At least those living in the great city of Denver and its surroundings have the Super Bowl champion Broncos to cheer for -- although with a pretty shaky quarterback situation as things currently stand. Because it's going to be a long season otherwise in major Colorado pro sports. The NBA's Nuggets stink and will be in the lottery. The NHL's Avalanche are likely to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs for a second straight season and fifth time in the past six.
As for baseball's Rockies? Coors Field is a great place to catch a summer game. Otherwise, it's going to be another big-time losing campaign. Colorado was 68-94 and last in the NL West last year, the team's fifth straight season winning 74 games or fewer. Walt Weiss has been the manager for the past three of those, and I'm still not sure why he is still employed. Weiss is in the final year of his contract, so maybe the team figures it may as well lose under him for one more year instead of paying off Weiss' final year and hiring someone else. Weiss has a 208-278 record, a .428 winning percentage that is the lowest for any Rockies manager.
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Colorado started the rebuilding process at last year's trade deadline by sending shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, one of the best players in franchise history, to Toronto. The Rockies got back overpaid and past-his-prime shortstop Jose Reyes and three prospects. But even getting back Reyes, the Rockies saved money on Tulo's huge deal. That's a start.
As usual, this team will bash at home in winning a lot of 8-6 games in finishing around .500 there and barely hit on the road while likely losing at least 50 away games again.
Colorado opens the season Monday at Arizona.
Rockies 2016 Projected Lineup
Colorado had one of the best offensive outfields in baseball last year but traded away Corey Dickerson (.304, 10 HRs, 31 RBIs in 65 games) to Tampa Bay. The other main loss from the lineup is first baseman Justin Morneau. He won the 2014 batting title but played in only 49 games last year as he is plagued by concussion problems.
Reyes was projected to be the every-day shortstop even though the team would love to trade him, but no one will take the contract. He has been away from the team all spring on leave because of an offseason domestic abuse issue. On Wednesday, prosecutors in Maui announced they were dropping the charges because Reyes' wife wouldn't cooperate. He's still going to get a long suspension from MLB, but it might not be quite as bad now.
Reyes isn't in the team's plans (buyout?) because one of the stories of camp has been the play of Trevor Story, pun intended. The 23-year-old has been killing the ball in the Cactus League and will make his major-league debut as the Rockies' starting shortstop on Monday. His will become the first Colorado player to debut as an Opening Day starter since Jeff Baker in 2005.
It's hard to know where Weiss will hit Story, although early projections have him at No. 8. The leadoff hitter will be center fielder Charlie Blackmon (.287, 17 HRs, 58 RBIs, 43 steals). He will be followed by surprising second baseman DJ LeMahieu (.301, 6 HRs, 61 RBIs, 23 steals).
Right fielder Carlos Gonzalez was actually able to stay relatively healthy in 2015 and blew up in the second half. He finished with 40 homers and 97 RBIs. CarGo doesn't fit this team, however, at his age and contract. Expect him to be dealt by the July 31 deadline. The new face of the franchise is one of the Top 10 players in baseball, defensive wizard and slugging third baseman Nolan Arenado (.287, NL-leading 42 HRs and 130 RBIs). He's the only untouchable on the roster and is only 25 (will be in a few weeks).
That's a pretty good first four. The rest is OK: left fielder and free-agent addition Gerardo Parra (.291, 14 HRs, 51 RBIs), whose addition made Dickerson expendable, catcher Nick Hundley (.301, 10 HRs, 43 RBIs), first baseman Ben Paulsen (.277, 11 HRs, 49 RBIs), who may platoon with Mark Reynolds, and then Story.
This group will rake at Coors Field, no question, and could lead the NL in runs again simply because of the 81 games there.
Rockies 2016 Projected Rotation & Closer
As usual, this is the problem area. No free-agent pitcher worth his salt is going to sign with the Rockies, so the franchise has to keep trying to find them in the draft. It hasn't had much success yet. The Rockies finished with a 5.04 ERA last year, by far the worst. Next was Philly at 4.69.
Lefty Jorge De La Rosa (9-7, 4.17) would be a solid No. 4 on a good team but is this club's ace. Chad Bettis (8-6, 4.23), the team's second-round pick in 2010, slots in at No. 2. As for the rest? Your guess is as good as mine. Jon Gray was penciled in for one spot but is injured and will miss the start of the season. He was the guy chosen right after Kris Bryant a couple of years ago in the draft. Gray was 0-2 with a 5.53 ERA last year. So you are probably looking at Tyler Chatwood, who has had two Tommy John surgeries in his career and has thrown 24 total innings the past two seasons (all in 2014), Chris Rusin (6-10, 5.33) and Jordan Lyles (2-5, 5.14). It's going to be ugly.
The closer was projected to be Jason Motte, whom the team signed to a two-year, $10 million free-agent deal. But he will start the year on the DL with a shoulder strain. Thus, Jake McGee, who was the key piece back from Tampa Bay in the Dickerson deal, will close. The lefty had a 2.41 ERA as largely a set-up man last year.
Rockies Futures Odds
At BetOnline , Colorado is +17500 to win the World Series, +8000 for the NL pennant, +5000 in the NL West and has an "over/under" wins total of 71.5, with the under a -130 favorite. Arenado is +1600 to win the big-league home-run title and Gonzalez is +3300. Arenado is +1600 for NL MVP and is given a HRs total of 30.5. Story is +700 for NL Rookie of the Year.
Rockies 2016 Predictions
FanGraphs projects Colorado to finish 74-88 and tied for last in the NL West, 18 games behind the Dodgers. I'll go over the wins simply because it's not that hard to win 72 games. But this team should finish last again in the division. I'll go over on Arenado's homers, but I don't think Story keeps his spring hitting up and wins ROY.
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