Editor's Note: Each day in March, Tony Lee will preview a different MLB team. On Thursday, he examined the post-Adrian Gonzalez San Diego Padres.
The Colorado Rockies could make a claim to having the best young shortstop, the best young outfielder and the best young starting pitcher in the game today. Certainly, there would be some debate, but the fact that they can make such a boast without looking like absolute fools is a testament to the confidence at Coors Field these days.
2010 record: 83-79, third in National League West
Manager: Jim Tracy
Key additions: 2B Jose Lopez, IF Ty Wigginton.
Key losses: C Miguel Olivo, IF Clint Barmes, 3B Melvin Mora, LHP Jeff Francis, RHP Octavio Dotel, LHP Joe Beimel, RHP Manny Delcarmen.
Outlook: On days when Troy Tulowitzki is playing shortstop, Carlos Gonzalez is in the outfield (likely left field this season) and Ubaldo Jimenez is on the mound, the Rockies are formidable.
Tulowitzki is coming off a season in which he hit .315 with 27 homers (14 of them in an amazing 15-game stretch last September). Gonzalez was a viable Most Valuable Player candidate who led the National League in hitting with a .336 average and was just four steals shy of becoming the 37th member of the 30-30 club. Jimenez was drawing comparisons to Bob Gibson early last year — not for his style per se but for the fact that Gibson's 1.12 ERA in 1968 was being threatened.
Of course, Jimenez came back to Earth at some point and finished with 19 wins and a 2.88 mark, but he will still be the definitive ace of a rotation that is rather capable behind him. That is saying something for Colorado, where the club has often struggled to find five guys it can trust on the mound.
And therein lies the key to the whole operation. With such amazing standouts at three spots, it simply might come down to a matter of support.
Offensively that will depend upon a handful of players. Dexter Fowler is the leadoff man who has loads of potential. Before the 2009 season, he was the No. 15 prospect in the land and since then has had two nearly identical years. The league-leader in triples last year would do the club a great service if he took a step forward in his age-25 year.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies Todd Helton, the grand old daddy of the franchise now in his 15th year in Colorado. Father time has certainly sapped him of what once made him great. But he is just one year removed from a .326/15/86 line. Perhaps he can rediscover that stroke.
Last on that list of those with the chance to stretch out the lineup is new second baseman Jose Lopez. A year removed from hitting 25 homers and driving in 96 runs for Seattle, he figures to solidify the one position that has served like a revolving door throughout franchise history. Lopez has made himself into a pretty good defender and has always hit better outside of Safeco Field. It may be a perfect fit for the Rockies.
Behind Jimenez, perhaps the biggest move of the offseason was retaining Jorge De La Rosa, the No. 2 starter. Injuries hurt him last year, but, like Helton and Lopez with the bat, he is a year separated from a very solid year on the mound.
The veteran Aaron Cook, the intriguing young Jhoulys Chacin (3.28 ERA, 138 strikeouts in 137 1/3 innings) and 10-game winner Jason Hammel round out the rotation in front of a quality bullpen filled with four Matts (Lindstrom, Belisle, Reynolds and Daley) and the shutdown tandem of Huston Street and Rafael Betancourt.
What it means to the Red Sox: It's not completely out of the question that the Rockies emerge from the NL West. If so, and if everything goes as planned for the Red Sox, there will be some out there dreaming of a 2007 World Series redux. Well, they would be dreaming of that in Boston.
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