Baseball season is here! With the Cardinals’ 3-0 win over the Cubs last night, the 2015 Major League Baseball season is officially underway. The remaining 28 teams kick off their respective seasons today, with the Rockies playing their opener in Milwaukee at 12:10 MDT against the Brewers. As the season gets started, let’s take a look at what to expect from the Rockies.
Coming off of the second worst season (by win-loss record, at least) in franchise history, general manager Dan O’Dowd and assistant general manager Bill Geivett resigned and were replaced by senior director of player development Jeff Bridich as the team shifted back to a more traditional front office structure. Bridich made mostly small moves in his first off-season, seemingly hoping that healthy seasons from Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, and the starting rotation as a whole, as well as continued development of some top prospects, would be enough to make the team competitive again. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen, but it’s an understandable theory given the amount of talent the team lost to injury in 2014. First, let’s take a look at the position players.
Projected Starting Lineup (2014 slash line; projected 2015 slash line)
CF Charlie Blackmon (.288/.335/.440; .276/.323/.423)
RF Carlos Gonzalez (.238/.292/.431; .281/.346/.509)
SS Troy Tulowitzki (.340/.432/.603; .307/.386/.539)
1B Justin Morneau (.319/.364/.496; .293/.348/.470)
3B Nolan Arenado (.287/.328/.500; .286/.326/.466)
LF Corey Dickerson (.312/.364/567; .287/.336/510)
C Nick Hundley (.243/.273/.358; .260/.307/.413)
2B DJ LeMahieu (.267/.315/.348; .281/.321/.374)
C Michael McKenry (.315/.398/.512; .270/.338/.453)
C/IF Wilin Rosario (.267/.305/.435; .275/.310/.474)
IF Daniel Descalso (.242/.333/.311; .259/.327/.366)
IF Rafael Ynoa (.343/.380/.463; .260/.307/.353)
OF Drew Stubbs (.289/.339/.482; .262/.323/416)
IF Charlie Culberson* (.195/.253/.290; .253/.287/.392)
*Starting season on the disabled list
If healthy, the Rockies have the potential for a potent offensive starting lineup that would include four players who had a wRC+ of 113 or better in 2014 (Tulowitzki, Dickerson, Morneau, Arenado), as well as a fifth (Gonzalez) who struggled last year but has put up big numbers in the past. The big question for the Rockies offense, as always, will be whether or not they can hit on the road. At home, they were first in the NL in runs scored and wRC+, had the second fewest strikeouts, and had a 69% success rate stealing bases. On the road, they were last in the NL in runs scored, next to last in wRC+, took the second fewest walks, had the third most strikeouts, and even inexplicably saw their success rate on stolen bases drop to just 57%. It makes sense to see the Rockies do well on the surface at home because of Coors Field, but when you also get the same huge differences in park adjusted numbers like wRC+, you start to think something must be up. That’s another article for another day, but whether or not the Rockies can solve that puzzle will be huge in determining how many games they win on the road.
The defense should be great as well. On the infield, they have the best defense in the Majors. It features three Gold Glove winners (Arenado, Tulowitzki, LeMahieu) and a fourth (Morneau) who was a Gold Glove finalist in 2014. Behind the plate, the Rockies brought in veteran Nick Hundley to replace Wilin Rosario, who will see the majority of his time at first base this season. Rosario is not a good defensive catcher and the Rockies like Hundley’s experience and ability to handle a pitching staff, so he will definitely be an improvement. Carlos Gonzalez also shifts from left field to right field in 2015, where he has his best defensive numbers with a career 9 DRS and 10.2 UZR/150. This should result in even more improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
Starting Rotation (2014 stats; projected 2015 stats)
RHP Kyle Kendrick (10-13, 4.61 ERA; 10-10, 4.88 ERA)
RHP Jordan Lyles (7-4, 4.33 ERA; 8-8, 4.63 ERA)
RHP Eddie Butler (1-1, 6.75 ERA; 3-4, 5.10 ERA)
LHP Tyler Matzek (6-11, 4.05 ERA; 9-8, 4.52 ERA)
LHP Jorge De La Rosa* (14-11, 4.10 ERA; 10-8, 4.40 ERA)
RHP LaTroy Hawkins (4-3, 3.31 ERA, 23 saves; 3-3, 4.03 ERA, 28 saves)
RHP John Axford (2-4, 3.95 ERA, 10 saves; 3-3, 4.25 ERA, 2 saves)
LHP Boone Logan (2-3, 6.84 ERA; 3-3, 3.95 ERA, 1 save)
RHP Adam Ottavino (1-4, 3.60 ERA, 1 save; 3-3, 3.63 ERA, 3 saves)
RHP Rafael Betancourt (2-0, 4.66 ERA`; 2-2, 4.68 ERA)
LHP Christian Friedrich (0-4, 5.92 ERA; 2-2, 4.50 ERA, 1 save)
RHP Brooks Brown (0-1, 2.77 ERA; 2-2, 4.20 ERA)
RHP Christian Bergman (3-5, 5.93 ERA; 5-6, 5.34 ERA)
RHP David Hale* (4-5, 3.30 ERA; 5-6, 5.24 ERA)
*Starting season on the disabled list
`No Major League stats, numbers from rookie league and triple-A
The pitching staff for the Rockies this year is a major question mark. The starting rotation consists of Jorge De La Rosa, one of the best Coors Field pitchers in Rockies history who will start the season on the disabled list, Kyle Kendrick, a reliably below-average-but-not-terrible starter, and several young pitchers either looking to establish themselves in the Major Leagues (Eddie Butler, Jon Gray, and to a lesser extent Chad Bettis) or build off their first taste of Major League success in 2014 (Jordan Lyles and Tyler Matzek). This all adds up to a starting rotation that could be very good, very bad, or anywhere in between. This, combined with the always unpredictable injury factor, should make the rotation very interesting to watch in 2015.
Bullpens are always really difficult to predict, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. The Rockies have a solid group of arms that should be able to put together a solid year, in theory at least. The closer entering the season is LaTroy Hawkins, though he could have a pretty tenuous hold on the job with guys like John Axford, Rafael Betancourt and Adam Ottavino nipping at his heels. There are also a few solid lefties in Christian Friedrich and Boone Logan. I know their 2014 numbers don’t look good, but they’ll be a lot better in 2015, assuming they’re used properly. Personally, I’m most excited to see the return of Rafael Betancourt, who is arguably the best reliever the Rockies have ever had. I’d love to see him succeed. Ultimately, I think the Rockies will have a fairly strong bullpen this season that should at least be able to keep them in the game more often than not.
So there you have it, a quick overview of what we’re looking at from the Rockies in 2015. My official prediction is a 76-86 record and a fourth place finish in the NL West. How do you think the Rockies will finish this year? Be sure to subscribe, like View from the Rooftop on Facebook, follow on Twitter, check out the weekly preview coming later today and check back on Thursday, April 9, as we try to put together the Rockies optimal starting lineup. For more detailed position-by-position previews, make sure to check out the positional preview series! You can find those articles here: Catcher; First Base; Second Base; Third Base; Shortstop; Outfield; Starting Pitching; Middle Relief; Late Inning Relief