are similarly neck and neck for the MVP, and Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta are looking like runaway ROY winners as well. The Dodgers and Padres have all but conceded, the Pads traded away Jake Peavy to the Mets for a bunch of prospects and the Dodgers are similarly looking to deal Brad Penny. The Giants' Brian Sabean says his team will be buyers at the trade deadline despite being twenty games behind. "Look at the Twins last year," he says. "It's still way too early to give up on this race."

Scenario D (reality) What will likely happen is somewhere between the first two scenarios. Regardless of our place in the standings, it's looking likely that we will trade JJ if he hasn't signed an extension by then, and I can't say I blame the team for that. At that point hopefully Jimenez or Bautista are ready to step in, but I suspect that the reason Bruce Chen is mentioned this morning as a "spot starter" acquisition is in case they aren't. Same deal goes for injuries, I think the team looks to those two first, and then someone like Chen.

I've said before that Kaz is one of the most important pieces of the off-season puzzle for us, and as soon as we finish that deal I will be relieved and less stressed about the center field issue. Kaz has the speed we need on the basepaths at the top of the lineup, and with Alan Cockrell around I feel confident he won't relapse into his Mets form. Jamey Carroll's presence is huge as well. Look for injuries to middle infielders around the league this spring as an opportunity for us to deal Clint Barmes for some fairly valuable prospects if Tulo proves ready. I'm hoping Choo or Spilborghs prove ready to bat second, I'm less confident that Salazar or Sullivan will, but we'll see.