As the next round of Snowpocalypse/Snowmageddon approaches, I thought it'd be fun to revisit an article I wrote a month ago answering questions posed by Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post before the 2014 season. In the article, I asked you all to think of some questions for the 2015 season. In addition to those the Purple Row Community asked, I had some thoughts of my own that I'll include below.
1) Will the bullpen rebound from an awful 2014 season?
As I wrote a few weeks ago, Colorado's bullpen was bad last year — really bad. Take any metric you want, but it's tough to call the bullpen's performance in 2014 anything but a disappointment, as the group was one of the league's worst. There is reason to believe, however, that this year's rendition can be much better, maybe even good. It's no secret that an injury-riddled starting rotation hurt the bullpen last year. When so many of the Rockies' pitchers went down with injury, a lot of guys who could have potentially been solid relievers were forced into the rotation. Additionally, the relievers were forced to throw a ton of innings since the starters rarely went deep into games. Check out this chart I made using data from FanGraphs comparing the Rockies to the rest of the NL West.
|Team||Bullpen IP (Difference from Rockies)||Starters w/ 6+ IP/G & 10+ Starts|
|Colorado Rockies||525.2 (-)||Tyler Matzek|
|San Diego Padres||487.1 (38.1)||Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, Odrisamer Despaigne|
|San Francisco Giants||472.0 (53.2)||Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Matt Cain|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||507.0 (18.2)||Josh Collmenter, Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, Bronson Arroyo|
|L.A. Dodgers||489 (36.2)||Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke|
With a number of additions coming via trade, free agency, and activation from the disabled list, the Rockies pitching looks set to improve. Adding Kyle Kendrick, likely the Rockies' fifth starter heading into the season, puts guys like Chad Bettis, Christian Bergman, David Hale, and Gus Schlosser in the bullpen. Besides improving the depth of the starting rotation, the Rockies have also acquired pitchers Shane Carle, Chris Rusin, Jorge Rondon, Jairo Diaz, John Axford, and Tyler Ybarra in the past few months. Finally, the Rockies will be hoping for rebound years from Rex Brothers and Boone Logan. The team has a ton of options for the bullpen, but will it perform well enough to help the team contend?
2) Will the starting rotation experience the stability that's so often been lacking in the past?
This one sort of goes along with the first question. The Rockies' starting rotation is often plagued by injuries, hurting consistency and forcing the team to use guys no one wants to see start a game. With all of the new additions, the rotation looks better and deeper in depth than it has in a while. Will it be enough? Will the starters be able to stay relatively healthy and deliver quality performances throughout the year?
3) Will apathy finally affect attendance at Coors Field?
This one I'm not too concerned about. Over the past 10 seasons, the Rockies have had losing records in all but three of them. Average attendance, however, has been north of 32,000 since the 2008 season. I think Rockies fans have proven themselves to be an extremely loyal bunch and, while I'm sure we'd all prefer the team to win, I don't see attendance dropping a significant amount unless something drastic happens. However you may feel about the Monforts, it's tough to deny that they've done an excellent job making Coors Field one of the best in the nation.
4) With four of the top 50 picks in the upcoming draft, how much will the drafting philosophy change with the exit of Dan O'Dowd?
To be honest, I don't really know enough about the Rockies' draft process to answer this question properly. O'Dowd was with the organization for 14 drafts, during which the Rockies had 20 first-round selections. With those picks, they took 12 pitchers. For an organization that struggles to attract free agent pitchers, it's crucial that they stock the system with promising arms, so I think that their tendency to draft pitchers is reflective of need more than anything else. Keep in mind as well that Bridich joined the organization in 2004, so he's been around the draft process for a number of years. We are exploring a couple of avenues and hope to have more information regarding this question soon.
5) Will the pitching prospects take the next step?
It all depends, really. I think that they can take the next step, I'm just not sure if they will. I can't wait to see young guys like Eddie Butler, Jon Gray, and Kyle Freeland take the mound for the Rockies, but I'm also a big advocate of giving them at least most of the year for development in the minors. With all of the Rockies' highly regarded prospects, I'd rather be safe than sorry in terms of deciding whether to call them up. Furthermore, with all the new depth the Rockies have in both the rotation and bullpen, the team might not need them this year. That being said, I think we will see Butler, Gray, and possibly Anderson take the mound for the Rockies at some point in 2015.
6) Can Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez remain healthy?
When Tulo and Cargo are healthy, the Rockies have a great chance to win every time they take the field. Both are elite hitters and defenders; they are special players who can change the game with an outstanding play or a timely hit. Baseball's a team game, but the Rockies chances of contention will depend mightily on their ability to stay on the field.
History says they won't stay healthy, but if there's such a thing as "being due," these two are long past that.
7) Will the combination of Wilin Rosario, Nick Hundley, and Michael McKenry be sufficient at catcher?
The addition of Hundley definitely helps, but I'm still of the opinion that this is one of the team's weaker areas. Hundley is solid defensively and brings an important veteran presence that will be of value to Colorado's top young prospects, but isn't likely to impress with his bat. Rosario's defensive struggles and inability to hit with consistency are well-documented, and it is anyone's guess as to much how much time he'll actually see behind the plate given recent talks of moving him to the outfield or first base. If he can get back on track, however, he'll always be a threat with his ability to hit for power. Michael McKenry had a solid season last year, and it'll be interesting to see if he can build on a career-best year at the plate.
8) Will Nolan Arenado win his third straight Gold Glove and make his first All-Star appearance?
Watching Arenado play is truly a pleasure. He routinely makes impossible-looking plays and he makes them look easy. Unless he turns into a pumpkin, I really can't see him not winning his third Gold Glove in three years. If he can stay healthy and continue to hit as well as he did in 2014, an All-Star appearance is definitely a possibility.
9) Can Tyler Matzek, Jordan Lyles, and Corey Dickerson all build on solid seasons?
Matzek (24), Lyles (24), and Dickerson (25) are all young players who could become cornerstones of the franchise. Dickerson hit .312/.364/.567 in 131 games last year, and he will get a chance to solidify his claim on a starting position with the departure of Michael Cuddyer. Some regression is probably to be expected, but Dickerson looks like the real deal. Matzek, after a couple of rough outings, finished the year strong with a string of very nice performances, highlighted by his complete game shutout of the Padres. Finally, Lyles showed last year that he can be a solid option in the rotation after a few tough seasons with the Astros. Although a broken hand limited him in 2014, look for Lyles to build on an otherwise solid year.
What answers do you predict for these questions? As always, FanPosts are encouraged.