Jun 3, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (2) is congratulated for his three run home run by center fielder Charlie Blackmon (19) and second baseman DJ LeMahieu (9) in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Marlin Maniac: The Rockies are off to another slow start, this despite their two stars being healthy. What’s gone wrong for the team so far?
Bobby DeMuro: In a word… everything! The starting rotation is exactly how you’d expect it, the club lost lights-out closer Adam Ottavino to Tommy John surgery early in the season, Corey Dickerson and Justin Morneau are both laid up on the disabled list, and add to this the relatively unique problem of the two superstars (Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, not Rafael Ynoa and Daniel Descalso) that aren’t hitting at all, despite health!
Tulo’s come around a bit of late, and had a good road trip last week and a good series against the Dodgers the past few days, so hopefully he’s righting the ship (just in time for you guys, eh?). CarGo has always been streaky in his career, but this is longer than a two-week streak; he’s been lost at the plate this year. It’s torpedoed his trade value (which, as you’d expect, is a huge topic of debate in Denver), and now the Rox are just hoping his two-week-slump-that-turned-into-two-bad-months is… not a sign of things to come.
MM: Troy Tulowitzki has fallen off big time this season. What has been his issue with production and how does it affect his chances of being traded?
BM: Among other things, he’s not seeing the ball very well. He’s striking out at a pretty good clip and hasn’t walked anywhere near his career levels this season, though if the last eight or so days is any indication, he’s slowly figuring it out.
I’m firmly in the ‘don’t-ever-trade-Tulo’ camp, simply because when he’s on, he’s easily one of the best players in the game. His question has always been health, not production, so it’s interesting to see him healthy and yet relatively mediocre (by his insane standards) this year. Nevertheless, I’m hopeful he’s now turning it around after some emotional home runs against the Dodgers earlier this week, and more power on the road last week.
As for his trade value, if the Rockies are going to trade him, they need him to have a big month of June, up his value, and then get back a big haul for him in any deal. I’m pessimistic about that just by following the Rockies for the last twenty years, but with new general manager Jeff Bridich in his seventh month at the helm, hey, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt? (eh…..)
MM: Nolan Arenado is off to a really hot start. Does he have a chance to break the 30-home run barrier this season?
BM: Holy Noly! I think he absolutely will hit more than 30 (you know, include typical assumptions/caveats about health) only because he’s hit 10 of his 13 home runs already this year on the road. If he has that pop away from Coors, and still has four months to mash a few more away from Denver, he can easily knock 12-15 more at Coors over the next four months, and, boom, you’re at 30 right there.
Bat, glove, if you haven’t watched Nolan play baseball, Marlins’ fans, watch this series. He, to me, is like Giancarlo Stanton in a way: they are both guys that, even if they’re not on your favorite team, you want to watch and cheer for only to see the insanely talented stuff they can do on a baseball field (and, you know, hope their amazing plays don’t steal a win from your club.)
MM: How hard has it been for the Rockies to develop a strong starting rotation playing half their games at Coors Field? Do they have anyone in their farm system that can become a top of the rotation guy?
BM: That question’s been asked every day since the place opened in 1995 and the Rockies won a wild high-scoring extra-inning affair on a walk-off home run over the New York Mets! And fortunately, I have the answer!
Just kidding. I think developing a rotation that can succeed (by unique Denver-ish metrics) comes down to three things: health, throwing strikes, and re-envisioning a “quality start.” The first two apply to every team in the big leagues, and are pretty obvious. The Rockies can’t afford to walk batters (something they had massive problems with earlier this season) and give up free passes if they’re already going to be allowing runs inevitably in Denver.
That third thing is more interesting – can the Rockies find guys who can allow, say, four runs in six innings every time out at Coors? The Rox can stomach being down 4-2 in a hypothetical game entering the seventh inning, with three more cracks at getting a pair of runs. They can’t stomach the six-runs-in-three-innings outings that put the team out of it fast, and burn the bullpen in a way that affects them for the next five days, too.
As for prospects, you will see one Friday night: Eddie Butler. He’s got a power (up to 96 mph) sinker and at times this year has shown flashes of brilliance by inducing ground balls. He’s also failed to miss bats, and has walked a lot of hitters, so it’s been up and down for him, though his future is still extremely bright and he’s learning on the job. Joining him very soon will be power pitcher Jon Gray, from AAA, who’s thrown extremely well in Albuquerque the last month. Further down the line are guys like Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson, both intriguing and powerful starters who will (hopefully) be in Denver in fairly short order.
Pitching will probably never ever be the Rockies’ strength, but I am bullish about the depth they’ve acquired there and across the system. Say what you will about the old front office regime (it sucked!), they were able to build some good pieces through the draft that are now – or will very soon be – contributing in the big leagues in big ways (Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon, Arenado, Tulo, Wilin Rosario, etc., etc.)
MM: The MLB draft is upcoming next week. Which players have the Rockies been linked to? What kind of player will they look to draft, based upon their history?
BM: The Rockies have four of the first 44 picks in the draft this season, so it could be a banner year for the club in choosing some high-level amateur talent. I’d love to see them do what they’ve done recently on the pitching side: go get college arms, like Gray (University of Oklahoma), Butler (Radford University), Anderson (Oregon University) and Freeland (University of Evansville).
For that reason, I like them being on guys like Dillon Tate, RHP, UC-Santa Barbara, Carson Fulmer, RHP, Vanderbilt, Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville, or even Phil Bickford, taken tenth overall by the Blue Jays out of high school before turning it down to go to college.
Any arms that can have a quicker impact in the big leagues, like the four in the system I mentioned above, would be better than a high schooler who will take a slower pace coming from a more raw starting point (granted, with the trade-off of being a few years younger).
Ultimately, though, with four of the first 44 picks, it comes down to drafting the best talent available when they get up to the podium. The more stocked the minor league affiliates are (and the Rockies are already doing a pretty decent job there, to begin with), the more flexibility the big league club has in trades, development, etc.
Next: Pitching Matchups and Predictions