Hope for the Hopeless: Colorado Rockies

This is the sixth edition of Hope for the Hopeless, where we will take a look at the first ten teams in the league eliminated from playoff contention, and examine what their fans can be optimistic about after a disappointing 2013 season. Next up: the Colorado Rockies.

Dare I say it, but the Rockies had a better season than any of us here at TOC expected in 2013…to an extent. Yes, Colorado has lost 80 games (and counting), but they've already surpassed last year's win total of 64, and we've still got 15 games left.

You can really tie Colorado's struggles this year to two moments – Troy Tulowitzki's yearly injury (this year, it was a broken rib) and Carlos Gonzalez's sprained finger. When Tulowitzki went on the DL on June 13th, the Rockies were a respectable 35-32. While he was out, the club went 9-17. When Gonzalez went on the DL on August 5th, the club was 52-61. While he was out, the club went 13-13. So as a whole, when their two stars were on the DL, the Rockies went 22-30. When neither was on the DL, 45-50 – not great, but certainly better than 22-30. Dexter Fowler going on the DL at the same time as Tulowitzki didn't help matters for the Rockies either.

When this team is healthy, their offense led by those three is unstoppable. The trio combined for 60 homers and 41 stolen bases, 40% and 39% respectively of the team's totals in each category. And guess what? Not only are all three back for 2014, they'll also be back for 2015, and possibly longer if Fowler agrees to an extension with the club. 

The Rockies are going to return all of their key players from this 2013 squad as well with the possible exception of starting pitcher Jorge de la Rosa, who has an $11 million club option for the 2014 season that I'm reasonably sure will be exercised. Colorado's only true free agents are aging first baseman Todd Helton, backup catcher Yorvit Torrealba, and pitchers Jeff Francis and Roy Oswalt (who haven't been very good this season). The team also has mutual options on relievers Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt. Essentially, nearly everyone who contributed will be back, including promising starting pitchers Tyler Chatwood, Jhoulys Chacin, and Juan Nicasio.

There's help on the way for the Rockies as well. Third overall pick Jonathan Gray laid waste to the minors after being drafted, and might (though I'm not sure if it would be warranted) reach the majors in 2014. Drew Pomeranz was pretty good dealing with the awful environment in AAA Colorado Springs  this year, but struggled in the majors. If he can get things together, the club might actually be in a good shape for pitching, which is a rarity for them. 22-year old Nolan Arenado also made the leap to the majors this season, and has held his own for the most part.

The Rockies aren't in the best situation in the NL West, but they're in a better place than they were a year ago. If that trio of Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, and Fowler can play 150 games apiece next year, Colorado could be a dark horse contender in the NL West. But of course, that's not an easy feat, considering Gonzalez has never reached that benchmark, Fowler hasn't reached it in the majors, and Tulowitzki hasn't gotten there since 2009.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.

Hope for the Hopeless: Colorado Rockies

In our Hope for the Hopeless series, we take a look at all of the teams in the league that finished under .500, and examine what their fans can be optimistic about after a disappointing 2012 season.

Ah yes, the Colorado Rockies. I have bad news for Rockies fans out there: it's not getting better next year. This team only has three impending free agents: bench player Jason Giambi (who looks just about cooked), and starters Jonathan Sanchez (who has been awful) and Jeff Francis (a sentimental favorite who is thoroughly mediocre in every way). 

However, there are some bright spots. Jorge de la Rosa could actually return in the final two and a half weeks of this season after Tommy John surgery last summer in preparation of a return in 2013. De la Rosa has an option that he'll likely exercise for 2013, and his inclusion in Colorado's rotation would be a huge boon for them after some of the disasters they rolled out this year.

Troy Tulowitzki, probably the best all-around shortstop in the league when healthy, should be back next year from groin surgery. While Josh Rutledge has been solid lately, he's no Tulo, and could probably do a better job at second than DJ LeMahieu. The Rockies will also hopefully get more than NOTHING out of first place this year due to injuries and ineffectiveness from all of the starters there this year.

The key (as it always is in Denver) is the pitching staff. The Rockies starting rotation has an ERA a hair shy of 6.00 this year, and a piggyback system isn't going to help that at all. If the pitcher who starts the game goes just three innings, you're throwing an awful lot on the bullpen (including his piggyback partner) for the rest of the game. Colorado needs to find out which of its pitchers are the talented ones that can actually help out in 2013 and beyond, and which are organizational arms. Some (Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio, Christian Friedrich, Jhoulys Chacin) have shown more promise over their careers than others (Josh Outman, Tyler Chatwood, Alex White), but are they long-term potential franchise guys in Denver, or are they players who won't hit their potential until they leave the thin air?

Forget all of the young hitting talent in the organization. The Rockies need pitching they can count on. This team is going absolutely nowhere unless someone blossoms under the piggyback philosophy (doubtful), or a player steps up in a big way this year to outgrow the organizational way of thinking and forces a necessary change.

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.