MLB In Full Bloom - Rockies Preview 3/6//2014

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26– Number of days until Opening Day

 56,224 – Number of signatures at www.budweiser.com/openingday to make Opening Day a National Holiday

Colorado Rockies Preview

Key Additions: Justin Morneau, Drew Stubbs, LaTroy Hawkins, Brandon Barnes, Jordan Lyles, Franklin Morales, Boone Logan

Key Departures: Yorvit Torrealba, Todd Helton, Dexter Fowler, Rafael Betancourt, Drew Pomeranz, Jeff Francis, Jonathan Herrera

The big question mark facing the Colorado Rockies this year is can they finish .500? Rockies manager Walt Weiss led the Rockies to a 10-win improvement (64 wins to 74 wins) last year, but it wasn’t good enough to prevent the Rockies from a second straight last-place finish in the National League. With Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies have two of the best players in the game, but we saw once again last season that it’s difficult to rely on either of them to stay healthy. Colorado was actually five games over .500 as late as June 11. Neither guy has played 130 games or more in the same season since they have been with the Rockies.

OFFENSE: The lineup from top to bottom can put a lot of pressure on their opponents. Along with Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, the Rockies have Wilin Rosario, Michael Cuddyer, Justin Morneau, and Nolan Arenado that can provide some pop. Morneau hasn't been the same player since he missed the end of the 2010 season with a concussion. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Rockies probably would have been better served to pony up the money for Kendrys Morales. If the Rockies line-up can stay relatively healthy, they should score a lot of runs.

STARTING PITCHING: What can the Rockies get out of their starting rotation? Pitchers that have success in Coors Field must have fastball command and keep it down in the strike zone. Unlike most teams, the Rockies do not have a set starting rotation on paper. There are at least seven pitchers that include  Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin (health issue), Brett Anderson, Tyler Chatwood, Juan Nicasio, Jordan Lyles, and Franklin Morales that will start at least one game. Christian Friedrich is another candidate for the rotation. Chacin is already dealing with a shoulder strain and if the Rockies lose him for an extended period of time, it will be extremely difficult on this staff. This rotation is full of question marks with very few answers.

BULLPEN: The Rockies bullpen is interesting with LaTroy Hawkins and Boone Logan joining Rex Brothers. Brothers is a quality reliever and now they have some additional options for the later innings. The Rockies' bullpen allowed the highest ERA in the National League in 2013, but the combination of Adam Ottavino and Brothers was surprisingly effective in the eighth and ninth innings. Ottavino allowed a 2.64 ERA, while Brothers held opponents to a .209 batting average and struck out over a batter per inning with a 1.74 ERA. Hawkins has been tabbed as the Rockies closer, but Brothers proved he can get the job done last year with 19 saves in 20 opportunities. Matt Belisle will also see plenty of innings.

2014 PREDICTION: The Rockies could be an interesting team if things break right, but you could say the same thing for a lot of teams. I like what they are doping as they are finding pieces. Progress is being made, but not enough progress in 2014 is being made in Colorado. As it stands, there are too many questions here. Fifth place, NL West.

Final Record: 74-84 (5th Place - NL West)

MLB In Full Bloom - Giants Preview - 3/5/2014

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27– Number of days until Opening Day

56,224 – Number of signatures at www.budweiser.com/openingday to make Opening Day a National Holiday

San Francisco Giants Preview

Key Additions: Tim Hudson, Michael Morse, Tyler Colvin

Key Departures: Barry Zito, Chad Gaudin, Andres Torres

Everything went right for the Giants in 2012, and not much went right for them in 2013. Actually, very little went right for them on the mound in 2013. The only starters to have an ERA under 4.00 were Madison Bumgarner and Chad Gaudin, who made more appearances out of the bullpen than in the rotation. The Giants sent out  nine pitchers last year that provided very little value over double digit innings. Surprisingly, the Giants offense was a strength rather than a weakness, and if they repeat that performance while the pitching turns things around, it could be a fun season in the Bay Area.

OFFENSE: The San Francisco Giants offense in 2013 ranked tenth in the National League in runs scored and 4th in batting average. Those two numbers are very solid. But, the two glaring stats with the Giants offense from last season is the home runs hit and runs scored. The Giants ranked 14th out of 15 National League teams and 29th in baseball with 107 home runs, and they also only scored 607 runs which was 21th in baseball. The Giants were without Angel Pagan for most of the season due to injury, Pablo Sandoval was 40 pounds overweight, Buster Posey wore down with about two months of the season left, and Marco Scutaro was dealing with ligament damage in his pinky finger and a sore back which limited his effectiveness. The Giants have pretty much the same lineup intact as last season. The only exception is Michael Morse, who the Giants signed as a free agent this offseason. The Giants are looking for some of the previously mentioned players to bounce back, players to stay healthy and players continuing to develop. If everything goes well, the Giants lineup will be very solid 1-8 with no easy outs in their lineup. Obviously for the Giants to be successful they need to stay healthy, and have everybody produce the way they are capable.

STARTING PITCHING: The Giants will go as far as their starting rotation will take them. Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong make up the rotation in 2014. Let's not forget that the meat and potatoes of this rotation has helped the Giants win two of the last four World Series. Gone is Barry Zito and his 9.56 road ERA and Hudson is in as the replacement. Cain had an excellent second-half of the season last year and Lincecum continued to improve. If both those trends continue this year, the outlook is relatively bright for the once-heralded Giants rotation.

BULLPEN: Between the rotation's struggles in 2013, the bullpen remained a strength and the prognosis for the upcoming isn't much different. Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez will continue to be one of the more reliable groups of late-inning relievers in the game while journeyman Jean Machi also stepped up and earned a spot last season. "Closer of the Future" Heath Hembree is waiting in the wings and should become a mainstay in 2014. 

2014 PREDICTION: If the Giants' pitching staff pitches like it did during their 2010 and 2012 World Series runs, and the offense hits like it did over the last two seasons, this team will battle for a division title and their third World Championship in five years. However, a more realistic prediction is that everything will probably end up balancing out. Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval will miss time, and the key Giants offensive players probably won't be as good as they was in ether of the last two years. I doubt that their rotation in 2014 will be Madison Bumgarner and four guys that nobody has heard of before because of injury or poor performance. The Giants rotation will more than make up for any decline in the team's offensive production. The Giants aren't better than the Dodgers unless everything falls apart in Los Angeles, but I do think they're going to battle the Diamondbacks all season for a Wild Card spot in the National League. .

Final Record: 85-77 (3rd place in NL West)

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