Rockies baseball needs to get back to the future.
Once upon a time, the Colorado Rockies found something special with their “homegrown” approach to slowly cultivating a crop of major league talent within their own farm system. That farm has been suffering under some kind of drought for the past several seasons. But there’s hope for the future. I think next season we can anticipate a deluge of new talent flowing onto the field.
No pun intended, but I’d also like to encourage the image of the Colorado Rockies as a “Youth First” organization for the rest of this season, and for 2013 as well.
The good old boys and clubhouse leaders acquired for this disappointing 2012 campaign have all flopped. First Blake, then Moyer, now Guthrie. Even Scutaro, Giambi, and Helton have been failures (none of them register an above-zero WAR value), and Cuddyer hasn’t been worth anywhere close to his hefty price tag
The young veterans (Tulo, Cargo, Fowler) are clearly seasoned enough to assume these somewhat superfluous roles, so let the dam burst here.
Thankfully, an exciting group of prospects and professionals are quietly starting to emerge, getting some well-deserved attention on and off the field (Rosario, Rutledge, Colvin, and Pacheco to name a few).
But the main problems are still and will eternally remain: starting pitching and defense.
1. For Starters
Backend filler : Frontend starter :: J. Sanchez : J. De La Rosa
- Jonathan Sanchez once threw a no-hitter. Sanchez is wild. Ubaldo Jimenez also threw a no-hitter while being wild as hell, but learned to control his use of the Force well enough to go on a 15-1 stretch. But can we honestly ever expect Sanchez to develop enough control to start an All-Star game for the NL?
- JDLR was a true Ace in ’09. After a rough start, he went an incredible 10-1 in the months of June/July, followed by a 9-3 record in August/September to lead the Rockies into the playoffs. Injuries have slowed him since then. But until we’re forced to believe otherwise, JDLR is our ace and must be considered “The Johan Santana” of the Rockies 2013 rotation. Believing anything else might potentially bring on cluster headache.
For next year, JDLR is our no.1 while Sanchez sneaks in at no.5 – assuming he’s even with the club next season. I think this video highlight from ’08 (vs. San Francisco) best foreshadows their respective futures at Coors Field
Some Middling Southpaws
- Jeff Francis was once considered the Ace of the staff. The next thing you know he’s getting shelled in Kansas City. As early as this season he was apparently seen hucking it down on some sandlot in AAA. And today, Francis is once again the Ace of the staff. The circle is now complete.
- Although they might be the cleverest pair of snake oil salesmen still employed in the major leagues, this circle of life somehow proves that Dan O’Dowd and Jeff Francis really are the only ones who’ve “truly lived Coors Field.”
- Christian Friedrich and Drew Pomeranz – much like Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito – have some funny-ass sounding names. That might be all they have in common.
- Josh Outman. Out, man. No, get out. Now. And take Moscosco with ya.
- It’s time to welcome back Satchmo into our crazy 75-pitch-limit scheme. That jazz-ball artist would fit perfectly into this circus act. Of course, he’d get cut, but then might get picked up by some desperate playoff-bound team with a struggling staff, going 5 innings to get a win in mid-November, at the age of 50. Hell, in this age of obsessing over numbers, why not obsess over this wonderfully trivial landmark of baseball minutiae.
- Jhoulys Chacin was expected to be a lot better than he is. For a brief period, he showed flashes of brilliance that got us anticipating another Jimenez-caliber pitcher was on the way. Even if our own GM thinks he’s a fat-ass, he’s still gonna be around next season; what team would even consider adding him to their starting rotation?
- One sentence can describe Juan Nicasio: after getting hit in the head by an Ian Desmond line drive last year – falling face-first onto the top of the mound and fracturing the C-1 vertebrae in his neck –this “Juan in a Million” survivor has since made a complete recovery in time to be flung right back into the starting rotation where he couldn’t ever really get it going, and then, well, he ended up on the disabled list anyway.
Both righties regaining and repeating their former successes seems essential for the Rockies to contend for a playoff spot next year, or to reach .500 for that matter.
- De la Rosa (LHP)
- Francis (LHP)
- Chacin (RHP)
- Nicasio (RHP)
- Sanchez, Friedrich, Pomeranz (LHPs)
2. Righting the Right Side of the Infield
- Todd Helton can “pick it” at first base like nobody else in the game today. Consistently scooping, nabbing, swiping, snagging, snaring, snatching, and plucking baseballs out of the air, on the grass, and in the dirt for so many seasons. Can he not impart this wisdom onto a young padawan disciple before the apprentice becomes a master someplace else and the master becomes a bench warmer for us?
- Helton must now graciously step aside (if only into the PH role). The city can hold some kind of ceremony where this magical moment is shown in an endless loop on the Coors Field jumbotron to remind us of that wonderful, transient time when Denver was transformed into a baseball town.
- In the meantime, or until we trade him for some pitching, Micheal Cuddyer starts at first base. He’s only half as bad there defensively as he is in right field.
- But tell me why the hell the Rockies haven’t traded Marco Scutaro yet? The keystone position, like the Colorado ski-resort of the same name, suggests a consistently high-quality, complementary player at a reasonable price. We don’t necessarily need another “Telluride” like Tulo, or even an “Aspen” like Gonzalez. Nor can we settle for a Loveland-like, slow heartbeat type experience on an everyday basis.
- In my book, LameHieu, Horrera, and Smelly Nelly are all on the precipice (seems like maybe one should stay and at least two should be traded for some pitching).
