The Colorado Rockies were a caricature of themselves in 2014, scoring the most runs in the National League while having the worst team ERA in Major League Baseball. Fantasy owners naturally gravitate toward Rockies hitters and run screaming from Rockies pitchers. You won’t find much on this list that disagrees with that assessment, though the organization clearly has some arms working their way toward the big leagues who could improve their fate.
My favorite thing to track from year to year: The Colorado Rockies’ offense posted a .902 OPS in home games and a .636 OPS in road games. That road OPS was second-worst in baseball. Keep that in mind. Guys like Tulo and CarGo should be in the lineup everyday, but the lesser guys are perhaps only “must starts” when playing at home.
A note for our readers. While informative, since we are still months away from pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, these previews are far from definitive or complete. Free agent signings, trades, and other offseason news will change the landscape for most if not all teams. For any moves that take place after a team preview is written, please look to our Transaction Analysis coverage for instant reactions, and then check back on the Team Previews for more detailed updates (including lineups, rotations, bullpens, etc.) as we get closer to Opening Day.
Another note for our readers. The characterizations below (for example, “stud”) are designed to be taken in context for each team. Not every team has a Mike Trout or Giancarlo Stanton, so the “stud” category represents the best player or players on each team, not necessarily in comparison to the league.
Troy Tulowitzki – SS
The injuries are maddening, but Tulo acts like he’s playing a JV team when he’s on the field. He only netted 375 plate appearances last year and only one shortstop (Ian Desmond) finished the season with more homers than Tulo’s 21. His power/average combination is elite at every position; however, it’s straight-up otherworldly at shortstop. I’m calling it right now: If Troy Tulowitzki reaches the 600 PA mark in 2015, he’ll win the NL MVP.
Carlos Gonzalez – OF
It was a bizarre year for Gonzalez. He spent his obligatory time on the DL, but he only hit .238/.292/.431 when he played. That’s coming from a career .294/.351/.520 hitter. I don’t care if you chalk it up to small sample size, injuries, or the weird octopus-like “fatty mass with tentacles” he had removed from his left index finger, Carlos Gonzalez will bounce back. He had eclipsed the 20/20 mark for four-consecutive seasons before last year. Barring injury, that will return. CarGo is too good.
Tyler Matzek – SP
Jordan Lyles – SP
Yohan Flande – SP
Jhoulys Chacin – SP
Christian Bergman – SP
Chris Rusin – SP
Did I miss anyone? I tried really hard not to miss someone. Congrats to Tyler Matzek, by the way, who had the lowest ERA of this group last year at 4.05. The league-average ERA for starters in 2014 was 3.82.
(Pro tip: It only feels like Jhoulys Chacin is 35 years old. In fact, he’s 26 and is the second cousin of Gustavo Chacin, who once had his own scent of cologne.)
Rex Brothers – RP
Because LaTroy Hawkins is nearly ready to join AARP, many fantasy owners—including myself—stashed Brothers as a potential source of saves. That plan majestically backfired. His fastball velocity dropped to 93.63 mph, which is three miles per hour slower than it was in 2012. Furthermore, his ground-ball rate plummeted from 48.8 percent in 2013 to just 38.8 percent in 2014. The decreased velocity and decreased ground-ball rate resulted in an increased home-run rate to go with his crazy-bad command. Understandably, that concoction was a mess for Colorado. Unless something dramatic changes from a year ago, he’s not worth stashing on draft day.
What You See Is What You Get
Charlie Blackmon – OF
Blackmon was the 19th-ranked fantasy player in 2014. Let that sink in for a moment. Some owners have argued that his banner season was built in April, where he hit .374/.418/.616 with seven stolen bases. However, his second-half decline is a bit overstated. He hit .315/.367/.438 in July and .286/.337/.440 in September. While he’s not a top-20 fantasy talent, Blackmon is a career .290 hitter with plenty of speed on the bases. The issue is whether the power will manifest itself once more in 2015. Coors Field should help him reach double digits, and as long as he’s batting atop the Rockies order, the steals and runs should remain aplenty. I want to see the platoon concern dissipate before getting too worked up, though.
Justin Morneau – 1B
Morneau, a Canadian native, has played the majority of his career for the Twins and Rockies. That feels right. Those two places get plenty of snow. It’s my professional opinion that Morneau struggled in Pittsburgh due to the perceived lack of snow. For fantasy purposes, though, y’all know what you’re going to get from the 33-year-old veteran. He’ll hit 15-to-20 homers with a solid average and capitalize on a potent Rockies’ lineup—which makes him a respectable, top-15 first baseman.
