Explanation of ratings system and other team previews here
Overall – 82 points (9th MLB, 3rd NL)
Starting Rotation – 31 points (12th MLB, 7th NL)
Line-Up – 36 points (6th MLB, 3rd NL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 15 points (T-11th MLB, T-7th NL)
Offseason Additions – Luis Viscaino, Josh Towers, Kip Wells
Offseason Subtractions – Kaz Matsui, Jeremy Affeldt, LaTroy Hawkins
Biggest Strength– Line-Up
The Rockies have never had any trouble scoring runs, but this version will have no trouble regardless of whether they are a mile above sea level or not. They have one of the best hitters in baseball in Matt Holliday as well as 4 other guys with the potential to drive in 100 runs (Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins). A healthy Willy Taveras could score 120 runs with these guys hitting after him. The bottom of the order could use some work with Jayson Nix and Yorvit Torrealba in the 7-8 spots, but the top is good enough to carry it.
Biggest Weakness– Expectations
On the morning of September 2nd, 2007, the Colorado Rockies were 69-66, 5 1/2 games behind San Diego for the wild card. Then, they went on one of the greatest stretches of baseball in history, going 20-7, including 11 in a row, to win the wild card. In the playoffs, they won 8 straight, before losing to the Red Sox in the World Series. The question for 2008 is this – Was the first 135 or final 27 games the most indicative of the team the Rockies will be? Expectations will be that the final 27 and playoff run was the start of something bigger. The Rockies are entering a season where anything other than a repeat NL pennant will be viewed as a disappointment. It is my opinion that the Rockies caught lightning in a bottle and rode the momentum all the way to the Pennant and in 2008, the expectation of doing that for a whole season will be too much for the young players on the team.
Key Player in ’08– Ubaldo Jimenez
Jimenez has the makings of being the first dominant starting pitcher in the Rockies short history. He has an electric fastball and above average secondary pitches. However, for someone who has only pitched 89 innings in his career, he certainly has a lot of pressure on him to be that dominant pitcher this year. Could he? Certainly. But he is young pitcher who struggles with his control and pitches at Coors Field. If he defies the odds, the Rockies will have a solid top 3 (with Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook) and might be able to meet their lofty expectations.
Player to Keep an Eye On– Troy Tulowitzki
Tulowitzki catapulted himself into the upper echelon of NL shortstops in just his first year. At 23, he hit .291 with 24 HR and 99 RBI. But the most impressive thing about Tulo is his defense. He led all MLB SS in fielding percentage (.987), putouts (262), total chances (834), assists (561) and double plays turned (114). As his career goes on, he will likely be talked about in the same breath as Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel.
2008 Outlook: 3rd Place, NL West. Clearly I think that the first 135 games of the Rockies season last year is more representative of their talent level. They are a very good team that would probably make the playoffs in another division, but I see them taking a step back this year. After Jeff Francis, I don’t think their rotation has enough experience, and although I love Manny Corpas, I don’t think their bullpen will be quite as good as last year. However, with Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales getting a full year under their belt, they could both be primed to break out in 2009 – when I think the Rockies will be very dangerous.