We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2014 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2014 Rockies Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Bryan Kilpatrick from Purple Row.
1) The Rockies have a few options in the outfield aside from Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez. Who do you think will be the odd man out and will the Rockies be able to replace Dexter Fowler‘s production?
After dealing Fowler to the Astros in exchange for Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes, the Rockies are left with no suitable leadoff hitter to replace his career .365 on-base percentage. With Carlos Gonzalez likely moving to center field, Colorado has the option of placing one of Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson or Drew Stubbs in left to start the season. Dickerson is probably the best pure hitter of the bunch, but some type of platoon situation would be the most ideal of any of these scenarios. Maybe, say, a Dickerson-and-Stubbs platoon, leaving Blackmon the odd man out—though he’ll probably still be on the Opening Day roster.
That said, the Rockies have been known to do the exact opposite of what I, and many others, think they should do. So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Blackmon get the bulk of the starts to open the season. They like the way he finished last year (.339/.352/.500 in August and September), and of the three options for that position, his platoon splits present the least cause for concern.
Arenado is a terrific defensive player, but he needs to be a little more patient at the plate in order to improve upon his rookie season, which wasn’t anything to write home about at the plate. Fortunately, we’re talking about a guy who will still be 22 years old on Opening Day—and one who possesses contact skills that will likely approach elite territory sooner rather than later. He needs to learn to lay off pitches out of the zone. He swung at 41 percent of pitches he saw that were out of the strike zone, fourth-most in baseball, and offered at 55.6 percent of total pitches, tied for third-highest in the game. If Arenado can learn to be more selective, his ability to barrel up on balls will result in an spike in BABIP (he hit only .296 on balls in play in 2013, and that’s awfully low for a guy who plays half of his games in Denver). That bit of improved luck alone should cause an increase in his overall hitting numbers.
3) The Rockies have two options at second base heading into 2014. DJ LeMahieu is the better glove, while most would argue that Josh Rutledge has more upside with the bat. Regardless of who gets the job on Opening Day, who do you think gets the lion’s share of playing time at second base this year and why?
Colorado’s pitching staff is built on guys who thrive at inducing weak contact. It’s not an ideal foundation for a starting rotation that has to go through the Coors Field gauntlet, but it proved to be an incredible asset in 2013 as three starters posted sub-4.00 ERAs. What does that have to do with the team’s situation at second base? Well, since LeMahieu has the better glove, running him out there on a daily basis gives the Rockies a better shot at taking advantage of their ground ball-inducing hurlers and turning it into solid run prevention. I’m with you on Rutledge in that he’ll likely provide a bigger boost with the bat over the course of a full season, but that won’t necessarily be what gives the Rockies their best shot at winning. As such, expect to see LeMahieu get the majority of the starts unless he really struggles at the plate.
4) Deep league/keeper league players always have one eye on a team’s prospects. Which prospect(s) from the Rockies’ system do you see coming up and having the biggest impact in 2014?
Chad Bettis still qualifies as a rookie, though he made his MLB debut in August of 2013, and he has all of the tools to be an impact arm out of the Rockies’ bullpen for years to come. He still has mid-rotation upside as a starter and I don’t think the club has ruled him out for that role, but he profiles as an exceptional reliever and should be used as such.
Beyond that, it’s hard to see anyone making much of an impact this season unless the rotation falls apart, in which case there’s a possibility we’ll see one or both of the Rockies’ top two pitching prospects, Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler. Both pitchers possess some of the best stuff in the minors and each thoroughly dominated the competition in 2013. Also, keep an eye on Tyler Matzek and Tyler Anderson; Matzek, especially if solid in spring training and the beginning of the season, might turn into a useful bullpen piece while Anderson, who was once believed to be a candidate to be fast-tracked to the majors, could accomplish that this year with a promising start in Double-A. He doesn’t have near the ceiling of a Gray or Butler, but I see him as similar to a guy former Rockies first-round draft pick Jeff Francis, and there’s always a place for guys like that on MLB rosters.
5) Predicting saves is always a gamble, and the Rockies have several options in their bullpen. Who do you think finishes the season with the most saves in 2014 and why?
A) Rex Brothers
B) Dinger the Dinosaur
There is no doubt in my mind that Dinger will lead this team in saves, and that’s no knock on Brothers, who might eclipse 40 of them. Dinger’s always had a knack for standing behind home plate and distracting opposing pitchers during the bottom of the ninth inning, but team sources say that he’s going to up the ante a notch and be naked while doing so this year. It’s hard to see the Rockies not winning all 81 games on their home slate if that’s the case, and at least 50 of those would have to be of the ninth-inning-rally variety.