Joe Sheehan predicts that Dexter Fowler will be one of MLB's breakout stars in 2011, which I'm assuming is part of why he also thinks that the Rockies will be returning to the playoffs in a year that he sees parity again reigning over MLB. Sheehan's predictions are an interesting start point for me this morning, but my thoughts are going several directions with this. So it's time for me to appeal to the goddess of bullet points for help in at least making them look organized:
- Fowler's at the top of my list of Rockies players who I think could be a contender worthy support for Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez in the 2011 lineup. ZiPS projects him to have more walks than anybody else on the team, more walks and hits combined than anybody besides the Rockies two stars, and that's only in about 600 PA's. If you give him the 700 plus PA's of a full time lead-off hitter on an above average offense at Coors Field, we could in an optimistic (probably way too far in that direction, but this is the time for that) result see him reach base safely just a bit under 300 times this season. If you add in some improved base-stealing ability.., well, you get the drift. He's basically becoming the prototype for an ideal MLB lead-off hitter.
- The Rockies do project to win the division via at least one (it's too early to do this, but what else are we going to do right now?) projection system, but the NL West is so tightly bunched that you could make a credible case that any of four teams (yes, including the Padres) will win.
- Because of this, health and fortune are going to be critical to the division again. This is a point that seems to be getting lost on a lot of people, the Giants didn't win last year because they are inherently better than the Dodgers or Rockies, they were merely more fortunate.
- Speaking of fortune, getting the rest of the offense to reach that above average status would likely have to involve a couple of surprises, notably Jose Lopez putting a respectable OBP in his switch to Coors Field from Safeco. One of the things that I would like to see studied is how certain league or team switches improve the odds of unlikely events happening, because I've done a complete 180 on Lopez and I think he's capable of putting up an All-Star level season with the Rockies in 2011. I'd be talking about something like .310/.340/.500 in a triple slash line.
- So... uhm, now that I've put out there, we're getting late, so I'll try and justify that insanity in the comments. For those that are just reading via an RSS feed and don't want to venture into the madness, I'll say it has to do with the player's history of making contact and his historical performance in what we'd consider hitter friendly environments. I think the Coors Effect will be particularly strong with this one.