Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Rockies' Future at Second Base

Much like a clammy, adolescent male with weak wrists and confidence issues; the Rockies haven't found the right match for their second base experience.

The second base position has always been a question mark for the Rockies since the departure of the original Eric Young in 1997. The Rockies were spoiled with EY. He was a speedy player with smooth hands and a solid bat, and he did it all with a child-like enthusiasm. Since then, the Rockies have gone through so many second baseman that they could fill a 40-person theater, because that's exactly how many players who have played second base for the Rockies since 1993. The Rockies had seven players alone in 2011 play second base, but not one of them is projected to be the starter in 2012 at the position. That's because the Rockies traded for Marco Scutaro, who has filled the holes at second base and the number two spot in the batting order. I feel like he's a great acquisition for the Rockies and he will fit in perfectly, but the only problem is that he's already 36 years old. This means that he's not the long-term answer for the position, which means the search for the final answer at second base continues...

Here are the potential long-term options for the Rockies' at second base:

DJ LeMahieu


LeMahieu was acquired from the Chicago Cubs this off-season in the Ian Stewart trade. He was taken in the second round by the Cubs in the 2009 amateur draft, and has since worked his way up quickly through minor league ball. He has a career line of .317/.353/.399 in the minors over three seasons. He made a brief appearance in the majors last season, but he struggled in the transition. He only hit .250/.263/.283 in 64 plate appearances and struck out 12 times while only walking once. He doesn't have much power in his 6'4" body, but he does play a solid defense and will hit for average. He's only 23 and has plenty of room to grow into his body and talents. He'll see some playing time in the majors this season where he'll have the opportunity to learn from Tulowitzki and Scutaro.


Josh Rutledge

Rutledge was drafted by the Rockies in the third round of the 2010 amateur draft. He's currently a short-stop, but he's expected to make the transition to second base. That's a common trend for short stops in the Rockies' organization due to a man named Tulo. Rutledge has had a very impressive minor league career so far, posting a .331/.399/.487 line playing Low-A and High-A ball. He's only 22, so he has time to grow through the farm system and not be expected to produce right away. He's said to have some speed, a solid approach at the plate, and doubles power. He sounds like the perfect number two hitter in the order. It's still early to tell if he will be a formidable big league player, but so far he's proven that he's worth the look. He'll get the opportunity to work his way up to AA and AAA this upcoming season.

Trevor Story


Story is an interesting option for the Rockies. He's another young short stop at the age of 19, but he's already tinkered with the idea of making a position change because of the Tulowitzki roadblock. He had a solid first year in professional baseball hitting .268/.364/.436 for the Rockies' minor league affiliate, the Casper Ghosts. He's a young player with a huge amount of upside. He has a very strong arm to go with his stellar defense and he looks to have a solid approach at the plate. He's currently 6'1" and 175 pounds, but at 19, that means he's going to fill out even more. Story played a few games at third base last season, but I have a feeling that there will be another road block in the form of Nolan Arenado at the hot corner. Story is young enough to make a position change, so why not switch him to second base and see if he can battle his way through the system and into the big leagues?


Eric Young Jr.

Out of Eric Young Jr., Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson, and Jordan Pacheco, I feel like Eric Young Jr. has the best opportunity to be the everyday second baseman. EY2 has had the opportunity to take over the second base job for the past three seasons, but he's botched the opportunities. He had a great season in Tiple-A last season with a .363/.454/.552 line in 275 plate appearances with 17 stolen bases, but his big league production floundered. He only hit .247/.342/.298 over 229 plate appearances with the Rockies in 2011. He did make for a great pinch-runner for the Rockies last season, swiping 27 bases in 31 attempts. His defense is below average at second base, but he has seen his On-Base Percentage increase substantially each season in the big leagues. At the age of 26, he needs to prove to the Rockies' organization that he's an everyday player. He's an exciting player with a great work ethic, but he needs it to all come together in 2012, or else these younger kids will be taking his backup job.

I left a few players off the list such as Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson, and Jordan Pacheco because of various reasons. I left Herrera off of the list because of his age and his lack of success in the big leagues. He's a fun player to watch and he sometimes is the "spark plug", but I don't think he's the future at second base for the Rockies. Nelson didn't find his way on this list because he's another younger player that can't seem to transition to the big leagues. I believe he's better off as the utility infielder because of his versatility. I left Pacheco off of the list because he really isn't a second baseman. He's being forced into the position because of the lack of options at the position. He's a solid young hitter, but I think he'd be a liability defensively at second base. Pacheco only played 11 games at second base before playing second base on the Rockies in 2011. Pacheco is another strong utility option because of his abilities to play catcher and third base.

