Organizational Rankings: Current Talent – Colorado

Any team making its home at Coors Field is going to look superficially like it is all hitting and no pitching. Once the run environment is taken into account, a more nuanced picture of the Colorado Rockies becomes available. It would be a bit of a stretch to say that the Rockies project as a defense-and-pitching team. More accurately, this is a balanced team with two under-appreciated stars, some young players with upside, a number of above-average performers, and useful role players. Taken as a group, the Rockies are one of the most talented teams in the National League.

The Rockies don’t have any one player that projects as an offensive monster once Coors is taken into account. What they do have is a number of players who are good at the plate and in the field. Among the position players, the undoubted star is 25-year-old shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. 2008 can’t be ignored, but Tulowitzki still projects as very good hitter, and while his defensive ratings have been up and down, he’s average at worst. Todd Helton is still a useful piece who hits well and is good defensively at first base. Third baseman Ian Stewart is enigmatic, but projects as at least average and is only 25. Clint Barmes is truly awful offensively, but he’s also outstanding enough defensively to be a stopgap second baseman. Chris Iannetta is a good, offensively oriented catcher.

The Rockies also have some talent in the outfield, although it remains to be seen if they’ll be deployed optimally. The best combination of three is probably Carlos Gonzalez in center, with Seth Smith and Ryan Spilborghs on the corners. While Gonzalez (just 24) hasn’t had a huge impact yet, he profiles as a very good outfield defender with a developing bat who is at least above average now and potential to be much more. The underutilized Smith is a good hitter who is at least average in the field. Spilborghs is older and inferior to Smith, but he’s got enough of a bat and glove to be about average over a full season. Sadly, the Rockies may still go with Gonzalez in left; Dexter Fowler, a fast guy who is a poor hitter and hasn’t impressed in the field, either, in center; and… wait for it… the legendary Brad Hawpe in right. Much virtual ink has been spilled over Hawpe’s dreadful fielding. Suffice it to say that while Hawpe has a good bat, if Adam Dunn (a superior hitter) can’t come close to being a league average player while putting up -30 seasons in the field, Hawpe can’t either. Some sort of arrangement putting Gonzalez in center, Smith in left, and platooning Hawpe and Spilborghs (with judicious use of Fowler) would likely give the Rockies at least one more win in a tight divisional race. Surely it has crossed someone’s mind.

The Rockies have made impressive strides in finding the right pitchers for their home park. Their rotation is both a skilled and deep. Ubaldo Jimenez‘s excellence should be more widely acknowledged; at the moment he’s on the same level with more celebrated pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. Aaron Cook continues to defy the odds with few strikeouts but tons of grounders. Jorge de la Rosa, obtained after the Royals lost patience with him, has managed to get it together and become an above-average starter. Jason Hammel is also close to average, and once Jeff Francis‘s return from injury is figured in, the depth of the rotation is impressive indeed. Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt, and Manny Corpas are key parts of a good bullpen.

It would be inaccurate to say that the Rockies have no stars — Tulowitzki and Jimenez certainly qualify. But the Rockies aren’t totally dependent on their production, as they have many other skilled players around the diamond and on the mound, as well as a useful bench. Colorado will probably be in a tight NL West race with the Dodgers during which pretending like Fowler and Hawpe are everyday players isn’t a great idea. Even so, the Rockies are probably the best team in the division at the moment, and Los Angeles is the only serious competitor in 2010.



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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.


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Jay
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

The minor league reports on Fowler’s defense were outstanding, and we all know about making judgments on defense using UZR from one season. He managed a .363 OBP last year, and this is without the benefit of seeing a single AAA inning. You seem unreasonably down on him.

It is a travesty though that Hawpe was not traded in the offseason.

Trenchtown
Member
Trenchtown
6 years 6 months ago

Respectfully, I think you are pretty harsh in your evaluation of Dexter Fowler. The kid was a well regarded prospect who just had a very credible year with the bat in his rookie season. A 103 wRC+ from a 23 year old center fielder is nothing to sneeze at. His defense in center according to UZR was pretty darn bad, but’s it is also less than a full season of data. While Smith deserves some more playing time then he gets, and prior to 2009 Spilsborghs looked good with the bat, I still don’t agree with your opinion that choosing Fowler to player over one of these to would be sad or incorrect.

