GM for the Day: Colorado Rockies

After winning the NL Wild Card in 2009, the Rockies have slipped the last two seasons, compiling a 156-168 record (.481), including a 4th place finish in NL West in 2011.  The team dealt one of the most dominating arms in baseball, Ubaldo Jimenez, to Cleveland for quite a nice package of prospects, a couple of which will help out the club by the end of the 2012 season, if they don’t start on Opening Day.  The team has a solid, young core still, built around shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who was the main piece in the Matt Holliday deal with Oakland.  What and who do they have to work with?  Let’s take a look at the current roster:

2 Catchers: Ramon Hernandez and Jordan Pacheco

1B: Todd Helton

2B: Jonathan Herrera

3B: Chris Nelson

SS: Troy Tulowitzki

LF: Carlos Gonzalez

CF: Dexter Fowler

RF: Michael Cuddyer

Bench: Tyler Colvin (1B/OF), Seth Smith (LF/RF), Jason Giambi (1B/PH), Charlie Blackmon (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Hammel, Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Chatwood and Alex White

Relief Pitchers: Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Reynolds, Rex Brothers, Edgmer Escalona and Kevin Slowey

The Rockies are loaded in the outfield and that is why they have been dangling Seth Smith all winter.  Smith is a solid hitter if you use him right.  He has smashed right-handed pitching to an .878 OPS since the start of the 2009 season, while posting a measly .616 OPS against lefties in the same time frame.  The fact that he is 29 and arbitration-eligible (estimated to make $2.6 million) makes him a great candidate to be moved, especially when you could use some help in the rotation and/or infield.  Recent reports have Smith linked to Oakland, Tampa Bay, Seattle, Atlanta, the Mets and Cincinnati.  Even trading Smith, they’ll have five outfielders, but I would look at third base, where Chris Nelson is currently listed as the starter.  Nelson is a second baseman and is not a typical third baseman as far as offensive production.  He could do a lot more as the second baseman than Jonathan Herrara, who could move to a utility role and play up the middle to give Nelson and Tulo a night off here and there.  You have to make a deal for a third baseman unless you’re going to put Cuddyer there (he’s played 171 games there in his career) until Nolan Arenado is ready, which should or could be by July.  The Rockies can use Colvin and Blackmon in the outfield and hope that Fowler doesn’t falter in center again.  If he does, Blackmon can handle center or Tim Wheeler, another solid prospect, could get the call for Colorado.  Todd Helton is still very productive and you can probably count on him for about 120-130 games.  Jason Giambi signed on again as the backup, but it would be nice to see Colvin get some at bats there, too, especially if Helton misses any significant time due to injury.

The starting rotation is full of potential but may be an issue.  Jason Hammel shouldn’t get much of a look if he continues pitching the way he has since he came up in 2006, as he holds a career 34-45 with a 4.99 ERA and 1.47 WHIP.  Chacin is very nice at the top and should only improve.  Pomeranz was the prize of the Jimenez deal with Cleveland and should fit nicely in the middle of the rotation right now.  Chatwood is more of a thrower than a pitcher, possessing a tremendous fastball with the results that aren’t typical of a power pitcher (142 IP, 74/71 K/BB).  He could use more seasoning, yet, he could have some success in the NL West.  Alex White is another work in progress, part of the deal with the Indians for Jimenez, who has a high ceiling.  Juan Nicasio should be ready by Spring Training after having surgery due to being hit in the neck by a line drive last year, and Jorge De La Rosa should be returning in May from Tommy John surgery, so if any of the youngsters or Hammel struggle, they have help on the way.  If Nicasio is ready in Spring Training, they should probably put him in the rotation and send either White or Chatwood to Triple-A.  Chad Bettis is a name to watch, a RHP with great numbers in High-A last year.  He could get a look in September as a former college arm if he succeeds at Double-A.

The bullpen is solid.  Betancourt is the new closer after Huston Street was traded to San Diego.  He was spectacular last season in a short stint as closer, but has been very good since arriving in Colorado in 2009.

