In this follow-up post to what I wrote yesterday, I will address five areas of concern that I observed while at Rockies spring training games last week.
1. Bullpen. The whole entire bullpen.
What I saw last week was three nearly flawless starting pitching performances that were either completely derailed or at least somewhat threatened by relief pitchers. The only one I saw that truly impressed me was Tommy Kahnle, who pitched 2 scoreless innings and looked fabulous. That same day at Salt River, Nick Masset walked a couple and gave up a run. Rex Brothers pitched a scoreless 9th, but two days later he gave up a walk-off 2-run home run in a game against the Giants. Masset appeared in that game too, surrendering a grand slam. Also in that game, closer LaTroy Hawkins (who will never get a chance to save a game at the rate things are going), also gave up a two-run homer. Matt Belisle retired the side in the one inning I saw him pitch in Glendale, but after last year’s performance, the general consensus is he’s in regression. And Chad Bettis, who everyone loves so much, only worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the same game because Justin Morneau speared a line drive. Without that good defense, the bases clear. So, I’m really not encouraged by what we have going on in the pen. The irony is, the pen has been significantly stronger than the rotation over the past few seasons. Maybe it’s not possible to have both performing well at the same time. But I do know that if they can’t, the Rockies won’t consistently win games, because neither can spot the other every single time.
Why do the Rockies consistently suck at this? They have speed. They have baserunners. But they are just not smart. Ever since the #nightlybaserunningerror hashtag was created a few seasons ago, it’s become a running joke (pun intended) among Rockies fans. In the spring, they stole 27 bases. That is great. They were also caught stealing EIGHTEEN times, which led both leagues by a lot. I like aggression; I do not like stupidity. Jordan Lyles got called up way faster than he should have been to spot start for Tyler Chatwood, who is on the DL after trying to stretch a double into a triple. In spring training. A pitcher shouldn’t be doing that anyway unless the game is on the line, in which case he should most likely be replaced with a pinch runner. He definitely shouldn’t be doing it in spring training. It feels like the Rockies aren’t being properly coached on this. I am pretty sure what I’m about to say is Rockies blasphemy, but I don’t know if I want Eric Young at first base. I love EY, I really do, but maybe he’s not the best guy for the job. The reason he has the job, after all, is that the Diamondbacks fired him. The fact that he was a great base stealer himself doesn’t necessarily mean anything for his coaching abilities. And then there’s Stu Cole, who never stole a base in the majors. In the minors, he was successful only about twice as often as he was unsuccessful. I’m not trying to disrespect these two, but I am trying to figure out why the Rockies can’t get it together on the bases. Bad decisions could cost this team more than a handful of games this season.
3. Michael Cuddyer.
Okay, I love Cuddy. Please do not get me wrong. But a month or so ago, my husband asked me out of the blue, if I could trade one high-profile Rockie right now to get a player who would make an impact in the future, who would I choose. Almost without thinking, I said Cuddyer. I don’t think he adds the value to the team that his contract would require. I know he won the batting title last year, but he’s not going to do it again. In the spring, he hit .188 and struck out 11 times. Spring stats don’t tell much of a story, generally, but I think those are pretty ominous in terms of what we can expect from him this year. Also, as has been said, his defense is AWFUL. Perhaps, if Morneau hadn’t been signed, Cuddy could have been the everyday first baseman, which would have worked because we have a glut of outfielders. But we did sign Morneau, and now we don’t need Cuddy. I think I would have preferred the don’t-sign-Morneau-put-Cuddy-at-first scenario, but it’s too late for that. And we’ve lost our chance to trade him because he’ll be a free agent next season. Perhaps he could be mid-season trade bait. I’d be in favor of that.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, the person I said I’d trade Cuddy for was Jason Heyward. No doubt we’d have to send over more than just Cuddy, but it was a hypothetical situation, so I could do whatever I wanted.
4. Wilin Rosario‘s catching.
Saying that Wilin Rosario is not great behind the dish is old news. The fact that he doesn’t really seem to be getting any better is a genuine concern. I like him, but we need a catcher who can do his job with his glove as much as his bat. He really seems like good DH material to me, and we can’t use him for that. Plus, his pitch calling is questionable, and he and Jorge De La Rosa apparently hate each other. That’s not entirely Rosario’s problem, but it adds to his overall shakiness defensively. The battery seemed to be the primary issue in yesterday’s loss. I only saw Michael McKenry catch DLR in spring training, so I haven’t seen the problem for myself yet. It just sounds like it could be a real liability down the road, and for a guy who already struggles to do his job, that’s not good.
Need I say more?