(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 10th of 30 team reports by GT sports editor Mark Mayer on major league baseball projections for the start of the 2013 season. Today: Colorado Rockies. On deck: Detroit.)
COLORADO ROCKIES (2012: NL West 98-64, 4 up)
The Rockies have had a history of coming through when least expected (three Wild Card berths since 1993) and 2013 in Vegas eyes has them only ahead of the fire sale Marlins as NL’s worst team.
So the Rockies have their opponents right where they want them, right? But these aren’t the Cinderella 2007 NL champions. Matt Holliday has long since left for the big bucks in St. Louis, Todd Helton is six years older and often-injured ace lefty Jeff Francis wound up in Kansas City and now is back trying to be the No. 5 starter.
The casual fan probably couldn’t name one person from the pitching staff. There-in is the predicament. Plus everyone else in the NL West on paper is better. A good start is a must. Colorado opens with 9 of its first 12 games on the road, including 6 matchups with San Diego – another team in transition but off a great second half to 2012.
First baseman Helton is a future Hall of Fame candidate who is clearly on the down slope in Rocky Mountain country, leaving SS Tim Tulowitzki and OF Carlos Gonzalez as the centerpieces. Josh Rutledge (.274, 8 HR, 37 RBI) did a respectable job replacing Tulo.
Tyler Colvin (18, 72 RBI in 136 games) looks like a very capable successor to Helton at first. Colvin could also work his way into the lineup in the outfield where he likely would sub for Michael Cuddyer. CF Dexter Fowler looks likes a Ferrari, but drives like a Kia. Not that a Kia is bad, but the Rockies need a lot more Ferraris.
The problem with Colorado is they can’t play all 162 games at Coors Field or bat all the time. That said 70½ wins (Station Casinos’ latest) is do-able if Tulowitzki can stay healthy. When he went down last year, the Rocks were cooked.
Walt Weiss, a former Rockies shortstop, will bring his scrappy, hustling style to a team that will need to win games through hard work, fundamentals and its enormous success at Coors. On the road, the Rockies historically are a joke.
A 71-91 record doesn’t seem to be asking all that much, but Colorado will be hard pressed to get there this season.
Colorado Rockies Projected wins (70½)
Infield: C: Wilin Rosario; 1B: Todd Helton; 2B: Josh Rutledge; 3B: Chris Nelson; SS: Troy Tulowitzki
Outfield: LF: Carlos Gonzalez; CF Dexter Fowler; RF: Michael Cuddyer.
Pitching: Jorge de la Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Chacin, Drew Pomeranz, Jeff Francis.
Closer: Rafael Betancourt
Top reserves: RP Matt Belisle; OF Eric Young Jr; 1B/OF Tyler Colvin.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].