All Rockies fans are holding their breath going into the 2014 season. The front office has actually put together a pretty decent team, definitely the best in several years. They made a lot of noise prior to 2012, but the only thing that really paid off in that offseason was signing Michael Cuddyer; everybody else, especially the pitchers, failed and failed spectacularly. But I like the moves that were made this year. There were no horribly expensive pickups, but rather a variety of solid, more or less affordable guys who could make an impact with the team.
Whether or not the team itself succeeds depends on a few variables, like just how far Cuddyer regresses (at least some regression is inevitable) and whether or not Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler can contribute in the second half. The biggest question mark, though, is the team’s health. If everyone who is in a position to contribute plays most of the season, the Rockies could be a dark horse for the playoffs. It’s hard to imagine them surmounting the Dodgers for the division title, but there are two wild card spots up for grabs, and I think the Rockies have a legitimate shot at one of them IF everybody is healthy.
It’s a very big if.
Here’s what needs to happen:
1. Perhaps most importantly, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez need to play 150 games this year. Right now, ZIPS has Tulo playing in 128 games and Cargo in 133. In that scenario, they combine to drive in 172 runs. But what if they can play 150 each? Then they project to drive in 198 runs. Last season, the team scored 706 runs and allowed 760. If Cargo and Tulo drive in a combined 26 more runs because they play in more games, then last season’s team scores 732. Maybe they win 5 more games than they lost. That alone would have put the team in 3rd place rather than last. Not good enough for a wild card, but good enough for finishing 2 games under .500.
2. Nolan Arenado has to stay young and springy. He played absolutely killer defense at 3rd last season, good for a Gold Glove in his rookie year. All that running and diving and bouncing takes its toll, though; Arenado needs to stay limber. Luckily, I think his chances are good. He’s not shown himself to be injury-prone, and he’s only 22.
3. Boone Logan, the Rockies’ most expensive free agent signing this offseason, stands to make a real impact out of the bullpen. Tough to do, though, when he hasn’t even thrown a bullpen session in spring training. After surgery for bone chips in his elbow, he’s still trying to recover and be ready for the regular season. Logan is projected to throw 44 innings and donate 0.5 WAR in 2014; could he give us even a full game if he throws twice that many? It’s asking a lot, but Adam Ottavino projects to throw 84. I’d rather have Logan healthy and in more often.
4. Starting pitchers I’m concerned about: Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, and especially Brett Anderson. De La Rosa was healthy last year and his numbers were stellar (16-6, 3.49 ERA, 1.384 WHIP), but ever since he went down in May 2011, he’s been more fragile. We need him to be strong all season long if he’s going to help carry the team. Chacin should be the ace, but he’s already having trouble this spring thanks to shoulder inflammation. Hopefully it’s a small thing and it doesn’t reflect how he’ll do this season as a whole, but it’s not a great sign. And Anderson is the biggest risk. The Rockies traded for him in hopes that he would live up to his “ace potential” status rather than his “injury prone” status. He has suffered, among other things, an oblique strain and a stress fracture in recent years, and if his body can’t hold together, the Rockies have a big hole in their starting rotation. But let’s assume all three of these guys can throw 150+ innings this season. I think they could collectively win at least 40 games, which would go a really long way given that the starting rotation as a whole only managed to win 54 games total in 2013.
So best case, all these guys stay healthy, the Rockies win 90 games as Dick Monfort predicted they would, and the wild card spot they haven’t won in 5 years is theirs. Here’s hoping.