Monday, February 18, 2013

2013 Preview: Colorado Rockies

     Only a few seasons ago, the Rockies General Manager Dan O'Dowd and company were locking up sluggers Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez on big contracts.  This club can provide excitement and produce runs like no other when firing on all cylinders.  "Tulo and "CarGo" are revered as one of the most dangerous 3-4 punches in the game...when they both are playing that is.

Troy Tulowitzki leaves the field due to groin injury.  
     Tulowitzki was plagued during the 2012 season with a nagging groin injury that limited him to only 47 games.  The key to the 2013 season for the Rockies success hinges on Tulo's health.  If he cannot remain healthy and on the field for the majority of the season, than the upcoming season may be as dismal as the last.  Without Tulowitzki in the lineup last season, the Rockies only managed to win 64 games.  But do not let that number fool you, this lineup has the potential to put up big numbers.


     Through all of the misery that encompassed the 2012 Rockies, there was a silver lining to be found. Josh Rutledge, called up from a strong Double-A campaign to replace injured Tulowitzki, provided plenty of production from the shortstop position.  Rutledge notched 76 base hits in 277 AB's, 33 of which went for extra bases.  After swiping 14 bags during his Double-A stint and another 7 during his 73 games on the big-league roster, there is no reason to believe Rutledge couldn't produce a 20/20 season in 2013.  Another encouraging bat in the lineup was found through 24 year old catcher Wilin Rosario, who banged out 28 HR's in 396 AB's last season.  Rosario, who will get the nod from opening day to be the Rockies' catcher, will have plenty of opportunity to build on his power throughout the upcoming season.  Having the veteran presence of super utility man Michael Cuddyer will help throughout the 2013 season just as it did in the last.  Cuddyer has a knack for coming up big in key situations for his team which could provide crucial if the Rockies are serious about wanting to improve off of last season's win total.  Lead off hitter Dexter Fowler, though striking out far too much, has shown that he can produce in the number 1 hole for the club, and will need to do so throughout the duration of the 2013 season to keep the Rockies out of the NL West basement.  Of course this lineup will benefit heavily from the steady presence of outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who has become one of the most consistent five-tool players in the MLB.

Catcher Wilin Rosario admires one of his long HR's.  (28 in 2012)

     Though the lineup provides promise, the pitching staff is weighted down with sub par starters and focuses heavily on LHP's.  Led by Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa, both who of which are returning from missing most of the 2012 season due to injury, this staff is depending on young and veteran starters alike to put together a respectable rotation.  This staff could benefit from the starts of Christian Friedrich, a fastball pitcher with a power arm.  Much of the starting and bullpen staff lacks command and variety which could make for a long season if they cannot correct and improve this during spring training.

     Led by rookie manager Walt Weiss, who was coaching high school baseball last summer, the Colorado Rockies could be in for a long 2013.  There are too many nagging injuries for me to count this club as a serious contender for the upcoming season, but the Rockies have proven that wrong in the past.  Here's to hoping they can remain healthy for a long 162 games.

Stay magical, Walt.

*Projected NL West finish: 5th
*Fantasy Standout: Carlos Gonzalez



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2013 Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

     For the second time in as many years, the Pittsburgh Pirates looked hopeful that they would finally produce a winning season -- something the fans hadn't seen since 1992.  The drought was almost over...but just as the season collapsed in 2011, so this one did as well, in an epic fashion.  The Pirates finished the season winning only 16 of their final 52 games, leaving them with their 20th consecutive losing season.  So what of 2013...

     The Pirates organization has been quiet during the winter months, adding only a few key players; Russel Martin and Mark Melancon.  After trading their closer, Joel Hanrahan, to the Red Sox as well as a good number of pitchers to various teams and free agency, I have to wonder what their up to.  The Pirates pitching staff is led by veterans AJ Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, both of whose velocity has disappeared with time.  Other starters include James McDonald, Kyle McPherson, and Charlie Morton (elbow surgery).  The majority of these starters must heavily rely on their off-speed pitches to be effective against the hitters, while McDonald lacks command in most everything but his fastball.  With Morton not returning until mid-summer, I don't see the depth in this staff--especially if another starter goes down.  The bullpen will have to step up in a big fashion to help this club win games.