Hopefully the Rockies can find a long awaited answer at second base, but until then, bring on the veterans!

Who do you think will be the Rockies' future second baseman? Is he in the system, or is there an option elsewhere that can be delivered through a trade?



Monday, January 23, 2012

The Rockies' Anti-Youth Movement

The Rockies wanted to add some veteran presence to their team during the off-season, and by the looks of things, I'd say mission accomplished! With the addition of Marco Scutaro, the Rockies now have five players that are projected opening-day starters over the age of 33: Todd Helton (38), Casey Blake (38), Marco Scutaro (36), Ramon Hernandez (35), and Michael Cuddyer (33). Last season, the Rockies had two opening-day starters over the age of 33: Todd Helton (37) and Ty Wigginton (33). The Rockies have gotten older, but hopefully not so old that they can't succeed.

The Rockies' average age of opening-day position starters in 2011 was 28.5, whereas the projected average age of opening-day position starters in 2012 is 32.4. That's an increase of 3.9 years. The 3.9 years that they added to the team are referred to in baseball as a player's prime or peak years. Generally, the prime or peak of a player's career has been described as their age 27-32 years. This is when a player is believed to  get the best production of their career due to their maturity and their physical capabilities. At the age of 33, the average MLB player begins their decline in production. Of course, some players will begin their decline earlier, and some players will begin their decline later, but 33 is the general benchmark for decline. If that is the case, then the average Rockie starter is .6 years away from a decline.
Good hitters stay around, weak hitters don't. Most players are declining by age 30; all players are declining by age 33. There are difference in rates of decline, but those differences are far less significant for the assessment of future value than are the differing levels of ability (Bill James, 1982, p. 205).
Here's a link to a wonderful article by J.C. Bradbury that tackles the question; How do Baseball Player's Age?

I know that it's unfair to group together the team as a whole when looking at age because each player has their own skills and abilities, but I do find it fair to point out that the Rockies' age might have a negative impact on the team. Coors Field is better suited for younger players who are athletic and healthy. Not only does Coors Field own one of the largest playing fields in all of baseball, it's also located a mile high above sea level. This means there's more ground to cover with less oxygen to breathe.  These might be difficult obstacles for the aged players to overcome. I'm aware that a lot of the older players are merely stop-gaps for the younger players coming up through the system, but it's going to be difficult for the Rockies to justify dismantling a team of young, home-grown players for players that are well past their prime and could potentially struggle playing at Coors Field.

I'm a fan of all of the players the Rockies have accumulated during the off-season, and I hope they have wonderful seasons in Colorado. They're a great group of guys and I believe they'll have a positive influence when it comes to team camaraderie, but I think they might be liabilities when it comes to actual production on the field.  I understand that the Rockies want mentors for the younger players, and I believe they found the perfect guys for those positions, but if the Rockies want coaches for their team, then maybe they should think about upgrading their coaching staff. A team shouldn't need over six veteran pick-ups during the off-season for their presence, unless there's leadership lacking elsewhere....uh hum...management.

At least the pitching staff's age evens out the everyday player's age. Even Jamie Moyer can't make the Rockies' pitching staff look old.

If you're looking for a "Just For Men" spokesperson, then look no further than the Rockies' dugout...

Jason "Giambino" Giambi (41)
Colin Firth? No, that's Jamie Moyer (49)
Casey Blake "St. Bomber" (38)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Farewell to the One and Only, Spilly (Ryan Spilborghs)

It was reported today that Ryan Spilborghs signed a minor league contract to play for the Cleveland Indians. To say that this is a sad day for Rockies' fans would be putting it lightly. It's mortifying. It was apparent that Spilly wasn't going back to the Rockies, but I didn't want it to be true. As long as he was a free agent that meant there was still a very, very, very small chance that he could be back in purple. Now, there's no chance at all. Spilly was the most entertaining player the Rockies have ever had on their team. Yes, even more entertaining than Dante Bichette. He might not have put up tremendous numbers, but he always played hard and he always had a good time. There's a lot to be said about a player that sparks team chemistry. Instead of being sad about this, I'm going to find the silver lining...much like the glittery lining found on the Rockies' black vest jerseys. Let's take a look back at the man they call Spilly...

We undoubtedly have to start this thing off with his 2009 walk-up song:



Ryan Spilborghs played college baseball at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Spilly had a wonderful college career, where he earned two All-Big West honors and helped his team to an NCAA tournament berth in 2001. He holds two UCSB school records with a 35-game hit streak and 13 sacrifice bunts in 2001. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2002 draft by the Colorado Rockies. He signed his first deal with the Rockies on June 11, 2002 and made his major league debut at the age of 25 on July 16, 2005. He played all seven of his MLB seasons with the Rockies and has a career line of .272/.345/.423. He had a productive season in 2007 that helped the Rockies win the National League Pennant and sent them to their first ever World Series.

