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Friday Rockpile: Closing Out 2010, What Should 2011 Bring?

In what remains a slow news week for the Rockies and MLB as a whole, there's not a lot here to do but wrap up this past year in Rockies history and speculate about what will happen moving forward.

2010 was a year of significant progression for the organization. Several longtime Rockies staples, including Brad Hawpe, Clint Barmes and likely Jeff Francis sang their swan songs for the team and have now been moved on elsewhere. It was a year that marked the solidifying of a new core of three very talented players in Ubaldo Jimenez, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki whose career years in 2010 have launched them into super stardom. We saw the Rockies ultimately lose the fight in a surprisingly close NL West race, suffer frustrating injuries and setbacks, but also commit to Tulowitzki as the new long-term team hero, heir to Todd Helton on the throne, as well as ensure the stability of several of our young players who will likely represent the team for the next 5 years at least.

Jhoulys Chacin and Matt Reynolds broke out of the minors into true MLB ready talent ready to join the mainframe of the team, with Esmil Rogers and Chris Nelson giving exciting tastes of future potential. Rafael Betancourt and particularly Matt Belisle pitched at or above the heights of their career, giving us some of the best late-game relief we have ever seem on a Rockies squad. The Rockies completed their second strong amateru player draft in a row, and saw the emergence of many new prospects, particularly in the lower levels. Once again on the negative side, we saw a battered Todd Helton reach closer to the bottom than we've ever seen in a fantastic career, while top prospects Christian Friedrich and Wilin Rosario dealt with potential setbacks in performance and health..

2011 can and needs to bring more. Being Mr. Anti-prediction, don't look for what I think will happen here, but I know what I want to happen. Three main points:

1. The Rockies have four talented young players hitting stride in their careers who need to break out of being just Jim Tracy special and into being SPECIAL special. Dexter Fowler, Chris Iannetta, Seth Smith and Ian Stewart may all be seeing career highs in playing time this year, and breakouts from most if not all of them are going to be incredibly significant (and surprises from less significant players like Franklin Morales would be nice too.)

2. The injury bug can not be the sole blame for our failure to achieve a playoff spot last year, but a healthier team will likely make at least a significant difference. Last year, we saw players who will be key to 2011, such as Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Hammel, Aaron Cook, Todd Helton, and of course Troy Tulowitzki miss out on various but all significant lengths of time with injury, and the first four of those names had their in-game performances damaged as well as spending time on the disabled list. Healthier players isn't going to just provide a more stable roster of the best talent able to be on the field at any given point, but have them in peak quality in game as well.

3. Ensuring a wider scale of ability to perform in different situations is the most important piece here, I feel. The Rockies made the most out of many situations that fit their favor by default last year, but in several large, important and sometimes essential areas (such as playing away from home), confidence was called into question and performance was lacking. The team must take priority in reminding itself that the changes in between Denver and the rest of the MLB do not require more than some minute adjustments in thought process, and not a complete overhaul calling into question their very baseball skill as a whole. Baseball here or there doesn't have to be night and day, and a professional baseball player can play baseball professionally anywhere he may go.

I know these three points are ultimately common sense and have been talked to death by everyone paying close attention. In this case, look at them as a mission statement for the next 12 months, not just the ~8 months baseball is actually being placed in one form or another. And really, thoughts on these matters should have been a priority for the players since the offseason, not just now. But yeah - this is the closest to new years' resolutions they should have. Except that they should all decide to grow mullets.

As always, 2011 is also going to be bringing some cool new features on Purple Row. I'll have a fun announcement in a few days myself. Stay tuned.

I have just a couple of relevant links after the jump.

Off-Topic if needed. Throw your New Year's parties here instead of real life like the cool people do.

Tis the Season for Change - MyTulsaDrillers, the official Drillers blog has posted a 2010 wrap entry that might be worth a glance.

David Aardsma to Have Surgery - The Mariners announced via Twitter that David Aardsma, a former potential offseason trade target for the Rockies, will be having hip surgery on Monday. The Rockies ultimately decided to pursue Matt Lindstrom for that role instead. Good decision.