Colorado could use an upgrade in the rotation but they appear to be heading towards a rebuilding mode.  Todd Helton will be retiring and the face of the franchise is now Troy Tulowitzki, who is signed through 2021.  Nolan Arenado looks like a superstar in the making, but he probably won’t be a huge factor until 2013, though he could make an appearance if he continues hitting like he did last year.  Drew Pomeranz won’t be the only rookie that will make an impact, as Tim Wheeler should get a look at some point and Wilin Rosario could hit his way into the starting catcher position.  Since the team isn’t far off but has some holes, they could see if adding Jeff Francis would be a nice reunion.  Francis spent six seasons with the Rockies and was originally drafted in the first round by the team in 2002.  He’ll be 31 in January and proved last season that his shoulder is still functioning, though his 6-16 record and 4.82 ERA is scary.  He could be a good gamble if he comes cheap enough.

I would start Wilin Rosario at catcher, splitting the position with Ramon Hernandez 50/50, as Hernandez is getting older and his split with Ryan Hanigan in Cincinnati the last few years showed what that type of rotation can do for your team.  Rosario is a potential superstar at catcher with huge offensive upside.  Trade Seth Smith and Tim Wheeler or Charlie Blackmon to the Braves for Martin Prado and Zeke Spruill, a mid-level pitching prospect in the Braves system.  This improves the team’s roster and allows the club to have flexibility with the roster, as Prado can play 2B/3B/LF.  Let’s look at what we have now:

2 Catchers: Wilin Rosario and Ramon Hernandez

1B: Todd Helton

2B: Chris Nelson

3B: Martin Prado

SS: Troy Tulowitzki

LF: Carlos Gonzalez

CF: Dexter Fowler

RF: Michael Cuddyer

Bench: Jason Giambi (1B/PH), Jonathan Herrara (2B/3B/SS), Tyler Colvin (1B/OF) and Charlie Blackmon (OF)

Starting Pitchers: Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio, Jeff Francis and Jason Hammel (give White and Chatwood more time in Triple-A, if Francis and/or Hammel stink, bring up the top performer)

Relief Pitchers: Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Matt Lindstrom, Matt Reynolds, Rex Brothers, Edgmer Escalona and Kevin Slowey

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5 Comments

they need to force Helton into retirement and do something about first base now… and all this youth will be wasted, and unresignable, if they don’t beef up the starting rotation. Helton for a pitcher to a playoff team is the answer.

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I agree. I also think Giambi is a wasted roster spot. Wheeler, Blackmon and Colvin should get a nice, long look. Chris Nelson needs to play, too, and I wonder if they’ll play Jonathan Herrara for his glove and sacrifice the offense that Nelson could provide. They have a lot of solid prospects, but only Arenado is really close to helping them. Helton is still useful, but he can’t do the old .340-45-130 trick like he used to when the steroids…I mean, balls weren’t in the humidor.

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This isn’t stratomatic. In real life, the Helton/Giambi factor is very strong in the clubhouse. They still had much to offer last season–especially a pretty healthy Helton who had good numbers and yet incredible defense. Yes, he is approaching retirement, but there is time to train his replacement while he is available to offer valuable input. Giambi may retire first, and then Helton could take that bench role as the new guys get developed. While Helton is still producing (with rest days), both are an asset at the moment in the same roles. What we need is a strong starting pitcher, or patience with the talent that’s there. When 2B and 3B are filled (soon with Arenado and possibly Prado), and if a Wheeler or Blackmon are ready to cover Dexter if he doesn’t stay consistent, we will see where Colvin or someone else is for 1B. I believe we have the foundation of an excellent team in the next 2-3 years…or earlier if the division is weak and the new guys pan out more quickly.

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Helton/Giambi sure didn’t seem to help the clubhouse last year when they drastically underperformed. Helton can only play about 2 out of every 3 and Giambi is a straight waste of space.
What is really, absolutely going to kill them now is lack of pitching. I mean, can we honestly look at that rotation and have any hope to succeed? Especially in the NL West, where every team but San Diego has a dominate pitcher or 3. Chacin is the only healthy, talented, somewhat proven arm in the whole rotation. The rest range from please be healthy (Nicasio) to downright dreadful (Hammel). We won’t win 75 games with that.

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As much as I love Pomeranz long-term, he’s a flyball pitcher. I know the humidor has helped, but that isn’t the greatest sign. If he does well, like I still hope he will, Chacin and Nicasio are solid arms and you still have Bettis on the way. You just need back of the rotation guys, which could be on the way still. Tyler Matzek downright sucking really set them back in the draft and with prospects, as well as the Greg Reynolds fiasco.

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