Spilly's greatest moment with the Rockies came on August 24, 2009 when he hit the Rockies' first ever walk-off grand slam to beat the San Francisco Giants in the 14th inning. Check it out...
 
He ran as if it were an inside-the-park home run. Doesn't it just bring a smile to your face?

Spilly has an unparalleled sense of humor and personality. I remember back when I met Spilly before a game in 2010 and he signed a unique item for me. I was sitting in my seat watching batting practice when he walked over and started signing autographs for fans. I wanted to get something signed, but I didn't have anything on me to get signed except for a dollar bill. I handed the dollar to Spilly and without a beat he stuck the dollar in his back pocket. He said, "Thanks." I said, "Well, now I guess you have to dance." (Yes, I felt stupid as I was saying that). He took the dollar out of his pocket and said, "I'd rather just sign the dollar now." He signed the dollar and drew a mustache on George Washington's upper lip. The Spilly dollar has a permanent spot next to my work desk. Spilly even had his own show with the Rockies called "Spill the Beans". Here are two of the episodes:


He was a fan favorite in Colorado and he will always be remembered as one of the greatest personalities to ever play in a Rockies' uniform. The Cleveland Indians are fortunate to have such a great teammate and player joining their club. I hope that he's given more opportunities in Cleveland than he was given in Colorado. He's a good player that needs some repetition and stability. Good luck to you and your family in Cleveland, Spilly! Say "Hi" to Ubaldo for us. I'll be rooting for you guys. Hope to see you in October.

Below are a couple articles about Ryan Spilborghs that attest to his personality and abilities:

"S.B. Born Spilborghs Cleans Up in Colorado: Native Son"
"Ryan Spilborghs on Real Gauchos"


Welcome to the Rockies, Ramon Hernandez!

It's always nice to get to know the new guys, so each week I'm going to introduce one of the Rockies' newest additions. This week, I'll focus on the Colorado Rockies' new catcher, Ramon Hernandez.

Hernandez was signed by the Oakland Athletics as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela on February 18, 1994. He played his first big league game with the Oakland Athletics in June 1999 as a backup catcher to A.J. Hinch. The Athletics traded A.J. Hinch before the 2000 season and gave the starting catcher job to Hernandez. In the 2000 season, Hernandez set an Oakland record with the most games caught in a single season with 142 games. Hernandez's best season came in 2003 when he hit .273 with 21 home runs and 78 RBI. This landed him on his first and only All-Star team. The Athletics made the playoffs every season (200-2003) with Hernandez as their starting catcher.

Hernandez has played on three teams since parting ways with the Oakland Athletics; the San Diego Padres (2004-2005), Baltimore Orioles (2006-2008), and Cincinnati Reds (2009-2011). In 2004, while with the Padres, Hernandez found himself on the disabled list for the first time with an injured knee due to a collision at home plate. The following season (2005), Hernandez was injured again with a jammed wrist after sliding head first into first base. Hernandez was forced to have surgery on his wrist due to cartilage damage, but he returned to the team in September that year and hit .359 with five home runs and 20 RBI in the month. He was signed by the Orioles as a free agent in 2006 and took over their catching duties. He averaged a .264 average with 16 home runs and 73 RBI a season in his three seasons with the Orioles. He was traded to the Reds in December 2008 for Ryan Freel and two other minor league players. While with the Reds, Hernandez only averaged to play 90 games a season. He hit .280 with 24 home runs and 121 RBI in the three seasons he spent with the Reds. Hernandez signed a two-year deal as a free agent to play with the Rockies on November 30, 2011. He's the veteran catcher that was brought in to replace Chris Ianetta's presence which shouldn't be too difficult for Hernandez.

Hernandez has always been known as an extremely smart catcher that knows how to call games and be able to work well with young pitchers. If that's the case, he'll be a perfect fit with the Rockies, who are overloaded with young pitchers. He will also serve as a mentor to the Rockies' young catching prospects Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco. I feel like he'll have an undeniable presence on the Rockies, and his veteran leadership should work wonders on these young players. I don't expect him to be able to play over 100 games in a season or hit 20 home runs with 75 RBI, but I do believe he'll be able to help develop the Rockies' young pitching staff and catching core for the next two seasons. I'll predict that in 2012 that he'll play in 90 games with a .272 average, 10 home runs, and 43 RBI.

