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Sunday Rockpile: Juan and done for Nicasio?

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Aaron Cook says he's ready to return to the majors, and he's pretty much exhausted his allotted rehab starts, anyhow, which means that Juan Nicasio will likely be optioned back to Tulsa, or perhaps the Springs before his next scheduled outing. That said, Nicasio's start last night showed a glimpse that the Rockies pitching future remains relatively stable for 2012 and beyond. 

The future of the offense, which got a much needed kick into a higher gear yesterday, remains an open ended question. As Dave Krieger points out, the Rockies also won a blowout against the Diamondbacks early in the week, only to see the bats go back into slumber for the next four contests.

Seattle's Geoff Baker writes that the free swinging, low OBP wasn't what did him in as that was with him from the start, but that Jose Lopez's vanishing power cratered his MLB career. With only six extra base hits in his 129 plate appearances in 2011 (40 year old Jason Giambi has as many, all HR's, in 47 PA's,) Lopez never came close to the rebound some silly people imagined, and his 25 home run campaign in 2009 now seems a distant memory. I hate to admit that I'm ever wrong, but boy howdy was I on this one.

The Rockies replaced Lopez with Eric Young Jr., who has hit safely and scored in both games, and has collected four hits overall plus a stolen base. In Colorado Springs, Young had quietly taken his game to another level, posting several career best peripheral offensive stats (13. 4 K%, 15.9 BB%, ISO .181, 17/1 SB/CS,) which mitigated the one "lucky" statistic, a .436 BABIP despite a listed 12% line drive rate. In the two game MLB sample, we have seen the improved contact and base running skills, but not the increased power or plate discipline. The Rockies certainly improved their team by this switch, however.

Will it be enough?

As the last man on the roster, Young's added impact will be relatively small. It could help the Rockies keep pace with a weakened Giants team, or a rejuvenated but still flawed Diamondbacks squad, but if Colorado really wants to put the accelerator to the floor, they need their three star players to produce consistently and at least two at the same time. In focusing on Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and the somewhat red herring of third base (it's important that it's not a sinkhole, but we can make do with league average or slightly below production there,) Troy Renck downplays Ubaldo Jimenez's importance, but make no mistake, the team needs to see Ubaldo rebound to get back into the driver's seat for the division rather than just hoping they get lucky.

In 2011, the rotation pitches effectively, but without a positive contribution from Jimenez the Rockies have dropped back into the middle of the NL pack as far as value from the staff is concerned. What's kept the team in contention the last few seasons is a pitching staff that's near the top of the league in added value, without that, we're seeing the mediocrity that the Rockies become.

Lewis: Rockies farm system in better shape this year - The major additions to the system from a season ago have been Kyle Parker and Chad Bettis, which are both solid prospects, but what's really making the system appear to have jumped in talent in 2011 has been the resurgence of 2009 additions such as Tim Wheeler and Ben Paulsen as well as their 2010 Modesto teammate, Nicasio.

Speaking of failed experiments, Matt Conner thinks the Rockies overreacted in dumping Felipe Paulino. I hate to break it to him but the sample size the Rockies were using wasn't just from his short stint in Colorado. With Houston too, that mid 90's fastball too often came in belt high, and I'm guessing it's relatively easy for MLB hitters, particularly left handed ones, to pick up coming out of his hand. The demand for ROOGY's is pretty limited, and the Rockies had at least three better options for their bullpen pining in Colorado Springs.