Wilin Rosario – C
Since 2012, only Carlos Santana and Brian McCann have hit more homers than Rosario at the catcher position. His approach at the plate is a trainwreck and he only owns a .242/.266/.424 slash line away from Coors Field; however, the young man offers legitimate 20-plus-home-run power without killing the batting average. That still carries value.
LaTroy Hawkins – CL
No strikeouts, no walks, and 23 saves. That’s the recipe for success, apparently. He remains at the back-end of the closer’s pool due to the lack of whiffs, but the Rockies are bringing him back to serve as the club’s closer once more. While the leash will be short, I’ve been waiting for Hawkins to ride off into the sunset for a couple years. It hasn’t happened yet.
Corey Dickerson – OF
Despite cracking the top-50 fantasy players in 2014, I’ve largely cautioned fantasy owners from buying in too strongly. The Rockies avoided playing him against lefties and the presence of Michael Cuddyer made the playing-time picture rather murky. Well, Cuddyer now plays in New York. Dickerson should receive the bulk of the playing time. Either he or Blackmon could begin the year in a platoon with Stubbs, but perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to write off Dickerson against lefties. In 2013, he hit .293/.340/.525 against southpaws and .342/.390/.396 in 2012. It’s in there somewhere.
Eddie Butler – SP
The slider must return to form if Butler is going to be truly fantasy relevant in 2015. The fastball/changeup combination is good, but the slider will likely beget more consistent strikeout numbers. Still, he projects to be a mid-rotation starter with a high ground-ball rate, which is the type of starter who can succeed in Colorado. I’m thinking like a Henderson Alvarez type of scenario, who was a top-50 starter.
Jorge De La Rosa – SP
De La Rosa could be a nice buy-low option near the end of drafts. In the second half last year, he posted a 3.53 ERA with a 7.27 K/9 and 2.64 BB/9. That’s league average—while not exciting, that’s valuable in deep leagues.
Up and Coming
Nolan Arenado – 3B
Arenado is the Wilin Rosario of third basemen, in many ways. Projections will have him hitting 20-plus homers with a .275-plus batting average, but he’s a guy who rarely walks and doesn’t steal bases. He’ll likely drive in a few more runs due to his spot in the batting order; however, the core fantasy skills are similar. Arenado is only 23 years old, too.
Brett Anderson – SP
I’m currently engaged in silent protest against drafting Brett Anderson in fantasy leagues. For the fifth consecutive year, I almost placed him on a “sleeper” list. He’s only pitched 123 innings over the past three seasons. I drafted him in 2012, 2013, and 2014. I have a problem, but admitting it is just step one on the road to recovery. (He’s kind of a sleeper, though.)
D.J. LeMahieu – 2B
Josh Rutledge – 2B/SS
Someone has to play second base, and although neither have compiled interesting numbers throughout their careers, they do get the Coors Field Bump™. That makes them relevant in NL-only leagues.
Drew Stubbs – OF
Stubbs still has the power/speed combination that makes fantasy owners drool, and the Coors Field Bump™ finally made the batting average acceptable. The problem, though, is that Stubbs may not have regular playing time. For now, he’s being slotted into the NL-only pile. Fantasy owners should keep Stubbs in mind if any injuries occur in the Rockies outfield, as he’ll be the beneficiary. Moreover, owners in deeper leagues who can utilize platoon advantages would be wise to play Stubbs against lefties.
Prospects for 2015
Jon Gray – SP
This could be the year Gray makes the much-anticipated jump to the big leagues. Some have scoffed at his pedestrian numbers in the minors, but many reports have suggested the right-hander has been dialing back his stuff and focusing on specific mechanical adjustments. Once he lets the fastball/slider combination fly free, he could be a no. 2-3 starter with above-average strikeout numbers.
Kyle Parker – 1B
Parker hit 15 homers in Triple-A before receiving a brief call-up to the big leagues last year, and while his power numbers in the minors have been respectable, I’m not sure where he plays in the bigs. He’s best off at first base, but Morneau obviously has that locked down. He could potentially hide in left field, but Colorado has more than enough outfielders on their roster. Furthermore, as a first baseman, his power production is below average for fantasy owners. Perhaps he’s a platoon first baseman in a couple years and a bench bat in the immediate future, which isn’t anything to get excited about.
Tyler Anderson – SP
Fastball/changeup lefty without overpowering stuff. That doesn’t sound like a great fit for Coors Field, but he could stick around as a back-end starter. It’s not worth a roster spot, though, aside from the deepest of dynasty leagues.
Cristhian Adames – SS
I’m including him in the list because he appeared in seven games last year and he has a misplaced “h” in his name. That’s the extent of my interest.