I'm excited to see Ramon Hernandez joining the Rockies. He's always been one of my favorite catchers because of his ability to call games. I've always felt like that's one of the most overlooked assets of a catcher, but one of the most beneficial to a team. The Rockies have a great nucleus of veteran players with the additions of Hernandez, Casey Blake, Michael Cuddyer, and even Jamie Moyer. These players, plus Todd Helton and Jason Giambi, should be able to help coach the younger players, which is what the Rockies desperately need...coaches.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dexter Fowler in 2012

Dexter Fowler and the Rockies agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.35 million to avoid arbitration. Don't worry, this isn't anything like the one-year deal that was given to Seth Smith which ended with him being traded to the Oakland Athletics within 12 hours. Nope, the Rockies plan to keep Fowler for at least one more season. The Rockies expect a breakout season from Dexter in 2012, and I agree, but there are a few things that Dexter needs to work on for his 2012 breakout season to become a reality.

I'm a huge fan of Dexter's defense, and I believe he's one of top defensive outfielders in the game, but his offense needs a little work. I'm not completely sold on Dexter Fowler as a switch hitter. I'd prefer if he'd hit strictly from the left side of the plate to get that quicker first step out of the box so he can utilize his speed. His average from the right side of the plate is twenty points lower than from the left and his BAbip (Batting average on balls in play) is close to 100 points lower. That means he's not getting good contact from the right side of the plate. If he continues to switch hit, then he needs to focus on base hits and walks because he isn't a power hitter, even though at times his swing suggests he's the second coming of Mickey Mantle. He does have an impressive on-base percentage (Career OBP .355), so I'm not suggesting that it's bad in the previous sentence. I'm only suggesting that he needs to focus on being a leadoff hitter if he's expected to be a leadoff hitter. As a leadoff hitter, it's your job to get on base and create opportunities for the power hitters to drive you in. Dexter had trouble stealing bases last season, which is another expectation for the leadoff hitter. Not only do stolen bases put the player in a better position to score, but it also gets into the head of the pitcher on the mound. Instead of the pitcher being focused on making the right pitch to a Cargo or a Tulo, he's focused on keeping Dexter Fowler from stealing second base. Last season, Dexter only stole 12 bases on 21 attempts. That's not a good enough ratio for a leadoff hitter.

For Dexter and the Rockies to have success in 2012, Dexter needs to approach his at-bats as a leadoff hitter instead of a clean-up hitter. Take pitches, slap the ball into the holes, and steal bases. Dexter is a very athletic player, and he has the opportunity to wear out teams with his speed and patient hitting. I hope he takes advantage of the opportunity.

Dexter's a great kid and I wish him nothing but the best! I'm a believeR!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Holy Pitchers, Rockies! (Rockies 2012 Rotation)

The Colorado Rockies are overloaded on pitchers that could potentially fill their rotation in 2012. During the off-season, the Rockies acquired Kevin Slowey, Tyler Chatwood, Josh Outman, Guillermo Moscoso, and Jamie Moyer to compete for major league spots. They'll be joining Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, Jason Hammel, Alex White, Drew Pomeranz, Esmil Rogers, and Clayton Mortensen in the DMV line of starters the Rockies already have on their team. The only player listed above that I believe is guaranteed a spot is Chacin. The rest can battle it out during spring training. However, I'd like to see who'd be the best options for the Rockies based off of their previous statistics. Some of them will only have small sample sizes, and some of them have sample sizes so large that you'd think it was a joke...Jamie Moyer.

The three main stats that need to be decent for a pitcher to have success in Coors Field are WHIP (Walks plus Hits per inning pitched), SO/9 (Average Strikeouts per 9 innings pitched), and GB/FB rate (Ground Ball to Fly Ball rate). The first stat is an obvious choice because you don't want your pitchers allowing people to get on base. The second stat I like to see is a high SO/9 because the batters aren't getting the opportunity to put the ball in play, and as we all know in Coors Field, any ball hit fair has the potential to find a hole. The last statistic of GB/FB is another obvious choice for a Coors Field pitcher because fly balls in Coors can find the gaps and the seats, whereas ground balls can find Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton. These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to evaluation, but it should allow us to see some obvious choices and some obvious red flags. For further evaluation, I'll look at the pitcher's IP% (Balls in Play Percentage), HR/FB (Percentage of Fly Balls That Were Home Runs), GO/AO (Ground Outs to Air Outs), and LD% (Line Drive Percentage). I believe these will give us the best idea as to who has the ability to translate well in Coors Field. I'll also take into account innings pitched and age, because none of this matters if the pitcher can't make the long haul throughout the season. I'll rank each pitcher one through twelve by each individual career stat. One being the best and twelve being the worst. I'll then do the same for their 2011 statistics. After that, I'll combine both totals and rank them accordingly.

