Sunday, March 4, 2007

Runner Ups In The West

In a surprise to most people I actually have faith in the Colorado Rockies. There is something about this franchise that is going to get them farther this year, and have a serious year that should have some new career highs and even more surprises. If everyone is healthy and the coach does not become a complete bonehead then this team will be fighting for first in September.

2. Colorado Rockies
3. San Diego Padres
4. San Francisco Giants
5. Arizona Diamondbacks

RHP Latroy Hawkins
OF Willy Taveras
RHP Jason Hirsh

RHP Taylor Buchholz


RHP Jason Jennings

RHP Miguel Ascenio

2B Jason Smith

RHP Jose Mesa

LHP Justin Hampton

The rotation took a bit of a hit when the Rockies sent Jason Jennings to Houston for Jason Hirsh and Willy Taveras. This year it looks as though Jeff Francis will become the ace of this franchise and although he is not the most dominating ace in the NL or even the NL West he will still improve all of his numbers this year and improve on 2006’s 13-11 record and his 4.16ERA. Francis was just one inning short of pitching 200 last season and will more than likely be around 210 as he will be able to stay and inning or 2 longer in most games this season. Aaron cook will follow behind Francis and look to have more wins this season and at least finish with a .500 mark. Cook is a workhorse posting 212.2 Innings last season and like Francis will have to lower his 4.23ERA from 2006. Jason Hirsh who comes over from the Houston Astros trade looks like this 25 year old needs some big improvement. Hirsh had a rough stint in the big leagues last year garnering a 3-4 record with a 6.04ERA with Houston. So why did the Rockies send Jennings for Hirsh? In Roundrock, the AAA affiliate of the Houston Astros, Hirsh pitched to a 13-2 record with a 2.10ERA with 118K in 137.1 Innings. This is why he was brought up and although all his numbers inflated he still has all the tools to be a big time pitcher in the MLB. Veteran Josh Fogg and Byung-Hyun Kim will end the rotation and look to provide the Rockies with at least 20 wins in the final two spots. Last year these two hit 19 wins with an average ERA of over 5.50, this club may not be able to have low ERA’s but it can definitely win them by any means necessary, even if the stats do not favour statisticians.

The addition of Latroy Hawkins gives a solid setup man for Brian Fuentes. Hawkins is looking to rebound after posting a 4.48ERA last season while Fuentes is looking to improve on what was a good year for his club. Fuentes had 30 SV with a 3.44ERA in 06, Fuentes also posted 73K in his 65.1 innings of work with the Rockies. The rest of the bullpen has a lot of men who know how to record K’s and as soon as the bullpen matures a bit more it will be one of the best in the NL. Ramon Ramirez and Manny Corpas are two young guns that are able to go out and be the situational one or two batter pitcher, with a high probability of sitting a few of them down. Ramirez sat down 61 batters in 67.2 innings last season while Corpas took his success from AA and was able to show that he can hang with the big boys. Corpas was 2-1 with a 0.98ERA with 19SV striking out 35 in 36.2INN, while with the big club Corpas had a 3.62ERA and striking out 27 in 32.1INN.

The line-up is one of the reasons that this team will steal some games not only from divisional opponents but also from the rest of the NL. This homegrown crop has matured a lot and has made people think about what this future can be like in the next 5-7 years. Willy Taveras will likely lead off and he will look to improve on his .278BA but will be a valuable asset in the field running down balls in CF as well as looking for another 30+SB this season. Matsui should follow providing that he stays with the big club, and can be consistent with his bat other than just his glove. Playing in 32G with the Rockies Matsui was able to bat .345 and drive in 19 while taking 8SB; the 3-4-5-6 spot in the line-up will be threatening and should provide at least 110HR between the four players. Garret Atkins, Matt Holliday, Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe will be the offensive muscle. Atkins hit .329 with 29HR and leading the Rockies with 120RBI and 48 doubles. Holliday batted a .326 with a team leading 34HR and driving in 114RBI with 45 doubles. Todd Helton looks to rebound after his un-Helton like season where he only belted 15HR, only the second time in his Career he has not hit 20HR. Helton still batted .302, another low since his 97 debut. Helton was still able to record 81RBI so he has not lost all of the pop from his bat. Even though Helton turns 33 at the start of the season he is not done yet. 27 year old Brad Hawpe will look to improve his numbers and put together a consistent year in his third full season with the Colorado Rockies. Hawpe sent 22 balls out of the park while driving in 84RBI and having a .293 average. Hawpe has the potential and the power to be a 30-100 guy in MLB and has years to learn. Troy Tulowitzki and Chris Ianetta will be at the bottom of the line-up as both look to keep a full time job in the big leagues and provide some help before getting to the pitchers.

This team will surprise and if you want to call it bandwagon jumping than call it bandwagon jumping. There is a lot of potential and great veterans to help teach the young kids how to stay focused. A lot of guys are not in their ‘prime’ yet and will grow with the experience. I have no problem saying that the rockies will lose the battle of the west again, but will be pretty darn close finishing second.

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