With Opening Day right around the corner (the Rockies play a real game in four days!!), excitement and predictions are everywhere you look. Some predictions are easy. Saying that Troy Tulowitzki will be good this year is an easy prediction. Some predictions are so farfetched that there is almost no way it actually comes to fruition. Saying that Troy Tulowitzki will hit 70 home runs this year is totally farfetched and unrealistic. What I’m looking for is a balance between easy and farfetched, predictions that aren’t sure (or even necessarily likely) to happen, but just might ring true under the right circumstances. Here are my bold predictions for the Rockies in 2015.
We all know that Nolan Arenado is good. The soon to be 24 year old already has two Gold Gloves, 5.5 fWAR, and 8 rWAR in his first two seasons, neither of which were full seasons. This is the year he becomes really good. From his rookie year in 2013 to his second season in 2014, Arenado maintained his fantastic defense while improving across the board offensively. He improved his BB% (percentage of PA that end in a walk) from 4.5 to 5.4, reduced his K% (percentage of PA that end in a strikeout) from 14 to 12.4, increased his ISO from .138 to .213, and increased his wRC+ from 77 to 113.
Those offensive improvements put him on pace for 4.2 fWAR in 155 games, about what I would expect him to play in a fully healthy season. That is an improvement of 1.3 from the 2.9 fWAR per 155 games he was on pace for in 2013, despite defensive metrics not loving him quite as much in 2014. Given that Arenado is just 24 years old, I could absolutely see him making a similar jump again in 2015. If that happens, he’s at 5.5 fWAR in 155 games. Add on a defensive improvement back to (or perhaps better than) his career averages, and that boosts him enough to get him to 6 fWAR for the season. The most optimistic projection for Nolan has him at just 3.8 fWAR, but he will blow that number out of the water in 2015.
Chad Bettis is a quality starting pitcher.
I know, Chad Bettis is terrible and there’s no way he could ever be good. That’s what everyone thinks anyway. Chad is the owner of a career 6.88 ERA (159 ERA-), 5.6 K/9, 3.9 BB/9, and -0.3 fWAR, so it makes sense that the general consensus about him isn’t particularly positive. This one may be more of a hunch than anything concrete, but there are some indications that he was mishandled and that he wasn’t as bad as his numbers might look.
First of all, his career 5.14 FIP (129 FIP-), while not very good, is much better than his ERA and is generally a better predictor going forward than ERA is. He’s also had a crazy high .349 BABIP against and a crazy low 60.3 LOB% in his career, numbers that should return closer to league average as he spends more time in the Majors. In addition to that, Bettis owns very strong career minor league numbers, with a 2.94 ERA, 9.2 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 across 355 innings. That hasn’t translated to the Majors yet, but I think it will. New GM Jeff Bridich was also adamant when he took over the club about Bettis returning to being a starting pitcher and seemed pretty unhappy about his conversion to the bullpen, something that gives me added confidence that he will succeed in this role. He may get a chance to prove himself as early as the first week of the season and Chad Bettis will impress, with an ERA- of 100 or better as a starter this season.
Rafael Betancourt leads the team in saves.
Betancourt is, in my opinion at least, the feel good story of Rockies spring training this season. After requiring Tommy John surgery at age 38, nobody would’ve blamed Raffy had he retired then and there. Instead, he chose to rehab and wasn’t above pitching in rookie league games as a 39 year old as he attempted a comeback. Now, Betancourt is in Major League spring training and has looked absolutely fantastic with a 1.04 ERA, 10.4 K/9, and 1 BB/9. Yesterday, the Rockies purchased his minor league contract and added him to the Major League roster, officially assuring him a spot in the Opening Day bullpen.
Of course, simply being in the Opening Day bullpen doesn’t guarantee him saves, but I think they will come. LaTroy Hawkins, the closer entering the season, has been knocked around to the tune of a 13.50 ERA this spring, and could very well be on a short leash once the season starts. If he keeps getting hit the way he has been in the spring and Betancourt continues to pitch the way he has in the spring as well as throughout his Rockies career, he could be first in line to become the closer. Some way or another, Betancourt will end up with at least double digit saves and lead the club in that category in 2015.
That does it for my bold predictions (which I will revisit at the end of the season). What do you think, plausible or totally off base? Have some bold predictions of your own? Feel free to comment and we’ll compare notes at the end of the season! Make sure to like View from the Rooftop on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and check back on Opening Day, Monday, April 6 for my 2015 Rockies season preview as well as a look ahead to week one of the regular season.