Happy Labor Day! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume on Tuesday, September 2.
February 24, 2009
Team Health Reports
Head Trainer: Keith Duggar
Trend: Neutral. Despite being up and down in the standings over the past few seasons, the Rockies have been fairly stable in the injury ratings. They've managed to keep days-lost to a minimum despite some severe handicaps, including Todd Helton's odd intestinal problem in 2007 and Troy Tulowitzki's injury last season. They have done fairly well with pitchers recently, which is an improvement, because it had been something that the Rockies struggled with for years during the "Humidor Era." However, Duggar and his staff begin the '09 season by losing Jeff Francis to a tough injury that highlights a problem for the DL days measure: the team gets hit with a lost season (180 days or so) because of something that happened last year.
The Shape of the Season:
The Big Question: Thomas Harding, Rockies beat writer at MLB.com, asks "Clint Hurdle believes the team's best lineup has Todd Helton in it. How will he balance this with the need to get Ian Stewart on the field?"
Let's face it-Helton's back is going to end his career. It could be sooner or it might be later, but every player that has this type of back problem at this age will eventually suffer a rapid decline. At best, there's a time period during which, with proper management, a player so afflicted can remain productive. The team can reasonably expect somewhere between 40 and 60 games when they'll need to play someone other than Helton at first base. Ian Stewart is certainly one option, but the downside here is that the better play would be Helton combined with some cheap "Quad-A" slugger; that's not in place. I don't know who this year's version of Calvin Pickering is, but he'd be a nice fit here. Sure, the Rockies might have all of Spring Training to figure it out, but I'm not sure they even have the right options yet.
Fantasy Tip: It used to be easy going into the draft-you'd grab a couple of Rockies hitters and avoid the Rockies pitchers, simple as that. It's not that simple now however, and in many ways the Rockies are just another team. These days you have to look at all of the factors, not just the park factor. Counting on this lineup could be dangerous due to all of the uncertainties. Troy Tulowitzki isn't likely to be available at enough of a discount even after his injuries, while Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins will still be overvalued. There are some bargains to be had in the pitching, especially if you can figure out who ends up in the closer's role. I really like Ubaldo Jiminez as a sleeper, and I think that Carlos Gonzalez could be a nice late-round play.
1B Todd Helton: See today's Big Question.
C Chris Iannetta: It's the same old story with the system, where another young catcher rates out at red because of nothing more than that he's young and a catcher. Even so, Iannetta is actually worse risk than most, since he has yet to prove that he can handle a full season as the lead catcher. Between the physical demands and the associated risks, the catching role is always one of the hardest to evaluate among position players.
SP Jeff Francis: Sadly, we have the first "success" for the accuracy of the red rating this year. Francis was coming into camp hoping that his strengthening program would get him past a torn labrum. It didn't, and he's headed for surgery and a long rehab.
UT Clint Barmes: He'd be red if he was expected to be more than a half-time player at second base, but his health isn't likely to be overly challenged. He's more of a risk at second base than shortstop, but given the scarcity of decent second basemen, there will be fantasy draft bets placed on him since he plays in Coors.
4C Ian Stewart: Stewart has yet to establish where he'll end up playing on the field, and the system interprets his flexibility as "unable to find a position" instead of getting that the Rockies are just doing whatever they can to get his bat in the lineup. The downside here is that the strikeouts turn him into a mini-Adam Dunn, but even then, first base will be open soon.
SS Troy Tulowitzki: Tulowitzki was supposed to be the new Mr. Rocky, but that plan has been derailed by injuries, and even the positives that were being touted come with caveats. For all of the "more power in the second half" talk, there's the fact that hitting five homers in 253 second-half plate appearances (one home run every 50.6 PAs) instead of three in 168 (one every 56) isn't that much of a positive. He'll be much better than last year and not as risky as most would think, but will he be the 2007 model that they signed him to be, or will he end up as this generation's Jay Bell?
CF Ryan Spilborghs: He's yellow mostly due to a tendency for slow healing and Colorado's poor record for keeping its center fielders healthy. It's a speedster's job, and using second-rate speedsters can result in a lot of third-rate hamstrings. They have depth here, so an injury wouldn't be as bad for the team as it would for Spilborghs.
SP Aaron Cook: Cook is just a year removed from what was nearly a lost season. That he had no setbacks in '08 and appears to have none of the in-Coors or away-from-Coors issues that have plagued pitchers in the past is another positive.
SP Ubaldo Jimenez: Aside from the uniform and the mugshot, Jimenez is Matt Garza. When Tommy Rancel of DRays Bay first pointed out that comparison to me, I dismissed it, but upon reconsidering, I'd agree that they do come with similar risks and they could both be top starters over the next decade.
3B Garrett Atkins
OF Carlos Gonzalez
RF Brad Hawpe
SP Greg Smith
CL Manny Corpas
RP Huston Street: Street may come as a surprise with this green, but it's the low innings expectation that keeps him just below the yellow line. Players with this type of injury tend to come back quickly or not at all. Any recurrence will throw up a major red flag.