Jussel: Rockies have some work to do
The optimist says the Colorado Rockies will be worth watching this summer, maybe even into the fall.
The pessimist has already done away with any TV package that includes Root Sports and given up on targeting travel dates to Denver.
Being a realist, I will stay the course, spend countless hours documenting the Rockies’ plight, continuing to hate on the San Francisco Giants and adding a new target, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Giants, of course, are the defending world champions and winners of two of the last three World Series. They are loaded with starting pitching, have more savvy veterans than should be allowed and can now boast of a new star on the horizon, former Mesa State star Sergio Romo, designated closer and bearded crackpot.
There is absolutely no way the Rockies can mess with them over the course of 162 games.
Now we have to add the Dodgers to the mix — reluctantly so. All they have done in the last year is turn around a mindset, bringing in Magic Johnson and his team of wealthy friends as owners and subsequently buying up all the available talent in the Western Hemisphere, the Near East, Far East, the Americas, South Korea and all points between.
Matter of fact, if the Rockies are going to close the rather substantial gap on those two teams (not to mention the D-Backs and Padres), they may be forced to deal with — drum roll, please — the Dodgers.
The Dodgers have cornered the market on starting pitching.
There is Clayton Kershaw, the lefty National League Cy Young winner of two years ago.
Zack Greinke won the American League Cy Young for Kansas City in 2009 and was the big free-agent signee of the winter. He will be No. 2 in the rotation, followed by former Red Sox wunderkind Josh Beckett, then probably 25-year-old free-agent lefty South Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu. Their choice as a fifth starter will come from Chad Billingsley, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly.
If you notice a glut at that fifth spot, you’re right.
And the Rockies, desperately in search of more (any?) starting pitching, should also have noticed. Any of the Dodgers’ fifth-starter foursome might qualify as the Rockies’ “ace.”
Much of what the Dodgers do once the regular season starts hinges on two questions: 1.) Is Billingsley, who would be the Dodgers’ choice in the rotation after having elbow surgery, healthy? and 2.) Would the Dodgers trade any of their surplus pitching to a team within the division?
My realistic side says no because there will be other potential trade partners for Magic & Co.
One more starting pitcher or not, the Rockies will not be on par with the Giants or Dodgers.
But they certainly can improve by leaps and bounds over last season’s miserable 64-98 season that ranks down there with the worst in baseball history.
Let’s be optimistic and say the Rockies will get to .500. For that to happen …
Three Rockies starting pitchers who were injured last season, Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio, need to stay healthy and return to previous peak levels.
Young lefty Drew Pomeranz needs to throw strikes and old lefty Jeff Francis must keep the Rox in the game more often than not.
The bullpen will be solid in the late innings, but must also be steady in the middle when needed.
When it comes to the bats, there is the possibility of incredible numbers — again if the key players can stay in the lineup.
Troy Tulowitzki, the most dynamic shortstop in the game, returns after missing most of last season. Think he was missed batting cleanup last season? Think he would be again if his injured leg doesn’t hold up?
Ask Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies’ other All-Star caliber player, who will hit third and put up huge numbers, if Tulo is protecting him. If Tulo doesn’t play, Cargo sees no strikes.
Catcher Wilin Rosario hit an MLB-high 28 home runs as a rookie, but allowed as many passed balls. He will hit 35 home runs and drive in 100 runs batting fifth – if his defense allows him to stay on the field.
More questions pop up with health issues for Mike Cuddyer and Todd Helton, who will split time at first base.
Health shouldn’t be issues with the likes of Tyler Colvin, who will play several outfield spots and first base, center fielder Dexter Fowler, second baseman Josh Rutledge and third baseman Chris Nelson. All they have to do is maintain .300 averages or thereabouts and continue on upward paths.
All those things being done, it could be a season worth watching, optimistically speaking of course.