Here's the ranking based off of career performances: (12=Least Likely Starter, 1=Most Likely Starter)

12. Jamie Moyer (53 points)
11. Tyler Chatwood (50 points)
10. Jason Hammel (49 points)
09. Josh Outman (48 points)
08. Esmil Rogers (48 points)
07. Alex White (47 points)
06. Clayton Mortensen (46 points)
05. Kevin Slowey (46 points)
04. Guillermo Moscoso (45 points)
03. Drew Pomeranz (35 points)
02. Juan Nicasio (30 points)
01. Jhoulys Chacin (26 points)

Here they are ranked from last year's 2011 statistics (Age and Innings Pitched were also included): (12=Least Likely Starter, 1=Most Likely Starter)

12. Jamie Moyer (Did Not Play in 2011)
11. Esmil Rogers (81 points)
10. Kevin Slowey (78 points)
09. Jason Hammel (72 points)
08. Josh Outman (67 points)
07. Alex White (67 points)
06. Clayton Mortensen (61 points)
05. Tyler Chatwood (60 points)
04. Guillermo Moscoso (59 points)
03. Drew Pomeranz (56 points)
02. Juan Nicasio (37 points)
01. Jhoulys Chacin (35 points)

The Overall Rankings (Career + 2011 Stats):

12. Jamie Moyer (53 points + DNP in 2011 = NO CHANCE!)

  • Moyer will need to prove that a 49 year old finesse pitcher can keep up with these young guns. Outlook is bleak, but he will be a nice mentor for the young guys. 

11. Esmil Rogers (129 points)

  • Rogers had a horrific 2011 season, and now he's lost amongst all of the new additions. He really needs to work on his control. His WHIP in 2011 was 1.829 and his BB/9 was 5.1.

10. Kevin Slowey (124 points)

  • Slowey had a poor 2011 season and failed to win a single game in eight starts. He had really high fly ball and home run rates, and that's while pitching in pitcher friendly Target Field. He needs to get ground balls or else he's going to be eaten alive by Coors Field. The only thing that he has going for him is that he hardly walks batters.

09. Jason Hammel (121 points)

  • Hammel is the oldest starting pitcher on the Rockies big league club right now at the age of 29. He's been consistent for the Rockies, but his consistency hasn't been too great. He needs to focus on keeping the ball down in the zone.

08. Josh Outman (115 points)

  • He's supposed to be better than Moscoso, but he's never pitched more than 68 innings in a season. He also had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and didn't pitch in the big leagues at all that season. He does get more ground balls than Moscoso, but he also gets more runners on base by the way of hits and walks. He'll need to bring up his SO/9 to get the success he wants in Coors Field.

07. Alex White (114 points)

  • He's one of the pieces from the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, so hopefully he can find his groove this season. He has a very small sample size, but he can keep the ball out of play (IP% 65) and he has a high GO/AO ratio (1.17). He hurts himself with walks and trying to be too perfect when pitching.

06. Tyler Chatwood (110 points)

  • Chatwood was picked up in the Chris Ianetta trade and he looks like he has some potential to crack the rotation. He's the youngest one on the list at 22, and he pitched the third highest amount of innings last season. He needs to increase his SO/9 (4.7) and decrease his BB/9 (4.5). He's a ground ball pitcher which will bode well for him in Colorado.

05. Clayton Mortensen (107 points)

  • Mortensen has seen some starts with the Rockies and he's also been the long relief guy. Based off of the research, Mortensen looks ready for the #5 spot in the rotation. He has a high GO/AO ratio (1.47) and when the ball does get hit, it's not getting hit hard. His LD% is a career 14%, which is the lowest on this list. 

04. Guillermo Moscoso (104 points)

  • He's a fly ball pitcher, and I was a little shocked when I saw him at the fourth spot on this list, but he knows how to get outs. He has the lowest career WHIP on this list and his HR/FB was a shocking 5.5% which is the second lowest on this list. That means the fly balls that are getting hit aren't getting hit hard. We'll see how this translates to Coors Field, but I don't see it being pretty for Moscoso. Maybe he'd be good for starts in San Francisco and San Diego?

03. Drew Pomeranz (91 points)

  • This is the season for Pomeranz to make all the Rockies' fans forget about Ubaldo. He was the major piece in the trade, and now it's time for him to show us why. He had an extremely small sample size last season, but based off of his minor league statistics I didn't see anything out of the ordinary. I like his high SO/9 (6.4) and his low BB/9 (2.5). It's also nice that he's a big lefty that can bring heat, something the Rockies never had before. The only thing that worries me is his maturity.