DavidCEisen
Member
DavidCEisen
6 years 6 months ago

Agreed, all the projects, save ZIPS, have Fowler being an above average hitter. I’m not sure why the hate.

Chair
Guest
Chair
6 years 6 months ago

I love how the top 6 teams are all going to be AL, yeah that makes allot of sense.

I love what JackZ has done in Seattle as much as the next guy, and if he keeps it up they could be contenders for many years, but this is getting silly. In what way shape or form is that club a top 5 team? I am looking at you Dave Cameron, a little humility never hurt anyone.

futant462
Member
futant462
6 years 6 months ago

Agreed. I live in Seattle(Boston fan 1st), love what the org is doing. Great direction, smart, fast turnaround from awful. The future is bright because of what it can be. But short of Ackley, their minor system is weak. Their offense has the upside of 20th best in the league, while pitching & D should be in the top 10 somewhere.

This is a good team, with smart management, but they aren’t built to win it all now, or really any time in the next 2-3 years. They’re going to be competitive for awhile, then after years of smart decisions and building a powerhouse minors system they will possibly qualify as a top 5 org in baseball. But they aren’t there yet, and speculating on that potential and considering it inevitable does stink of excess fanboyism.

I’d put the M’s ~12 myself. 12 with great long term upside, and short term stability, if not exellence.

Rob
Guest
Rob
6 years 6 months ago

I’d probably put them lower than 12 – behind the Dodgers for sure. But I’ll wait for their write up before I pass any more judgment. There could be factors I’m not considering, and in any case I’m curious to hear Dave C. make the case for them.

Ivdown
Guest
Ivdown
6 years 6 months ago

This list is bullshit. Yeah the top few teams will be normal (though the way this shit is going the Mariners will make their way into the top 3), and the bottom was as expected, but the middle till now is just idiotic.

Reuben
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

Dave Cameron is not the only one who votes on these. Do any of the critics realize this?

Chair
Guest
Chair
6 years 6 months ago

Yes we know, but the criticism stands.

Reuben
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

How does it stand that DCam’s bias managed to influence several non-Mariners fans?

How does it stand when DCam has been accused of being anti-Mariners until recently?

Your criticism is illogical and ill-formed.

Gary
Guest
Gary
6 years 6 months ago

Barmes hit 23 home runs. He’s not *that* bad. The average hurts, but I’ll take good defense and 23 home runs from my second baseman any day.

Oh and Hammel pitched to a 3.71 FIP (Yes, I’m taking one stat out of context) in his first full season and was killer on the road (if my memory is correct). I’m seeing above average, #2/3(mostly 3) out of Hammel

Team’s pretty good. Tulo makes it pretty great.

hamandcheese
Member
hamandcheese
6 years 6 months ago

I just wish they’d let Ianetta catch his share of games.

Mike Ketchen
Guest
Mike Ketchen
6 years 6 months ago

Matt,

nice write-up! My question is centered around Hammel. His CB was the key for him last season, do you think this is more random fluke pitch or something that can be sustained? He is really interesting to me as a guy who could really go from good 3rd starter to swing man in the pen. That is a pretty wide margin to me.

Ivdown
Guest
Ivdown
6 years 6 months ago

I think the Rockies deserve a ranking around here, though I think they should be above the Twins and Mariners. Their team scares me. Their offense has always been really good, but now they are developing pitching, and that spells bad news for the NL West. They also have the best outfield depth in all of baseball, which means their bench is also very good. I’m hoping for a fall from their pitching staff to help out the Dodgers.

