Amazingly, Forrest Gump's quote about life probably does a better job of describing what to expect from the 2013 Colorado Rockies than the first three sentences of this morning's piece by Jeff Passan in which he says the following...
Nothing exposes a franchise floating in the ether quite like an offseason of curiosity and indecision, of maneuvers unmade and ill-fated. To call the Rockies a rudderless ship at this moment would be an insult to rudders. This is a ship with a hole the width of its bow.
What Passan either fails to understand or is choosing to ignore is that before a franchise can choose the direction it wants to travel, it must first identify its location. This is problematic for the Rockies because almost every key piece on the 2013 roster is a question mark right now - And not necessarily a question mark in a bad way either.
The biggest issue the Rockies face in constructing their team this season (aside from the complete absence of affordable starting pitching on the free agent market) is that an enormous chunk of their players fall into one of the following two categories.
1) The player is returning from a season lost to injury / may have injury concerns going forward.
2) The player is young and raw, and we don't know how good they really are yet.
Let's quickly run through ten of the best examples of this so we can get a brief overview of what I'm talking about.
Troy Tulowitzki: There's nobody more important to the Rockies chances in 2013 than Tulo. If the surgery last June and the long but patient process of sitting out the rest of the season proves successful, Tulo is one of the best players in the game again. But if he doesn't come back strong and has another injury plagued year, the Rockies have a gigantic hole in the middle infield, their lineup, and clubhouse leadership again. That difference alone will swing the Rockies fortunes by several wins one way or the other this season.
Carlos Gonzalez: This is something that's not really talked about much but the range of production that Carlos Gonzalez can put up next season is actually quite large. He only hit five home runs from June 16th on and played very cautious defense last season but it's too early to tell what that means going forward. It's very possible that the power bats of Tulo and Rosario protecting him in the lineup combined with more aggressive defense can return him to the player he was in 2010, but it's also possible that 2010 forever stands out as Cargo's best season. Again, the difference in the possible scenarios here could be worth several wins to the Rockies in 2013.
Wilin Rosario: Here's a really interesting case. With improved defense going forward and nearly 500 major league plate appearences under his belt, Rosario has the potential to have a real breakout season this summer. The possibility is there for 35 home runs and a 4.0 WAR season, but then again, so is a season where he struggles to improve behind the plate and doesn't get on base enough to be a truly fearsome bat.
Second Base: The Rockies have two interesting options at this position in Josh Rutledge and D.J. LeMahieu, but neither one of them has ever logged a full season in the majors, making the range of possible production at the position quite large.
Third Base: The hot corner has the potential to be a disaster again for the Rockies this year if we are in for another summer of Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson, but there's also three other interesting names that could see a lot of playing time there in Ryan Wheeler, D.J. LeMahieu (if second base doesn't work out but his glove proves effective), and Nolan Arenado. Once again, the watchword here is uncertainty but there's certainly a couple of very plausible scenarios where the Rockies see a major improvement at third base.
Jhoulys Chacin: Chacin has the potential to be a very solid pitcher for the Rockies this season. When healthy, he's been one of the most underrated starters in baseball and he posted a 2.84 ERA last August and September when he returned from injury. His ability to pitch effectively for the entire 2013 season however remains a question mark.
Jorge De La Rosa: Here's an even bigger question mark. After the 2010 season, the Rockies thought enough of De La Rosa to give him a deal that could last up to four seasons - And it briefly looked like a really good idea as he had become a legitimate #2 starter when his arm blew out in May of 2011. Whether he is ruined forever as a pitcher or can start taking steps back towards the player he was two years ago remains to be seen and has enormous implications on the 2013 Rockies rotation.
Drew Pomeranz: Raved about as a prospect but he still hasn't quite put it all together yet at the major league level. There's a chance that he finally takes that step this year and gives the Rockies a good shot to win every time he takes the mound. Of course he could also be one of those guys who just never reaches his potential.
Rafael Betancourt: What he has done for this bullpen over the last three and a half years has been nothing short of incredible, but with him turning 38 in April, you have to at least consider the possibility that a regression is coming here in 2013 that could really have a negative impact on the team. However, trying to predict when a player hits that wall is nearly impossible. It's also very plausible that Betancourt fights off father time for one more season and once again proves to be a lock down reliever.
Wilton Lopez: Here's a guy who has been nothing short of outstanding out of the pen with the Astros but also didn't get traded to the Phillies because they were concerned about his arm holding up. I know I must sound like a broken record at this point but again, the range of possibilities here is extremely wide. Lopez could be part of a lethal bullpen combination with Belisle and Betancourt, or that injury concern could come back to roost and destroy his season.
I could keep going but you probably got the point a while ago. The Rockies have a ridiculous amount of pieces that are wildly unpredictable, and specifically wildly unpredictable in the short term, making this club very difficult to take in a new direction right now. Before the Rockies choose a new point they want to get to on the map, they must first locate where they are right now (and it's very possible that they are in a much better spot than most people think)
All this uncertainly in their players is also one of the major reasons why you only hear names like Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer being tossed around on the trade market. They are some of the only pieces the Rockies have that we have a pretty good handle on this year going into Spring Training and therefore they are some of the only pieces the Rockies can really dangle out in front of other teams hoping to get reasonable bite.
Colorado certainly could be one of the worst teams in baseball again this year if everything breaks poorly for them, but there's no other team in the sport that's being projected to finish under .500 that has the type of quality upside pieces the Rockies do. For that reason, I'm more willing to trust Forrest Gump on this subject than guys like Jeff Passan.
The 2013 Colorado Rockies: "Like a box of chocolates"