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NL West offseason review 2013: Colorado Rockies

The Rockies suffered their worst season in franchise history in 2012, so there is nowhere to go but up, right? Right?

Doug Pensinger

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.

Colorado Rockies
2012 Record: 64-98
Division Finish:
Fifth place
2013 at Dodger Stadium:
Apr. 29-May 1, July 11-14, Sept. 27-29
2013 Dodgers at Coors Field: May 31-June 2, July 2-4, Sept. 2-4
SB Nation coverage: Purple Row

Five Questions

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 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 "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.

Offseason Moves

Rockies Trades, Etc. This Winter
Team Traded Acquired
Diamondbacks Matt Reynolds rhp Ryan Wheeler 3b
Astros 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
OF Dexter Fowler arb $5.15m/$4.25m $4,700,000^
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
Pos Player New Team
P Zach Putnam Cubs
P Guillermo Moscoso Royals
P Josh Roenicke Twins
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
1B Todd Helton 39 $5,000,000
2B Josh Rutledge 24 team control
3B Chris Nelson 27 team control
SS Troy Tulowitzki 28 $10,000,000
LF Carlos Gonzalez 27 $7,500,000
CF Dexter Fowler 26 $4,700,000^
RF Michael Cuddyer 34 $10,500,000
IF Jonathan Herrera 28 $900,000
OF Tyler Colvin 27 $2,275,000
3B/C Jordan Pacheco 27 team control
IF Ryan Wheeler 24 team control
C Ramon Hernandez 37 $3,200,000
SP Jhoulys Chacin 25 $1,650,000
SP Jeff Francis 32 $1,500,000
SP Drew Pomeranz
24 team control
SP Jorge De La Rosa 32 $11,000,000
SP Juan Nicasio
26 team control
CL Rafael Betancourt 38 $4,250,000
RHP Matt Belisle 33 $4,100,000
RHP Wilton Lopez 29 $1,762,500
LHP Rex Brothers
25 team control
RHP Adam Ottavino 27 team control
LHP Josh Outman 28 $675,000
LHP Christian Friedrich
25 team control
Totals (15 players)
*Age as of June 30, 2013; ^arb midpoint