- That leaves us with Eric Young Jr. He might be the fastest player in baseball and one of the top stolen base threats in the game. Who knows how the rumor got started, but EY2 seems quite capable of playing 2B. In very limited time at the keystone position, he’s actually put up very respectable numbers.
Micheal Cuddyer – 1B
Eric Young Jr. – 2B
3. Provocatively Progressive Left-Side of the Diamond
- Tulo gradually appears to be losing the joy he had playing during his remarkable ‘07 rookie year and now looks the embittered, embattled, and bruised up superstar that best describes his idol – Derek Jeter. He stunk it up in the field to start this season, making more errors in a month than he did all of last year. Since his injury, talk of Tulo turning into everything from trade bait, to a Skrimshander, to a third-sacker has circulated the blogosphere.
Let’s consider these three possibilities.
a) Trade-Bait: in a stunning move, the Marlins recently traded their superstar (former SS, current 3B) Hanley Ramirez – an experiment that now opens the door for any owner to attempt within their respective organizations. Still, it’d be an insult to all of us if the Rockies ever tried to trade Tulo. Not gonna happen.
b) Skrimshander: I just went to pick up a hardcopy first edition of The Art of Fielding that was shipped here to Copenhagen, but the normally reliable Danish postal service seems to have lost it. Kinda like how the Skrimshander character in the book loses his ability to make a routine play, or so I’ve heard. Kinda like Tulo’s rough start to this season, I suppose. Yet, there’s little reason to doubt he’ll once again be projected as a top 5 glove at shortstop going into 2013.
c) Third-Sacker: There was a time when Tulo’s glove-work was superior to his bat; this is no longer the case, which is not to say he’s lost anything in the field. I know Kiszla’s suggestion has gotten a lot of flak, but it’s not entirely insane. If we move Rutledge to SS and Tulo to 3B, will we not finally have an answer to the emptiness existing at the hot corner since the days of Vinny Castilla? Even the likes of Charlie Hayes and Jeff Cirillo would be worthy names to live up to.
Jordan Pacheco has performed admirably since being called up, no doubt about it. But imagine having Troy Tulowitzki at the hot corner! His bat certainly “profiles well” at the position and he’s got a cannon for an arm. Tulo still has the swagger and skill to teach young Josh Rutledge how to truly flash the leather at shortstop while the two are still young and agile. And if the Rockies ever realize the advantages to using the “Williams Shift” a bit more, Tulo would confidently cover the entire left side of the infield by himself.
If the Rox are looking to experiment this coming September (and continue to be conservative with Tulo’s hamstring) they might want to consider “easing him in” by starting him at third base, especially while Rutledge is raking. Tulo can then enjoy putting up more RUTHIAN September batting stats while fielding a low-stress position.
Rutledge – SS
Tulowitzki – 3B
4. Athletes in the Outfield
Behind this promising infield is a trio of rising stars who continue to enhance and refine their swings to complement often beautiful and always-athletic outfield play.
- LF – Tyler Colvin looks comfortable enough to be penciled in as the starting left fielder with the Rockies from here on out. It’s been a promising 2012 season for him thus far and he can even play a little 1B.
- CF – Dexter Fowler consistently defies his critics and steadily shows us why he’s one of the top center fielders in the NL, both offensively and defensively. Sure, he takes a bad route once in a while and he has his slumps at the dish, but neither the numbers nor the eyes lie: Fowler is a star on the rise.
- RF – Carlos Gonzalez might also be one of the top center fielders in the NL, if he was allowed to play there. With a sensational arm and great range, he’s played a graceful and reckless outfield in the past, showcasing his talents at all three outfield positions. This season, however, he’s been nonchalantly strolling after no-doubt doubles way out in left, visibly disappointed in this low-stakes environment. Coors Field has one of the most-difficult right fields in all of baseball (Boston and SF also come to mind), and I guarantee that the Little Pony is more than up to the task. Nobody would dare go first-to-third on that arm. Not to mention, going second-to-home on a base hit would once again become a thrillingly close play at the plate.
5. Catching up
- Although he could probably use some veteran tutelage calling a game and refining his defense behind the dish, Wilin Rosario so far looks like a promising young slugger with a great arm, who runs surprisingly well. With “Baby Bull” in the starting lineup, the Rockies finally have an offensively intimidating catcher – a force to be reckoned with in the NL West – alongside all-stars like Montero and Posey.
- Super-utility man Jordan Pacheco appears to be the real deal – an excellent all-around stopgap who’s able to play every infield position, except pitcher. His ability to make contact at the plate (he’s still hitting around .300), despite not having much power (only one HR), still gives him good value as a replacement player. And he can even hold down the dish when necessary.
The Rockies have fallen so far down this season that it’s hard to remember the lofty heights our preseason hopes might’ve once attained. But the return of promising prospects and the prospect of returning rookies next season gives Rockies’ fans some hope that we can once again becoming a contender – by going back to focusing on the future.
Suggested Starting Lineup
- Carlos Gonzalez – RF
- Dexter Fowler – CF
- Troy Tulowitzki – 3B
- Michael Cuddyer – 1B
- Tyler Colvin – LF
- Josh Rutledge – SS
- Wilin Rosario – C
- Eric Young Jr. – 2B
Kevin Kroh doesn’t tweet. He howls. Feel free to howl back at him: kevinkroh(at)gmail.com