NL Allstar Andrew McCutchen participates in the
2012 Home Run Derby.
     The Pirates lineup, excluding 2012 Allstar and NL MVP Candidate Andrew McCutchen, consists of names that scream "what if."  "What if" Pedro Alvarez was more patient at the plate (180 K's in 2012), we know of his raw power.  "What if" Neil Walker can stay healthy and provide production in front of McCutchen.  "What if" guys like Clint Barmes, Starling Marte, and Garret Jones didn't chase so many pitches... yeah "what if."  We've seen what these guys can do when they are all meshing... but this will need to happen a lot more in the upcoming season if the Pirates hope to finally end that losing nightmare.  

Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle looks on with disgust
as his club collapses yet again.
     The bottom line for this club is that unfortunately 2013 doesn't look like their year either.  The pitching staff lacks depth and command from a few of their starters, and the lineup is filled with streaky hitters and free swingers.  It won't help that the NL Central lost the division's "little brother," the Houston Astros, whom every team could count on padding the win total against--(Pittsburgh finished the 2012 season 12-5 against the Astros).  Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle along with the Pittsburgh faithful will have to continue to be patient with this impatient lineup as the 2013 season unfolds.

Here's looking at you, Clint.   

*Projected NL Central finish: 5th
*Fantasy Standout: Andrew McCutchen

Sunday, February 10, 2013

2013 Preview: Miami Marlins

     To say that the 2012 season was a complete failure for the newly stocked and talented Miami Marlins would be putting it nicely.  After revamping the club with a new stadium, fresh look, and complete roster upgrade, owner Jeffrey Loria gave fans something to be ecstatic about heading into last year's season.  However, that all came to an end only days after the season began when news broke that the Marlins fiery manager, Ozzie Guillen, made remarks about his respect and admiration for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.  After an agonizing season under the controversial skipper, the departure of Hanley Ramirez, and a last place finish in the NL East, the Marlins community had good reason to believe that the off-season would be much kinder.  They were quite wrong...

The off-season began just as dreadfully as the season did.

     November 19, 2012-Commissioner Bud Selig approves a blockbuster deal between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays that sends Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio, and John Buck packing.  The mega deal came less than a calendar year after the Marlins organization committed nearly $200 million dollars to free agents in order to fill the seats of their brand new stadium that is costing the city of Miami millions.  Winning only 69 games in 2012, 3 less than in 2011, this was not how the fans envisioned the future of this "revamped" organization.

     After adding only a few everyday players so far, you can't expect the 2013 season to look much brighter than the last.  The arrival of two Philadelphia FA's; Juan Pierre only provides speed at the top of an already power depleted order while Placido Polanco's bat is only getting slower.  Even Giancarlo Stanton, the only bright spot in the Marlin's lineup has voiced his displeasure with the current state of his ball club... and can you blame him?

     The pitching staff of the Marlins leaves much to be desired as well, led by Ricky Nolasco, the sole remaining starter from Opening Day 2012.  The rest of the starting staff is consisted of young arms who are looking to prove themselves on a team that will not provide much run support.  The bullpen, plagued by command issues and unofficial relieving roles, doesn't provide much hope either.

     New skipper Mike Redmond will have his hands full and his patience tried with this group of misfits, so carelessly strung together by an owner who lacks credibility not only with the Miami community, but the MLB hierarchy.  Fans are not happy, which is going to make motivation extremely hard to come by for this club.  Count on Selig keeping a close eye on this club as it "moves forward."

I'm afraid the "fish" are already fried...

*Projected NL East finish: 5th
*Fantasy Standout: Giancarlo Stanton