The Payoff Pitch looks at the National League West
Last Year: 68-94, 5th in NL West
Key Addition: Wander Cabrera, SP: Trade with Chicago (NL)
Key Loss: Justin Morneau, 1B: Free Agency (although they could resign him)
The Rockies have never won the NL West and the trend will continue this year (unlike Mr. Tulowitzki, we don’t see the Country Club facilities as the problem). The Rockies offseason was devoid of any flashy signings or, in reality, huge losses, so their key addition and loss won’t do much to change their standing: They’re a weak team in a top-heavy division. In other words, the only mystery to the season is when will the Rockies go into full rebuild mode and trade CarGo?
The bet here is it’ll happen around the trade deadline, with CarGo becoming one of the hottest commodities available. At that point, the Rockies will turn away from veterans and see what the youngsters can do, particularly guys like the recently acquired Wander Cabrera.
Cabrera is a 17-year-old phenom who pitched extremely well in the Dominican Summer League, finishing 4-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 14 games (7 starts), including a 1.25 WHIP and 10 K/9. Although he did finish with slightly higher than a two to one strikeout-to-walk ratio, Cabrera fits what the Rockies need in their pitching-friendly park: pitchers who miss bats.
In the past eight years, the Rockies have finished in the bottom nine in pitcher strikeouts five times. Their best record during those five years? 14 games below .500. In the same stretch, the Rockies have finished in the top ten (really eleven but they missed it by four k’s) in strikeouts twice. Both of those seasons the Rockies finished with winning records, including their franchise best 92-70 record in 2009.
Coors Field is a hitter’s park, but with season 25 as a franchise approaching soon, it’s no longer a viable excuse. The Rockies need to tailor their team to their park: finding high strikeout guys is one of those fits (we also recommend gap hitters and speedy outfielders). The trade of Cabrera is intriguing and the Rockies need to hope they can get more of the same return for the rest of their veterans when the trade deadline arrives.
Best Benchwarmer: Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B. Aside from likely being the first bat off the bench, able to handle either corner spot of the infield, and still relatively young (he’s only 32): Reynolds + Coors Field = Excitement! Approaching his tenth year as a big leaguer, Reynolds is what he is. Adjusting for injuries, baseball-reference.com puts his 162 game averages at 31 HR and 196 strikeouts. Coming off the bench and hitting at Coors, Reynolds provides the best go big or go home candidate since Jeremy Burnitz’ heyday in the Rocky Mountains. We. Can’t. Wait! (Until he hits a go-ahead HR off the Dodgers bullpen, then we will curse him and remove this title from his name).
Prediction: The Rockies will likely stumble out of the gate on their way to another lackluster season. With with the trades they’ll make, fresh faces that arrive, and some of the young guns that will be given a shot, the Rockies will make a strong push in the second half to sneak ahead of the Padres and out of the cellar.
Final Finish: 70-92, 4th in NL West
Next week we’ll continue with part three of our five-part series previewing each NL West team and predicting their fate for the 2016 season.
Those Bench Warmers are Derek Cheng (on twitter @DCheng110), Rob Diaz (@_RobJoc) and Riley Saxon (@coachrileysaxon). They enjoyed their time on the bench during their playing days and produce a weekly Youtube show on Tuesdays. Those Benchwarmers can be reached by email at email@example.com or on twitter @warming_beches.