On Monday, our esteemed commander-in-chief at the SweetSpot, David Schoenfield, declared the Rockies to be the hardest team to predict for the upcoming season. I completely agree. I have made no secret of the fact that I don’t particularly like the policy behind the decisions that have been made this off-season. I don’t think chalking up last season to a lack of character is going to fix anything. However, I still have some hope that the Rox will surprise some folks this upcoming season. Of course, it could also be a complete disaster. Question marks abound.
One thing that stands out about Schoenfield’s piece is the age of the current lineup. I realized that they had a bunch of players past their primes, but hadn’t really taken the time to truly appreciate it. Let’s just say that there will probably be some pretty mean games of bridge played in the clubhouse this year. Still, if the group somehow manages to stay healthy, they should be productive offensively. The good news is that their best players are still very young. Tulo and CarGo may feel out of place when Casey Blake wants to play some INXS in the clubhouse, but the future of the franchise remains in good hands.
The bigger problem, as we’ve said a thousand times, is the starting rotation. Aside from Chacin, we really have no idea who will fill out the rest of the rotation. Whoever it is, they will almost certainly be one of the most inexperienced starting staffs in baseball. Chacin and Hammel are the only ones that have accumulated significant innings in the bigs. The rest of the crew is an enigma. They could be pretty solid; they could be putrid. We will just have to wait and see. In the meantime, let’s engage in some wild speculation, shall we? Basically, if I had my druthers (I certainly do not and will never) this is the rotation I would start the season with. Well, it’s the first four anyway. I have no idea about the fifth spot – none whatsoever.
1. Jhoulys Chacin
Chacin had problems keeping the ball in the park last year, despite an Aaron Cook-esque ground ball percentage. Some of that is attributable to luck and we should see a regression from his 12.2% home run rate. However, the increase of dingers can also be blamed somewhat on the fact that he wasn’t missing as many bats. His strike outs per every nine innings saw a sharp decline from 2010 to 2011. Now, I’m usually a fan of pitching to contact, but it defeats the purpose when you forgo strikeouts for homeruns. Still, Chacin was very solid in 2011. He’s still young, he still has electric stuff, and most importantly, he has learned how to pitch in Colorado. I expect a big year from Jhoulys.
2. Juan Nicasio
The reluctance to include Nicasio in the rotation at the start of the year is understandable. It’s hard to see how anyone could get back on the mound after what happened to him last season. In all likelihood, he has an uphill fight to get over that fear. However, by all accounts, he is 100% physically and I saw enough last year to make me think he is probably their second best pitcher right now. Spring training will be a trial run, but if Juan can get over the mental hurdles, I see no reason why they won’t break camp with him in the number two slot. If he can refine his control just a tad, he has a chance to be special.
3. Drew Pomeranz
I doubt Pomeranz will be an innings eater for the Rox next year. In his first minor league season, he was right at 100, so to expect him to make a big jump this year is a stretch. It would also probably be a little irresponsible. Pomeranz’s talent makes him a candidate to start the season anyway. Is it too soon? Probably. But, that’s where the Rockies are at with this staff and they didn’t trade away the best pitcher in franchise history just to wait around for Pomeranz. This spring, if he can replicate what he did in four starts last year (2.59 FIP) then he has a great chance to crack the rotation.
4. Jason Hammel
Coming into last year, there was much talk about the various changes Hammel made in the off-season. Whatever those changes were, Jason needs to drop them, immediately. I liked 2009 and 2010 Hammel much better than I liked 2011 Hammel. The Rockies need the guy that gave them 3.9 WAR two years in a row, not the guy that walked 3.59 batters per every nine innings in 2011. However, with the inexperience that is in this team’s rotation, you almost have to give Hammel another chance. He’s sturdy, almost a lock to throw 170+ innings, and he could teach the youngsters a lot about pitching in Colorado.
White is intriguing because of his ability to get ground balls. You can’t really put any stock in his performance with the Rox last year because he was coming off a finger injury. Plus, he is still very, very raw. But, when he has his splitter and sinker working, he can be tough. Not to mention, those are usually good pitches for a guy in Coors. The biggest problem with Alex is that we pretty much have no idea if he can adjust to the demands of throwing sinkers in Colorado. Some guys can do it, some can’t. Just ask Mike Hampton. The safe bet here is that Alex starts in the Springs. If he can survive pitching hell, he could definitely get some starts with the big club. (Please, Monforts, buy the Sky Sox a humidor.)
Be honest. Do you really want to have to watch Esmil Rogers make another start for the Rox? Let’s hope he doesn’t. His 7.05 ERA in 13 starts was downright sinful. Nobody should be subjected to that again.
Chatwood started 25 games for the Angels in 2011, so that’s encouraging. However, when you look at the numbers, it’s hard to believe the Angels actually let him start 25 games. He can get a ground ball here and there, but has struggled with control since he was in rookie ball. I see Chatwood as a AAAA pitcher and nothing more. But, in this day and age, AAAA will usually land you at the back end of someone’s rotation, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if he grabs that spot with the Rox. I can live with that. Very few teams are throwing anything formidable out there with their fifth best starter.
A lot of people are going to want Moscosco to start strictly because he had a 3.38 ERA in 21 starts with the A’s last year. I’m warning you now – don’t fall into that trap. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating, Moscosco in Coors Field is a recipe for disaster. The Rockies have never found success with fly ball pitchers and Moscosco is a prodigious fly ball pitcher. 26.8% ground balls last season is an eye opener. Combine that with an inability to strike out hitters and you’ve got a guy that’s not going to be very good in Colorado.
Outman would probably be a better choice than Moscosco, but not by much. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats, has a ground ball percentage below 40%, and walks too many hitters. I’m still not sure what O’Dowd saw in Outman and Moscosco, and I’m actually hoping that we don’t have to find out. If the Rox try to give the ball to either, it will be like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.
Jaime Moyer? As what, the new pitching coach? Great story, but I’d rather the Rox win some games next year.