Thomas Harding profiles the Rockies speedy top of the lineup, Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler. It's my own feeling that Fowler, Gonzalez and I would add Ian Stewart, are the keys offensively for turning the Rockies from the 90-ish win team they are into a 95 win, regular WS contender. Everybody else in the lineup we more or less have a bead on, but these are the three most capable of adding multiple wins worth of production to their output. If the Rockies can somehow get four plus wins of value from each of the three, they would be the best team in the National League.
Current CHONE and fan projections from FanGraphs see Fowler between 2.3 and 3.3 wins over replacement (just above average), Gonzalez at 2.6 to 4.0 and Stewart at 3.0 to 3.2. So we have three good, young, above average players, but each have tools that would make All-Star caliber seasons possible. The purple tinted optimist view will see a potential extra win of value from each of the three taking the team to the Phillies level or above
Of course, all other teams have similar players they are hoping for similar advancements from this Spring (few will have our trio's pedigree, though). So, I guess the burden's on us to explain why CarGo/Fowler/Stewart are better bets to do this than Loney/Martin/DeWitt (that one shouldn't be hard) or Drew/Montero/Jackson or.., oh, dang it, now I have to rewrite the paragraph.
Of course, all other teams, except for the Giants, have similar players they are hoping for like advancements from this Spring (few will have the Rockies trio's pedigree, though). So, I guess the burden's on us to explain why CarGo/Fowler/Stewart are better bets to do this than Loney/Martin/DeWitt (that one shouldn't be hard) or Drew/Montero/Jackson. I'll try and do that for Wednesday, as I think the upside of the Rockies -the probability that players outperform expectations- is as big an advantage for the team as anything else this year.
In a somewhat related story, Troy Renck writes that Fowler trained with Andruw Jones over the winter, although thankfully it appears he didn't hire Jones' old nutritionist.
Jim Armstrong gives a rundown of why the Rockies are likely to succeed in 2010. It's an article that seems to know that its primary audience is just looking for something to do before training camp opens in Greeley, so don't expect anything you haven't read elsewhere except for maybe Bob Apodaca citing Hall of Fame worthy pitchers as a model for the synergy with the Rockies rotation. I don't know if I really buy that "helping each other out" helps our starters, or heled the Braves trio Apodaca cites, as much as being quality (or in Atlanta's case, elite) starting pitchers in the first place.
A notes column says that Manny Corpas looked good pitching to live hitters yesterday. Greg Smith and Justin Speier were also praised, as was Carlos Gonzalez' bat. Smith still seems to be getting a lot more attention than the Rockies other sixth starter candidates, which leaves me with the belief that he's still the most likely to get called up first in case of an injury to one of the Rockies current starting five.
As such, we should probably see how he stacks up compared to the fifth and sixth starters in the rest of the NL West. In order to neutralize park factors and variations in projected innings, after the jump I'll grade them by runs above replacement per nine innings pitched as projected by CHONE, so higher numbers are better.
5th Starter - Jason Hammel 1.15
6th Starter - Greg Smith 0.96
5th Starter - Eric Stults 0.65
6th Starter -
Giancarlo Alvarado 0.65 TBD
5th Starter - Billy Buckner 1.36
6th Starter - Rodrigo Lopez 0.91
5th Starter - Todd Wellemeyer 0.45
6th Starter - Kevin Pucetas 0.46
Actually, I'm not meaning to ignore them here, I'm just having trouble making sense of the Padres rotation, but whoever their 5th and 6th starters wind up being, they will be closer to the Rockies and D-backs projections than the Dodgers and Giants.
- If you read the mainstream press, you'd probably have no idea that the best pitching depth in the NL West was with the three smaller market teams, or that the Giants were that bad at the bottom of their rotation.
- I'm not sure why CHONE likes Buckner so much. but it's another reason why I think the Diamondbacks are more dangerous than a lot of people realize. I don't really buy that Buckner's going to be better than Hammel, but he's still a solid fifth starter, it would appear.
- As I just alluded to, I think Hammel may be a bit underrated by CHONE due to his MLB performance with Tampa Bay in 2006-2008.
- The Padres problem with their pitching is that their likely top of the rotation (Young/Garland/Correia) doesn't stack up to the rest of the division even if the bottom (Latos/Gallagher/Curtis/LeBlanc) does. They do have some nice young pitching depth, however.
- The differences of the Rockies over the Dodgers at the bottom of the rotation are pretty small, but if the projections hold they would amount to a win's worth of value over the course of the season, and a couple of wins over the Giants. If the Dodgers finish 89-73 and we finish with 90-72, this becomes pretty important.
- Finally, back to Smith, it would appear he's the most valuable sixth starter in the division among the four contending teams, at least on paper, so we have that going for us.