02. Juan Nicasio (67 points)

  • He's making a fast recovery from the line-drive that struck him in the neck last season. Before the neck incident, he showed that he was a talented young pitcher with a ton of upside. He'll have to overcome the initial fear of being on the mound again, but I believe he'll be able to push past that and find his form from last season. He strikes batters out and he gets ground balls. 

01. Jhoulys Chacin (61 points)

  • The ace of the staff! He learned how to pitch last year and I don't see that changing this season. He not only has to anchor the staff, but he also has to fill Ubaldo's shoes, which we've seen are very large. He's my only certified pick to be in the rotation. 

I'm aware that Jorge de la Rosa wasn't on this list, but he doesn't have a chance to be in the opening day rotation. He'll be back during the summer and I'm sure he'll find his rightful spot in the rotation when he returns.

It really is anyone's guess as to what the Rockies' rotation will look like in 2012, but this is my attempt to see into the future. If nothing else, I hope it introduced you to some of the new guys.

My prediction (in January...):

Rotation:
1. Chacin
2. Nicasio (If Healthy)
3. Hammel
4. Moscoso
5. Pomeranz

Long Relief:
Mortensen

Bullpen:
Chatwood
Outman

AAA:
White
Rogers

Trade:
Slowey

Pitching Coach:
Moyer

Monday, January 16, 2012

Seth Smith Signs One-Year Deal with the Rockies...Bye Seth Smith

Seth Smith signed a one-year deal with the Colorado Rockies worth approximately $2.4 million. This allowed the Rockies and Smith to avoid arbitration, hence making Smith look more appealing on the trade market. Some people believe this move will keep Smith a Rockie for at least another season, but I believe they did this to make him more appetizing to teams that didn't want to deal with his arbitration case.

It's time to cut ties with Seth Smith. Smith was one of the best hitters on the team last season, and he's always been a fan favorite, but I don't believe his talents are being utilized in Colorado. Smith worked extremely hard last season on hitting left handed pitching, and he proved to the Rockies that he is capable of being the everyday right fielder. He's not going to put up monster power numbers, but he will get the clutch hits and he will be productive. Smith had the past three seasons to win the starting job in right field, and he finally proved worthy of the job last season, but during the off-season, the Rockies signed Michael Cuddyer to play right field. In my opinion, any team would be lucky to have a player such as Smith on their team because he puts up decent numbers with a low price tag. I like both Cuddyer and Smith, but I don't want to see Smith become a fourth outfielder after he worked so hard to become a starter for the Rockies. He can go to another team that's in need of an everyday right fielder and play. I hope if the Rockies do trade Smith that they get an option for second base or a starting pitcher with some experience.

It was nice to see all of Smith's hard work pay off last season. He didn't do exceptionally well against left handed pitchers, but he did show improvements. I was always a fan of the Seth Smith/Ryan Spilborghs platoon in right field, but only when in was consistent. Smith versus the righties and Spilly versus the lefties. Too many times, the Rockies decided to play roulette with the outfield because of a slump or just too many outfielders looking for playing time. Players need consistency in the lineup and in the field to gain confidence and get comfortable. I feel like Smith settled into his role nicely last season, but Spilborghs lost his confidence when players such as Charlie Blackmon and Eric Young Jr. were receiving more playing time. The Rockies could have gotten close to the same production next season from a Smith/Spilborghs platoon in right field instead of only Michael Cuddyer. They could have also had both players for half the price of Cuddyer. Spilborghs is a free agent this off-season, and the Rockies made it clear that they're not bringing him back. The rumors are that the Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, and Boston Red Sox are all interested in Spilborghs. There must be something to like if two playoff worthy teams are after him. As for Smith, I only hope he's dealt to a team that can benefit from his abilities instead of him riding the bench in Colorado. There's an overload of outfielders in Colorado, so they need to part ways with a couple of them and see what they can get in return. Specifically a second basemen that's preferably young (NOT Eric YOUNG Jr.) and able to hit in the number two spot in the lineup. Or possibly some young or old pitchers that are big league ready.

Be ready to see even more home-grown Rockies in new uniforms this upcoming season.

*UPDATE*
Seth Smith was traded to the Oakland Athletics for pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman. Go figure.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Where are they now? (2011 Rockies' Opening Day Starters)

The Colorado Rockies' 2012 opening day lineup is going to look a little different from last year's lineup. The Rockies will have a different catcher, second baseman, third baseman, and starting pitcher when they take the field for their first game in 2012.

