Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Team Report: Colorado Rockies

The outlook for Colorado is upbeat after falling just short of reaching the playoffs in 2010, finishing in third place behind San Francisco and a collapsing San Diego squad, nine games out with a record of 83-79.

That positive finish above .500 portends good things to come in 2011, especially if their off-season moves prove to be correct and the top of the lineup -  CF Dexter Fowler and LF Seth Smith perform up to their abilities.

With MVP candidate Carlos Gonzalez (RF) batting behind them, every time one of the 1-2 hitters reaches base creates the potential for a big inning. Another element which will almost certainly help the Rockies would be a full season from #4 hitter, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, the do-it-all guy in Colorado.

The infield is also counting on relative newcomers 2B Jose Lopez and 3B Ian Stewart, of whom big things have been expected but really haven't panned out. Todd Helton returns for another season at first base, and catcher Chris Ianetta will be the regular receiver.

bonus in the NL West, the Rockies have the ability to score runs. Of the five teams in the division, they and the Dodgers have the most potentially potent offenses, but the Rockies need another stud start to go with Ubaldo Jimenez, who had a great first half, but tailed off in the latter part of the year.

At issue is the relative quality of the four starters behind Ubaldo, which includes the only lefty, Jorge De La Rosa, then Jhoulys Chacin, Aaron Cook and Jason Hammel. None of these starters are overly impressive, so they're likely be asked to just provide five or six solid innings, allow the regulars to do their thing with the bats and leave the rest to an amply-supplied bullpen. This is one of the most well-stocked units in the league, especially after picking up Matt Lindstrom from Houston to go with Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, and lefties Matt Reynolds and Franklin Morales. Should that group deliver the Rockies to the ninth with a lead, the capable hand and arm of Huston Street will be on hand to close out the game.

That's the plan, and if the Rockies stick to it, they could have quite a bit of success in the again suspect NL West. Winning the division is more dependent on how well the Giants defend their World Series title, but the Rockies, along with the Dodgers, should make for an interesting wild card race.

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