2010 Colorado Rockies Preview

Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP
Aaron Cook, RHP
Jorge De La Rosa, LHP
Jeff Francis, LHP
Jason Hammel, RHP

Closers and Setup
Hustin Street, RHP
Rafael Betancourt, RHP

Starting Lineup
Carlos Gonzalez, CF
Clint Barmes, 2B
Todd Helton, 1B
Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Brad Hawpe, RF
Ian Stewart, 3B
Seth Smith, LF
Chris Iannetta, C

Player in Decline
The easy answer is the 36-year-old Todd Helton, but he has skills (hitting for contact and line drives) that have traditionally aged well. Instead, there is a distinct possibility that Clint Barmes loses his everyday role. Barmes doesn’t walk, doesn’t have much power or speed, and strikes out a lot.

Player on the Rise
If Clint Barmes falters at all, speedster Eric Young Jr has shown he’s ready to get on base and run. He is a great sleeper for steals in fantasy this year. If Ian Stewart can harness the strikeouts a little, we know he has power, so he deserves a mention.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Troy Tulowitzki – Elite
Ubaldo Jimenez – Elite
Carlos Gonzalez – Average
Brad Hawpe – Average
Todd Helton – Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Christian Friedrich, LHP
2. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
3. Tyler Matzek, LHP
4. Wilin Rosario, C
5. Hector Gomez, SS
6. Rex Brothers, LHP
7. Esmil Rogers, RHP
8. Eric Young Jr., 2B
9. Mike McKenry, C
10. Tim Wheeler, OF

Overall team outlook: Coming off of its second straight Wild Card postseason appearance, the Rockies have found an interesting and competitive mix of youthful promise and veteran leadership. Going forward, their unique situation will continue to be the struggle to put together a workable and affordable Coors-friendly pitching staff around their strong youth up the middle.

The Starting Rotation: Coming off his second four-plus WAR season, Ubaldo Jimenez is the unquestioned ace of the staff. His ability to consistently rack up ground balls and strikeouts bodes well for his future. Some projections have him returning to the higher walk rates of his early career, but after last year’s nice walk rate, a rosier outlook on Jimenez is defensible. Aaron Cook also uses a nice ground-ball rate to forge passable real-life production, but because of his strikeout rates is usually only usable in deeper fantasy leagues.

The returning Jeff Francis has showed promise but is coming off of shoulder injuries and never really showed standout ability in either the strikeout or ground-ball categories. Jorge De La Rosa is the ultimate wild card in terms of performance. Last year, the strikeouts and walks came in bunches, and he had the best season of his career… while putting up a 1.38 WHIP. In deeper leagues, the strikeouts are worth a pick, but in normal leagues De La Rosa is only a late round flier. Jason Hammel doesn’t do enough of anything to be very interesting. If Francis is not healthy, Franklin Morales and his still-existent upside may find himself back in the rotation.

The Bullpen: Huston Street had his regular health hiccups in 2009, but he returned to dominance with a double-digit strikeout rate and a miniscule walk rate. Even conservative projections have him putting up another excellent season in 2010 and only trepidation about his health, or the slight worry that Street gets traded to a team with a closer, should cause any hesitation for potential Street owners on draft day. Rafael Betancourt and Morales lurk should one of these scenarios bear fruit, with Morales the possible long-term option if the Rockies take a step back and need to look to the future.

The Starting Lineup: You’d have to think that his scorching second half last year earned Carlos Gonzalez the leadoff role permanently, especially since early returns have him better than Dexter Fowler defensively in center field. That pushes Fowler into a platoon with Seth Smith, and since Fowler does his best against lefties, it will take a Brad Hawpe trade to recover Fowler’s (admittedly strong) fantasy upside in the short term. Hawpe will eventually go, and then this will be an outfield that will sport great D, good speed, and power alongside their ability to get on base. Buy on all of the Rockies’ outfielders outside of the defensively limited Hawpe.

Clint Barmes hit second most of last year, but that spot in the order is volatile and will probably rotate during the year. Todd Helton is the old man among the boys whose production depends on how well his back holds up, but either way he has the powerful Ian Stewart ready to knock him in. Finally, Chris Iannetta could have some BABIP-induced bounceback next year, which would get his powerful but cheap bat into fantasy lineups in leagues of all sizes in 2010.

The Bench: The loser of the Fowler/Smith battle/platoon will find himself on the bench more than he’d like. Until Hawpe leaves, though, there’s also the talented, but so far underperforming, Ryan Spilborghs languishing on the bench. If Eric Young, Jr can play a passable second base, he should be starting (and stealing bases) as soon as this year. Bringing in Miguel Olivo the same year as signing Iannetta to a long-term contract was a little surprising. Hopefully Iannetta’s play will keep Olivo and his tiny walk rate on the bench, but if Olivo starts he’s at least interesting for his power.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

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