Chris Iannetta, who was the Rockies' starting catcher for opening day in 2011, is now playing for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Iannetta was drafted in the fourth round in the 2004 Major League Baseball Draft by the Colorado Rockies. He spent all of his big league seasons with the Rockies with very moderate success. His best season for the Rockies came in 2008 when he played in 104 games and had a .264/.390/.505 line with 18 home runs and 64 RBI. His offensive production struggled the following two seasons which resulted in him losing his starting job to Yorvit Torrealba in 2009, and to Miguel Olivo in 2010. Iannetta wouldn't have played in as many games as he did last season if it weren't for an injury to Jose Morales and lack of catching depth on the Rockies. He was traded on November 30, 2011 to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for pitching prospect Tyler Chatwood. Chatwood, 22, will be fighting for a rotation job during spring training. Chris Iannetta will be missed in Colorado, and I hope he finds his swing out on the west coast.

At second base, most of you might have already forgotten, but the Rockies' opening day starter was none other than Jose Lopez. Lopez struggled in Colorado only hitting .208/.233/.288 with two home runs in 125 at-bats. Lopez was designated for assignment on May 26, 2011 and then upright released on June 6, 2011. He was picked up two days later by the Florida Marlins, but after a poor showing in Florida with an average of .226, he was designated for assignment. On December 16, 2011, Lopez was signed to a minor league contract by the Cleveland Indians and invited to spring training. Lopez had a few decent seasons with the Seattle Mariners from 2006-20009, with an All-Star appearance in 2006. Unfortunately, in his past two seasons, he's only hitting .233/.263/.348 with 18 home runs in 824 at-bats. I hope for his sake that he can find his groove. Maybe a trip back to the American League will benefit him, or maybe it will discourage him even more.

Ty Wigginton was the starting third baseman for the Rockies on opening day in 2011. Expectations were high for Wiggy because in 2010, he made his first and only All-Star team while playing with the Baltimore Orioles. Unfortunately, Wigginton didn't hit the way everyone thought he was going to when he got to Coors Field. He hit .242/.315/.416 in 2011 with 15 home runs in 401 at-bats. However, Wigginton was beneficial to the team because he added depth not only to third base, but to first base and left field as well. Wigginton signed with the Rockies on December 7, 2010 as a free agent. His contract was  a two-year, $8 million deal with an option for 2013. Less than a year later on November 20, 2011 the Rockies traded Wigginton to the Philadelphia Phillies for a player to be named later or cash.  The Rockies and Phillies will split Wigginton's 2012 salary, and the Rockies could potentially get $100,000 cash or another player if the Phillies exercise his 2013 option. Wigginton did reach the 1,000 career hits milestone while playing for the Rockies, but we won't get to see him get his 1,100 hit in a Rockies uniform. Good luck in Philly, Wiggy!

The last player that won't be on the opening day roster next season is the hardest loss of them all, and his name is Ubaldo Jimenez. He was the Rockies' opening day starting pitcher in 2012. As a Rockies fan, I was absolutely devastated when the trade went down that sent Ubaldo to the Cleveland Indians on July 31, 2011. In return, the Rockies got Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner, and Matt McBride. White and Pomeranz could potentially be in the starting rotation in 2012. I still remember watching the game when Ubaldo was told by Jim Tracy that he was traded. You could see the life go out of his eyes, and then he was expected to go back out to the mound and pitch. Ubaldo came up through the Rockies organization, and in 2006 he made his MLB debut as a relief pitcher in a game in which the Rockies lost to the Los Angeles Dodger 11-4. In 2010, Ubaldo Jimenez had the best season of any Rockies pitcher in history. He started the season by winning 11 of his first 12 starts while having an ERA under 1.00 (0.93), making him only the third player in MLB history to accomplish this feat. He had the lowest ERA (0.78) in MLB history in his first 11 starts. On April 17, 2010, Ubaldo threw the first no-hitter in Rockies history against the Atlanta Braves. That's easily one of the greatest moments in Rockies history, and I remember being so proud for Ubaldo when his teammates jumed all over him after the last out of the game. He made his first and only All-Star team in 2010, and after that point he went on to pitch well throughout the remainder of the season. He finished third in the Cy Young award voting. In 2011, Ubaldo struggled a little bit, but most of it was due to an injured finger. I know that the Rockies organization was worried because of his drop-off, but he was the Rockies most successful and consistently good pitcher they've ever had. He was a fan favorite, a clubhouse favorite, and a city favorite in Denver. He lived with his parents in an apartment that was within walking distance to the ballpark. So, what did Ubaldo do? He walked to the ballpark everyday. Now, he's with the Cleveland Indians, and I wish him and the Indians nothing but success. The Indians are fortunate to have such a nice and hard working pitcher at the front of their rotation.

I hope all of these players find success within the seasons to come, and I hope none of them come back to haunt the Rockies.

Check out my other blogs titled "Welcome to the Rockies, ..." to find out who will be replacing these players on the 2012 opening day roster.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Welcome to the Rockies, Michael Cuddyer!

