Today, we start looking at some teams that have legitimate hope, so it gets harder from here on out. And, for those of you who haven’t seen the previous parts (which are linked below), keep in mind that this is a forward looking exercise – we are evaluating clubs on their overall ability to contend for a World Series title in the future. We are not evaluating how they have performed historically. This is about the health of each organization going forward.
Rankings So Far
#23: Colorado Rockies
The Rockies ownership has faced several significant financial problems in the past, ranging from the need to post calls for cash from minority owners to cutting payroll down to small market levels. Despite a beautiful stadium and a city that has shown that it will support a winner, the Rockies operate on a fairly strict budget that restricts the team’s ability to contend. They’ve increased the salary load they’ve been willing to take over the last couple of years, but that still didn’t keep them from trading away Matt Holliday in lieu of signing him to a long term extension. The Rockies face some unique challenges in dealing with baseball at altitude, and having to get by on a low end budget doesn’t help.
Front Office: C
Dan O’Dowd is a man with a lot of ideas. Some of them are very good, while others are a bit more questionable. Overall, he’s showed an ability to identify talent, but in trying to solve the Coors Field problems, the approach has been to throw spaghetti at the wall. They tried high priced left-handed pitchers, to disastrous results. They tried strikeout pitchers who would limit balls in play. Now, they’re trying groundball pitchers, assembling a staff of sinkerball starters who will hopefully limit home runs. In the end, though, it doesn’t appear that the organization is committed to a direction, but instead react to whether their experiments work or fail. Baseball in Denver is certainly different than the rest of the game, but the Rockies need to figure out how to use that to their advantage, and they haven’t been able to do so as of yet.
Major League Talent: B-
It’s easy to forget that this team was in the World Series two years ago. There is talent here, and a healthy Troy Tulowitzki will solve a lot of problems. But is there enough talent on the roster to keep up in the NL West? Todd Helton‘s a good player with a horrible contract. Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jimenez are good pitchers, but probably not as good as they looked last year. They lost Brian Fuentes and Holliday over the winter, plus Jeff Francis will miss the entire year to an injury. In short, Tulowitzki just doesn’t have enough help, and the team needs to add a few more impact players.
Minor League Talent: B-
Dexter Fowler is one of those impact players that the team needs, and he should be ready sooner than later. Having him patrol center field could be a shot in the arm similar to the one the team got from Tulowitzki in 2007. Jhoulys Chacin fits into their good groundball pitcher mold and gives the team two elite prospects. After that, it levels off to lower upside guys (Seth Smith, Christian Friedrich, Casey Weathers) or prospects far from the majors (Wilin Rosario, Hector Gomez). It’s a decent, but not great, system that should provide a couple of solid assets for the Rockies long term. They could use a few more than they have, though.
There’s just a lot of ifs here. If the Rockies can figure out how to get all their talented players on the field at the same time, and if Dexter Fowler has a terrific rookie year, and if Franklin Morales figures out his mechanics, and if they can replace Fuentes in the bullpen, and if Helton’s back doesn’t go out, this could be a pretty decent team. Of course, the odds of all those things happening aren’t very good, as you have to plan for what’s probable, not what’s possible. There is a good group of young, cost-controlled talent in place, but for the Rockies to win consistently, they’re going to have to figure out how to retain their best players or develop some more good ones internally. Right now, they’re kind of stuck in the middle.