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Wednesday Rockpile: Colorado Needs Two Things -- Pitching and Depth

Well, this is it, comrades. The 2011 nightmare is nearly over! It will certainly be an interesting offseason, as many important decisions will/could be made, including the future of the team's management (looks like it will be staying intact). Much has been made of the numerous holes Colorado has on the roster -- and today I'm going to write about the holes I'd most like to see filled. But first, here is where the Rockies have been good (or at least, underrated).

Here's something you might not have noticed if you weren't looking closely -- the 2011 Colorado Rockies offense, who almost definitely will be the lowest scoring offense in franchise, fielded six regular position players who rated as league average or above in fWAR this year (had 2 fWAR or more). That doesn't even count Mark Ellis, who projects out to a 3 fWAR player given enough plate appearances.

In fact, Colorado had about as many plus position players as Philadelphia (of which Ryan Howard is not one), one more than Arizona and Milwaukee, and two more than Atlanta. The point is that in terms of a good starting lineup, Colorado is probably already a playoff caliber team going into 2012, provided that Ellis can be re-signed (to be honest, Ellis looks like the best free agent 2B this winter). 

Sure, they need to fix the black hole that is 3rd base, but with whom? Is it worth the 3 years, $42 million + (might be a little low, even) demands of Aramis Ramirez? Because if not, the best starting option on the market might be Wilson Betemit. So...yeah, rolling the dice on Ian Stewart or Kevin Kouzmanoff might be the right play there.

Beyond 3rd base, Colorado's real offensive need is some help from the bench. Beyond the crazy old man strength of Jason Giambi, it could be argued that Colorado had nobody do much of anything off the bench (September callups notwithstanding). Getting rid of Ryan Spilborghs should be job 1 for Dan O'Dowd this offseason, while some interesting decisions will need to be made as to which of Colorado's cadre of young MLB-ready prospects will join Giambi (it's happening folks) on next year's bench.

Jordan Pacheco is the obvious choice in the Ty Wigginton role (which will hopefully be vacated this offseason), while Wilin Rosario should be the backup catcher. Basically, that leaves one outfield spot and one middle infield position (again, if Wigginton is gone) to be filled by Charlie Blackmon/Eric Young Jr./ Tim Wheeler and Jonathan Herrera/Chris Nelson/Tommy Field/Hector Gomez. Instead of the outfielders, finding a right-handed guy to platoon with Seth Smith might be prudent. If Wigginton remains, he'll likely be the 4th outfielder. Yikes.

As for pitching, the problems certainly don't lie with the bullpen. It can be argued that five Colorado relievers were solidly above average (Betancourt, Belisle, Lindstrom, Brothers, Street) while Edgmer Escalona and Matt Reynolds aren't bad low-end relief pieces. The problem is that Colorado had Jhoulys Chacin and not much else this year, injuries to Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio notwithstanding.

In fact, by rWAR Chacin was Colorado's only pitcher to produce at an above league average level. Given more time, De La Rosa and Nicasio would have joined him, but they are no sure things for 2012. The single biggest obstacle for Colorado's playoff chances in 2012 is the lack of proven MLB-quality starting pitchers.

Drew Pomeranz might be a number two starter, but it probably won't happen next year if it happens at all. Colorado still doesn't know what it has in Alex White, though his 2011 cameo has hardly been encouraging. Kevin Millwood is going to be 37 next year (if he's back at all). Jason Hammel has been thoroughly mediocre in 2011, but he was probably the second most productive pitcher Colorado had this year. Beyond those four, the depth isn't particularly encouraging. Esmil Rogers has been awful, Greg Reynolds not much better, and the other options beyond that even less inspiring.

What is becoming increasingly clear to me is that Colorado needs to go after a higher-upside down on his luck starter in the mold that Rox Girl has been writing about. Maybe two or three, given what I'm seeing right now as Colorado's SP depth going into 2012.

Scoring (4) Runs is Important End of Season Update

I'm writing this before the conclusion of Tuesday night's game, but I'm going to count it as a less than 4 runs loss. If this changes, adjust the stats accordingly.

Rockies record when scoring 4 runs or more: 57-23 (.713)

Rockies record when scoring 3 runs or fewer: 15-66 (.185)

Yep, it's still important -- but what might be the most frustrating part of the season to me is that Colorado is only 22-21 when their pitchers allow 2 or 3 runs. The Rockies should honestly be winning at least 65-70% of those games.

Other Links

John Sickels at Minor League Ball has a review of his top 50 hitting and top 50 pitching prospects from 2007. Colorado's 2011 squad featured four hitters and one pitcher on those lists. See if you can guess before you click through.