Spring Training: What Have We Learned?

Cool shades, Jhoulys, but can you please get ahead in the count a little more often? Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

The Rockies finished the final game of their three-game series with the Mariners to wrap up camp today. Here are the box scores from the last two games if you’re interested: Rockies 2, Mariners 7; Rockies 9, Mariners 8. At this point, I’m more interested in looking at spring training as a whole and thinking about what conclusions we can draw heading into the regular season, which begins for us this Friday in Houston.

Here’s what I’m thinking.

1. The rotation is still a giant unknown.

What’s interesting is that I thought identifying a starting five in spring training would really untangle this pitching situation. But it didn’t, for several reasons. First, Jeremy Guthrie is the current number one guy, but he’s been just okay this spring. In 5 starts, averaging around 4 innings each, he allowed 27 hits and 11 earned runs. We all know that spring stats rarely tell much of a story about a guy, but I’d like to have reason to feel a little better about Guthrie. He needs to keep earning that number one spot if the Rockies are going to have a prayer. Then there’s Jamie Moyer. He’s well-deserving of the the number two spot based on his spring performance (a 2.50 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 18 innings). But do we really feel good about him? Or are we just crossing our fingers that he won’t crumble to dust in the middle of a game? Jhoulys Chacin, unfortunately, essentially proved Dan O’Dowd’s concerns about him this spring. I can’t speak for how he spent his offseason and whether or not he worked out, but I can say that he gave up 17 earned runs in 26 1/3 innings pitched in camp. He’s still an anxious pitcher, still doesn’t wear the ace mantle easily – and this despite the fact that he’s been relieved of that burden this season. “Fastball command” are the buzzwords with Chacin, and we haven’t seen a ton of progress in that area. Finally, we have Drew Pomeranz and Juan Nicasio. Of all the starters, these are the two that I feel most excited about, and they didn’t disappoint in camp. Pomeranz allowed just one earned run the entire spring, and held opponents to a .193 batting average. Nicasio, who’s still a miracle by the way, led the team with 24 K’s in 27 2/3 innings. Both could be future aces, and both seem further along than Chacin. If they both have a breakout year, it could help make up for whatever struggles the other three face. That’s a big if, though, and the potential struggles of which I speak could be massive. How does this rotation shape up? I cannot answer this question my friends.

2. Alex White was rushed to the bigs.

I get it. DOD had just made this massive trade, sending off Ubaldo Jimenez to the Indians in exchange for four prospects. (Side note: I still think the Rockies really botched the way this trade went down, but I’ll humbly admit to being wrong about Ubaldo and glad that the trade went down at all.) Of these prospects, Pomeranz and White were the marquee names. But Pomeranz was definitely not ready to be called up yet, so White had the unfortunate responsibility of proving that this trade was a good idea. And really he did quite the opposite. His spring 2012 was no better than his regular season 2011; he drank a barrel’s worth of alcohol one night and then lied about it, plus he walked 10 guys in 18 innings and gave up 13 earned runs. He was optioned to Triple A just before final cuts were made, and thank goodness for that. He needs to be there for quite a while and get his kinks worked out. Quite honestly, I hope we don’t even see him in the bullpen at Coors this year. I want him on the farm until he’s good and ready this time.

3. Esmil Rogers is never going to run out of chances.

Why oh why did Esmil make the team? Was it because of his stellar 2011? No. His amazing spring training performance? That 6.55 ERA is about what I expected out of him, and about what I expect we’ll see once the season starts as well. The fact that he’s better than fellow righty long reliever Edgmer Escalona? HE’S NOT. I don’t understand the Esmil love affair. I never will. It seems there’s nothing he can do to be sent packing. I wish I had that kind of job security.

4. Dexter Fowler is regressing again, and he’s still not a lead-off hitter.

Here’s another experiment I wish we could end: expecting Fowler to get on base and then actually not get out on the basepaths. Yes, he can run fast, but running smart is another thing entirely, and no one seems to have been able to get him to do that. In 21 games this spring, he attempted 3 stolen bases and was twice successful. By contrast, Eric Young Jr. attempted to steal 7 times and was safe 6 of them, in the same number of games. Which guy would you rather have leading off? At least part of the problem for Fowler was that he didn’t get on base nearly enough to even try to steal. EY’s OBP was a very acceptable .322, and Fowler’s was .186. That’s a terrible figure for a guy whose job it is to GET ON BASE. So what’s wrong with Dex, and does he leave it behind in Scottsdale? I just really hope so. And I hope that batting Marco Scutaro first, as Jim Tracy intends to on opening day, will allow for better production from the lineup. Scutaro’s OBP in camp was .397, despite the fact that he only hit .190, so that’s the guy I want going first.

5. Wilin Rosario and Tyler Colvin could pull more than their weight offensively.

Rosario made the roster as backup catcher and Colvin will play outfield off the bench, but both were stunning in their spring performances. Rosario led the team with 4 home runs and 8 doubles (Todd Helton had 8 as well, but he’s a 2B machine). And Colvin led the team with 25 hits and 18 RBI. Again, we all know better than to read too much into spring stats; it’s a small sample size and there are a lot of variables involved. But both of these guys were swinging the bat very well from what I saw, and I think both stand to make a sizable contribution. Not that I hope others will struggle, but it would be nice if we could get these two a good bit of playing time.

I’m ready for some real baseball. Let’s get it going here.

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