It's always nice to get to know the new guys, so each week I'm going to introduce one of the Rockies' newest additions. This week, I'll focus on the newly acquired outfielder/utility man, Michael Cuddyer.

2010-07-31-Michael-Cuddyer-01Michael Cuddyer was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the first round of the 1997 draft. Cuddyer played his entire career in the Twins' organization up until he signed a 3-year, $31.5 million contract this off-season to play for the Rockies. His only All-Star appearance was last season at the age of 31. Cuddyer has been a decent hitter throughout his career, but has yet to hit over .285 during a season. He's also known as a player that can play almost anywhere on the field, but his defense is only average everywhere on the field. It's nice to have him on the team due to his ability to play first base, second base, third base, and the corner outfield positions. These are all positions that the Rockies seem to have trouble filling or keeping healthy. Speaking of health, Cuddyer hasn't had a major injury since 2008 when he dislocated his index finger and lacerated his knuckle after sliding headfirst into third base in a game against the Kansas City Royals. He spent 15 days on the disabled list. He also had surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee in 2005. Other than that, there doesn't seem to be anything to worry about other than his age. Cuddyer will be 32 in 2012, and it sounds like the majority of his playing time will be in right field. Coors Field's outfield is huge, so hopefully his body will be able to hold up throughout the season while chasing balls into the right-center field gap. I'm sure Cuddyer won't mind chasing balls all over the field as long as he's getting his at-bats at Coors Field. He'll be able to utilize the expansive outfield in Denver, and I bet he hits more than 30 doubles every season he's in Denver. Let's take a look at his stats so we know what to expect:

Year
Age
Tm
Lg
G
PA
AB
R
H
2B
3B
HR
RBI
SB
CS
BB
SO
BA
OBP
SLG
OPS
OPS+
TB
2001
22
8
20
18
1
4
2
0
0
1
1
0
2
6
.222
.300
.333
.633
66
6
2002
23
41
123
112
12
29
7
0
4
13
2
0
8
30
.259
.311
.429
.740
95
48
2003
24
35
114
102
14
25
1
3
4
8
1
1
12
19
.245
.325
.431
.756
97
44
2004
25
115
382
339
49
89
22
1
12
45
5
5
37
74
.263
.339
.440
.779
99
149
2005
26
126
470
422
55
111
25
3
12
42
3
4
41
93
.263
.330
.422
.752
97
178
2006
27
150
635
557
102
158
41
5
24
109
6
0
62
130
.284
.362
.504
.867
124
281
2007
28
144
623
547
87
151
28
5
16
81
5
0
64
107
.276
.356
.433
.790
112
237
2008
29
71
279
249
30
62
13
4
3
36
5
1
25
40
.249
.330
.369
.699
89
92
2009
30
153
650
588
93
162
34
7
32
94
6
1
54
118
.276
.342
.520
.862
124
306
2010
31
157
675
609
93
165
37
5
14
81
7
3
58
93
.271
.336
.417
.753
107
254
2011
32
139
584
529
70
150
29
2
20
70
11
1
48
95
.284
.346
.459
.805
121
243
11 Seasons
1139
4555
4072
606
1106
239
35
141
580
52
16
411
805
.272
.343
.451
.794
111
1838
162
648
579
86
157
34
5
20
82
7
2
58
114
.272
.343
.451
.794
111
261
Generated 1/12/2012.

He looks consistent to me. We'll see about 25 home runs, 90 RBI, and a .275 average in 2012. I'll take that from a right fielder in Colorado. That's assuming Seth Smith is gone and Cuddyer ends up being the primary right fielder. It might behoove the Rockies to hold on to Smith until they find out if the Tood Helton/Jason Giambi combo at first can stay healthy and that they have a viable option for second base.

Cuddyer was well liked by the fans of Minnesota and by his teammates, which is always nice to hear about a player that's about to join your team. The Rockies pride themselves on being a tight-knit group of guys. Cuddyer will be wearing the number 3 to honor the late Hall of Famer, Harmon Killebrew. You got to love a guy that has respect for the game and the players that helped make the game great. Also, he and his wife just had fraternal twins this past December. Congratulations to them!

I'm really excited Cuddyer is joining the Rockies this season. The only problem is that I haven't seen Cuddyer with facial hair other than a goatee? Any goatee will be lost in the follicles beside Todd Helton's mammoth goatee. He needs to either grow out a bushy beard, or do something extreme with his hair. Tulo already has the mullet. Cargo has the faux-hawk. Maybe Cuddyer can find a happy medium between the two? I'm sure Giambi will give him some hairstyle tips.