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Thursday Rockpile: Morning of the Lobo

The keenly intelligent wolf studies for a way out of the trap that keeps him from his prey.
The keenly intelligent wolf studies for a way out of the trap that keeps him from his prey.

David Schoenfield's fuzzy math has the Rockies "expecting close to 3000 plate appearances" from starters Todd Helton, Michael Cuddyer, Casey Blake, Ramon Hernandez and Marco Scutaro. After noting this, Schoenfield came to the somewhat obvious conclusion that expecting this would be a "recipe for disaster." The problem, of course, is that the Rockies are not expecting 3000 plate appearances from that quintet. The number the Rockies seem to be angling for is actually considerably closer to 2000 than it is to 3000 (I'm guessing around 2250), with Cuddyer and Scutaro slated to get about half of those and the other three getting bench player PA's despite their starter labels.

Before going too far into the negating of Schoenfield's argument, one of his major points is that there is a considerable downside risk with the 2012 Rockies that could keep them from coming close to sniffing playoff contention. Whether it's from players that are too old breaking down or players that are too young not being ready for prime time, the reasons not to like Colorado in the coming season are solid. The problem I have as a Rockies fan with arguments like this, of course, is that they ignore that a team constructed like this could also make for a surprise contender, as enough of the hanging on geezers and promising youngsters breaking out could combine for a solid team.

So which will it be? What's the most likely outcome?

Part of the issue obscuring what to expect in 2012 is that among the young-ish players that we should expect to get a chunk of those 1000 or so PA's that the Rockies geriatric gang of five will not, there are a few that smell off in the projections but seem to be getting glowing reviews out of the scouting bureau. Jordan Pacheco looks as likely as ever to make the Opening Day squad with a torrid Spring start, and Brandon Wood seems to be turning heads with his results thus far as well. Pacheco's minor league career has been middling (as far as what we expect to see of future MLB'ers) in average while utterly lacking in the power and on base departments. That said, he's shown a major league quality bat despite the minor league numbers. Wood suffers from almost the exact opposite problem, in that his minor league numbers are off the charts good, but his MLB career has been a train-wreck.

If you go strictly by the spreadsheet, the Rockies should limit their exposure to either, but if Wood really has found his 2005 mojo in his third organization.., or if Pacheco's not just pyrite from the Southern Rockies.., well, I guess that's where Spring hopes are eternal. As a rational fan, I know not to believe in either until I see more evidence in actual game play, but I also know enough from the two players histories' and scouting evaluations not to dismiss their chances. These are legitimately decent offensive players from what baseball observers say, it's just a matter of them showing it to the accountants.

Off Topic

If there's a similar player on the pitching side of the equation for the Rockies, it might just be Tyler Chatwood, who like Pacheco doesn't look as promising in his minor (or major) league numbers as he does in real life, and like Pacheco had a statement Spring performance against the Texas Rangers yesterday. The third story in on this Rockies rundown from the team's official site has more on his "learning a new pitch" this Spring. I've been looking at Chatwood as on the periphery of the team's rotation competition and more likely to be moved to the bullpen by the organization, but with a 50 pitch, four inning game yesterday, it does seem like the team still sees him as a starter for 2012 at least.

With the middle of March upon us, the team should start slotting the starters in anticipation of their opening positions in the rotation, which might mean that Chatwood's start yesterday on the same day as Juan Nicasio could be somewhat revealing. For what it's worth, Nicasio pitched against the division rival Diamondbacks, which a week from now would almost be certain that he was not the starter the Rockies intended to bring to Denver with them. As of yesterday? It's probably a bit more ambiguous, and it could be that both could still wind up with the Rockies to start the season, but with Nicasio's recovery from his neck fracture and Chatwood being young and unprepared for the majors in 2011, there are cases that could be made for either to start in Colorado Springs or stay back in extended ST instead.

In Spanish, Hoy Digital has an article about Wilin Rosario's efforts to compact his swing and to improve his pitch blocking on defense, easily two of the biggest hurdles for the young catcher to clear if he wants to be above average at his position in the MLB.