The Rockies suffered their worst season in franchise history in 2012, so there is nowhere to go but up, right? Right?
We are now literally a week away from spring training starting, which makes this a perfect time to take a look around the division to see what all five teams did during the offseason. We start with the Rockies, who fell to last place in the National League West in 2012.
|2013 at Dodger Stadium:
||Apr. 29-May 1, July 11-14, Sept. 27-29|
|2013at Coors Field:||May 31-June 2, July 2-4, Sept. 2-4|
|SB Nation coverage:||Purple Row|
1) Will new manager Walt Weiss make a difference?
The Rockies had the worst record in franchise history in 2012 with their 98 losses, a far cry from the promise-filled playoff-bound 2009 squad that challenged the Dodgers into the final weekend for the division.
Weiss, who played for the Rockies from 1994-1997, replaced old friend Jim Tracy as Colorado skipper in what some have described as a broken situation.
But maybe a new voice will help, like Tracy did in 2009. Then again, that was a more talented roster. But Weiss and senior VP Bill Geivett have preached aggressiveness to help turn things around.
"How are we going to put as much pressure on the defense of our opposition as possible," Geivett told MLB.com in December. "Having players that are dangerous with their power is important. But at the same time players that use their speed on the bases are important on the bases. Our ability to apply pressure in every facet of the game is what we're looking at right now."
"I want information so I can make good decisions, and I’ve got guys around me that can help me with that," Weiss told Zachary Levine at Baseball Prospectus. "We’ve got information that can help me with that. I’m not real smart."
2) Will Tulo be healthy?
The Rockies were without their superstar shortstop for over four months in 2012, as a groin injury shut him down. Tulowitzki, like many players, hid his injury for a while. Until it became clear he needed surgery.
"I was restricted, and I'd hide a lot of the pain I was feeling, which is why I had some difficulty throwing," Tulowitzki told MLB.com. "A lot of people noticed what was going on, that I wasn't right, but I wasn't going to say anything. I wanted to do what the team needed me to do."
I'm not sure a healthy Troy Tulowitzki can make a 98-loss team into contenders, but it's safe to say the Rockies are a much better team with Tulo in tow.
Tulowitzki has played enough to qualify for the batting title in four of his six seasons, and in those four campaigns the Rockies averaged 84.5 wins, including a pair of playoff appearances. In his career the Rockies are 374-358 (.511) when Tulowitzki starts, and 117-155 (.430) when he doesn't.
It's hard to find any offensive offseason addition in the National League West that comes close to the boost a healthy Tulowitzki could provide the Rockies.
3) What should we expect from the Rockies rotation this season?
The Rockies rotation was an absolute mess in 2012, as their starters finished last in the majors in innings (765, 4.72 per start), ERA (5.81), FIP (5.17), WHIP (1.633), wins (29), and winning percentage (.299); and were 29th in xFIP (4.57) and walk percentage (8.9%). The combination of injuries, ineffectiveness, and an unorthodox shift to a four-man rotation with a 75-pitch limit meant that Colorado ran through several starting pitchers last year, trying to make things work.
The result was Jeff Francis leading the team with 24 starts, 113 innings, and six wins (reliever Rex Brothers had eight wins out of the bullpen, but Francis led the starters in victories). Francis was the only Rockies pitcher to reach 100 innings pitched, making Colorado the first team in the modern era to have just one pitcher reach the century mark in innings.
The last team to have just one pitcher with 100 innings was the 1891 Milwaukee Brewers in the American Association, but their schedule was just 36 games long.
The Rockies are banking on the healthy returns of Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio, among others to guide a relatively young staff that seems destined to improve if only by default because it's hard to be worse than they were in 2012.
4) Will Rosario repeat his rookie performance?
The first-year catcher saw both ends of the spectrum last season for Colorado, as at the plate Rosario hit .270/.312/.530 with 28 home runs. He his 27 of those home runs as a catcher, one more than A.J. Pierzynski for the major league lead. But behind the plate was an adventure for Rosario, who had 21 passed balls to lead baseball.
The only catcher close to Rosario in passed balls was Josh Thole, who had unenviable task of catching knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, but even Thole only had 18 passed balls, while A.J. Ellis was third with 11.
Can Rosario repeat his rookie performance at the plate, while also improving his play behind it?
5) Does Helton have anything left in the tank?
If it seems like Todd Helton has been around forever, it's because he has. He was drafted in 1995, the fourth ever first round pick by the Rockies. The face of the franchise had his worst season in 2012, as he hit .238/.343/.400 in just 69 games.
The massive $141 million contract Helton signed before the 2003 season, which was reworked a few years back, finally ends in 2013, as the first baseman is due $5 million. Will the 39-year old rebound as he did in 2011, when he bounced back from a poor 2010 to hit .302/.385/.466? At the very least, Helton should be free of the hip problems that limited him in 2012 and ultimately required surgery.
"I know if I am healthy, I am going to be better than I was (this season)," Helton told the Denver Post in September. "I will have to have ample days off. I know that. If I come back, I expect to play as much as I can. How much? It's hard to tell."
If Helton either has a good year or sticks around for 2014, he could become the 15th player in baseball history with 600 doubles. As it stands, he is the active leader with 570 two-baggers.
|Rockies Trades, Etc. This Winter|
|Diamondbacks||Matt Reynolds rhp||Ryan Wheeler 3b|
Alex White rhp
Alex Gillingham rhp
|Wilton Lopez rhp|
The Rockies added to an increasingly deep bullpen with Lopez, though it cost them a starter in White, who struggled in 2012 both on the mound and off the field, extremely.
|Rockies Contracts Signed This Winter|
|Pos||Player||Type||Total Contract||2013 Salary|
|SP||Jorge De La Rosa||opt||1 yr, $11m||$11,000,000|
|SP||Jhoulys Chacin||arb||2 yrs, $6.5m||$1,650,000|
|OF||Tyler Colvin||arb||1 yr, $2.275m||$2,275,000|
|RP||Wilton Lopez||arb||1 yr, $1.7625m||$1,762,500|
|IF||Jonathan Herrera||arb||1 yr, $900k||$900,000|
|RP||Josh Outman||arb||1 yr, $675,000||$675,000|
|SP||Chris Volstad||FA||1 yr, $1.5m||$1,500,000|
|*including signing bonus; ^arb midpoint
Fowler hasn't yet settled his arbitration case, and the center fielder could end up with a multi-year deal. In addition, Colorado has also signed Miguel Batista, Ryan Garko, Yorvit Torrealba, Manny Corpas, Chris Volstad, and old friend Russell Mitchell, among others, to minor league deals.
|Rockies Players Lost|
|1B||Jason Giambi||free agent|
|SP||Jonathan Sanchez||free agent|
Here's my guess as to the Rockies' 25-man roster, with a few assumptions mixed in:
|2013 Rockies Under Contract|
|Pos||Player||2013 Age*||2012 Salary|
|C||Wilin Rosario||24||team control|
|2B||Josh Rutledge||24||team control|
|3B||Chris Nelson||27||team control|
|3B/C||Jordan Pacheco||27||team control|
|IF||Ryan Wheeler||24||team control|
|SP||Jorge De La Rosa||32||$11,000,000|
|RHP||Adam Ottavino||27||team control
|Totals (15 players)
|*Age as of June 30, 2013; ^arb midpoint