And what a surprise, all the top 6 teams are AL teams. So let me get this straight, the NL sucks the AL’s ass and the Mariners have gone from (presumably) in the 20s last year to 6 or better (I’m guessing better with how this list is turning out) after signing a powerless 3b off a career year (sound similar to another 3B seattle just had, except he had power…), traded for a head case, who is admittedly good, but still can’t stay healthy, and a very good starting pitcher to go with Felix, but not too much behind them except unproven players. I’m eager to read the reasoning for their extraordinary ranking this year. Ackley must be super-Jesus, because he is taking this seemingly mediocre or below average farm system and turning it into a top 5 farm system.

ThundaPC
Member
6 years 6 months ago

The Mariners were conservatively ranked #15 last year.

bflaff
Guest
bflaff
6 years 6 months ago

I think the Rockies’ payroll limitations should drag them down a bit more. All this young talent is fun, but if they can’t afford it when it hits its prime, then their margin for error gets pretty small.

Tom Wilson
Guest
Tom Wilson
6 years 6 months ago

The Rockies had a stretch where they were top five in revenue in the league if they become contenders they could easily become a team that has a 90-100 million payroll, and with their proven ability to identify and develop talent they should at least remain competitive for quite a while.

Andy
Guest
Andy
6 years 6 months ago

Ehhhh…. I’m not certain the revenue will ever be as high as it was. Coors Field sold out every game for years, in part because the stadium was such a huge part of the revitalization of the LoDo area. Barring some dynastic-type run (and as a Rockies fan, I’d love to see it), I just can’t see the city of Denver supporting the team more than they did in the past. The glitz of LoDo has worn off and there’s simply more to do in the area.

The development of a few players from last year’s draft and this next draft will be crucial in determining how long-lasting this success is. If the team is able to strike gold on a few of the players they picked (Matzek and Arenado: I’m looking at you), that should go a long way to negate the attrition the team will face half a decade from now without having to break the bank to do so.

Tom Wilson
Guest
Tom Wilson
6 years 6 months ago

Imagine what this team would look like with Longo at 2nd too bad they decided to change their minds last minute and take Greg Reynolds

JR
Guest
JR
6 years 6 months ago

Not too mention that if they’d drafted Longoria, they could have traded Atkins before his decline. That might’ve netted them a real second base prospect.

Tom Wilson
Guest
Tom Wilson
6 years 6 months ago

I would be fine with an infield of Stewart, EY2, Tulo, and Longo and an OF of Cargo, Fowler, and Smith under control until 2014 but only if we brought in Hinske

Jay
Guest
6 years 6 months ago

20/20 hindsight and all, nobody scores perfectly in every draft, etc,etc…
Still, the thought of a Longo/Tulo left side of the infield makes me drool.

Chair
Guest
Chair
6 years 6 months ago

Hopefully it will happen for the US baseball squad come the next WBC.

Mauer
Fielder
Utley
Longoria
Tulo
Upton
Kemp
Braun

Lincecum
Grienke
Kershaw

Make it So!!!

rockymountainhigh
Guest
rockymountainhigh
6 years 6 months ago

Obviously real excited about this year. Hopefully no repeat of ’08. Tulo drives this team. A little nervous that another slow start from him and no Street makes for a tough April. Cargo looked late last year like he might be able to carry this lineup for a bit, so maybe it’s not all on Tulo.

Want to see much more Seth Smith. One thing about this team, is that a lot of them are gamers, and Smith’s toughness seems to fit better than Hawpe, who had nothing left late last year. Fowler looked a little awkward in field and at the plate. He got to a lot of balls last year that I’m hoping he catches this year. I love he and Cargo’s speed in that huge outfield. I also give him credit for cutting way down on his strike zone, bunting for hits and generally scrapping to get his speed on base. I thought Tracy had a huge impact there.

Maybe a similar approach could make EY2 useful. Would love to see his speed out there as Tracy seems to know what to do with it, and Barmes is too often hopeless at the plate. Not sure if Francis at No. 2 is promising or else concerning for the back end guys, but if it means he’s close to a couple years ago, should be a BIG year.

This is all based on the eye test, as I don’t have much utility with statistics. Trying to learn though. Love this site. Keep up the good work!

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