30 Teams in 30 Days: Colorado Rockies Preview

Rockies

Colorado Rockies – National League West

2009 Record: 90-72, 2nd Place in National League West, 3 Games Back

2009 Review: The 2009 Colorado Rockies started lower than expectations. First, they did not have Matt Holliday returning as was with Oakland. Starting pitcher Jeff Francis was out for the season after surgery. Then, after an 18-28 start, Manager Clint Hurdle was fired and replaced with Jim Tracy. Under Tracy, the Rockies had a record of 74-42, good enough to win Tracy the National League Manager of the Year Award while leading the Rockies to the Wild Card.

Offensively, the Rockies had a very good season, led by first baseman Todd Helton. Helton had a typical season for him, batting .325 with 15 hone runs and an OPS of .904. Other players with more than 20 home runs include Clint Barmes (23), Troy Tulowizki (32) who also hit .297 and had 92 runs batted in, Ian Stewart (35) and Brad Hawpe (23). As a team, they ranked second in runs, second in home runs, first in walks, second in slugging percentage and on base percentage and first on OPS. Offensively the Rockies had very few issues.

The Rockies had a very steady starting rotation. After the loss of Francis, all five of their starters started at least 27 games and each had at least 11 wins. They had an excellent closer in Huston Street, who had 35 saves and a 3.06 era. Other bullpen pitchers gave Street the support he needed and the pitching staff really came together under the leadership of Tracy.

As an organization, they won over 50 games at home and were 33 games over .500 from June 1 to September 30. As stated above, they won the Wild Card but ended up losing to the National League Champions Phillies 3-1.

Key Transactions since 2009:
Losses:
Garrett Atkins – At the end of the 2009 season, Atkins was not offered a contract and became a free agent. He became expendable as a third baseman when Colorado watched the development of Ian Stewart at third base. Stewart, although having the same approximate batting average as Atkins, has home run power that Atkins did not have in 2009. Also, the Rockies paid Atkins $7 million in 2009, too much for a backup infielder for 2010.

Jose Contreras – Obtained from the White Sox in 2009, Contreras pitched only seven games for the Rockies in 2009, starting two. The Rockies have a starting rotation with no pitcher older than 30, so the 38 year old declared his free agency at the end of the season.

Alan Embree – The lefty specialist was granted free agency after the 2009 season when the team option was declined. He pitched in 36 games in 2009, with 24.2 innings pitched. He had an era close to 6.oo, and for a team looking to get younger, Embree became expendable.

Jason Marquis – One of three Rockies to win more than 15 games in 2009, Marquis became a free agent and signed with the Nationals. With double digit victories in each of the last six seasons and pitching over 190 innings in five of those seasons, Marquis was a steady pitcher in his one season in Colorado. His departure leave an opening in the starting rotation.

Yorvit Torrealba – The better hitter of the two catchers in Colorado last season, Torrealba batter .291 in 64 games with the Rockies. His option for 2010 was declined and he became a free agent. He has very little power and the Rockies felt that Chris Iannetta had a better future with the Rockies.

Other Losses from the 2009 team includes: Joe Beimel, Alan Embree, Sal Fasano, Josh Fogg, Matt Herges, Mike McCoy, Matt Murton, Joel Peralta, Ryan Speier

Gains:
Melvin Mora – Mora was signed as a backup to Stewart at third base. He has also played every infield position and can also play the outfield if necessary. In 2009, Mora batted .261 in 125 games with Baltimore. In the past Mora had 20 home runs per season power, but the power numbers fell off in 2009. He should be a positive influence as a backup infielder in 2010.

Miguel Olivo – After handing most of the catching duties in Kansas City in 2009, Olivo signed a one year deal wit the Rockies for 2010. He hit .249 for the Royals, and also hit 23 home runs with Kansas City. He has experience catching for a Cy Young Award winner and also threw out 24.3 % of those that attempted to steal. He will split the catching duties in 2010 was Iannetta.

Other players signed to Minor League contracts in 2010 include; Alex Escobar, Chris Gissell, Jimmy Gobble, Robby Hammock, Paul Lo Duca, Damian Moss, Jay Payton, Josh Phelps, Tim Redding, Bronson Sardinha

2010 Preview: In 2007, the Rockies made the playoffs and had a disappointing season in 2008. After making the playoffs in 2009, they are hoping to not have the same letdown in 2010.

The first player to assist in the prevention of the playoff letdown is the return of Jeff Francis. Francis, who won 17 games in 2007 (and pitched 2008 with rumored injuries) is returning to the rotation and will take the place vacated by Jason Marquis. Other starting pitchers, Ubaldo Jiminez and Aaron Cook are both up and coming pitchers with the Rockies and should combine to win more than the 26 combined victories in 2009. Also, they have high hopes that Jorge De La Rosa will continue his lefty excellence, setting Rockies records for lefties with 193 strikeouts.

The bullpen will be just as strong in 2010 with Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt and Franklin Morales. The pitching staff is expected to be strong in 2010 and will be the heart of the team.

One standard of Rockies teams are the offense. Any team that is led by Helton, Tulowitzki and Brad Hawpe has a good foundation. It is expected that Ian Stewart will have a huge year, taking over at third base for the full season. The team’s offense should keep up to the Colorado standard that has proven year after year to be at the top of the league. The catching combination should be adequate at the bat, and Carlos Gonzalez will get the starting nod in left field after coming on strong in the pennant chase. Once again, the Rockies should be in the top five in many of the offensive categories in the National League.

In 2010, the Rockies will be competing for the National League West crown. The division should be stronger in 2010 than it was in 2009, but the Rockies should once again win at least 90 games and if not win the division, make the playoffs once again as the Wild Card winner.

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