2012 Fantasy Recap: Colorado Rockies

Denis Poroy

The Colorado Rockies play in Coors Field. Ergo, there is bound to be a good fantasy hitter or two on this roster simply by default. While the club finished in the cellar in the NL West, at least fantasy owners could count on productive seasons from several of their position players. The pitching on the other hand, was an historic nightmare.

Once upon a time, I wrote an article detailing how Ramon Hernandez would be an underrated fantasy option in 2012 because he was moving to Coors Field, and the thin air and offense-happy environment would help him remain a decent fantasy option, despite his advancing age. I was horribly, horribly wrong, but it illustrates a larger point, that any hitter moving to Coors Field immediately draws fantasy interest. And I mean any. A ballpark that can make Neifi Perez a legitimate fantasy producer qualifies as either a sandlot or a video game.

The Rockies weren't expected to be much good in 2012, but they went ahead and outdid themselves, with the help of a season-ending injury to their star shortstop and an almost unbelievably bad set of starting pitchers. As we'll see further down, pretty much any Rockie starter was fantasy poison. That doesn't happen very often. Even the 111-loss Astros had Lucas Harrell to offer something. It was quite a sight to behold, but at least the Rocks provided their usual bevy of hitters to give fantasy players something to pay attention to.

Best Fantasy HItter: Carlos Gonzalez

CarGo quietly went about his business being one of the top fantasy outfielders in the game, hitting .303/.371/.510 with 22 homers, 85 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases. For the second straight year, though, he failed to reach the lofty standards set by his amazing 2010 season, when he won the batting title and mashed 34 homers. His continued inability to hit on the road is probably dragging his overall numbers down, as well; his home run total fell off once again despite more plate appearances than in 2011. As long as he makes Coors Field his home, though, he's going to be one of the better fantasy producers, and he's entering his age-27 season, so watch out.

Honorable mentions go to Dexter Fowler and Wilin Rosario. Fowler had a nice breakout year and gave his owners solid across-the-board production. He was a burner in the minors, so the relatively meager stolen base totals as a major leaguer are disappointing. He also strikes out a little too much for my tastes, at least too much for a guy whose value hinges on hitting for a high average. He's not a star by any means, but, as with any Rockie hitter, he'll be a nice fantasy option as long as he's hitting in Coors Field half the time.

Rosario led all major league catchers with 28 home runs, and he qualified as one of the best bargain/sleeper picks of 2012. I'd be more excited about him, but Rosario's piss-poor defense is almost certainly going to force the Rockies to bring in a better glove man to platoon, which would cut into Rosario's playing time and production. They might try to move him to another position, but in his one start at first base this year, he displayed the kind of fielding acumen that would have baseball purists crossing themselves.

Best Fantasy Pitcher: Rafael Betancourt

This is how much of an absolute, flaming train wreck the Colorado starting rotation was in 2012. The only pitcher with any fantasy value whatsoever was a reliever who threw less than 60 innings. I mean, the Rockies' starting staff was so atrocious, I don't think I've ever seen anything like it. The Opening Day starter was Jeremy Guthrie, who put up a 6.35 ERA before getting traded to the Royals for Jonathan Sanchez in the most irrelevant challenge trade of all time. Their number two starter? 900-year-old Jamie Moyer, who made ten ineffective starts before being waived. The team's leader in innings pitched was Jeff Francis, with 113. They literally had no starting pitcher worth owning. The only starter with an ERA+ over 100 was Jhoulys Chacin, and he threw just 69 innings. It was just a damned mess all year, and the less said about their abortive attempt at a four-man rotation, the better.

So due to that mess, the only pitcher whom fantasy owners could find value from on this team was Betancourt, who saved 31 games and struck out a batter an inning. He wasn't a top closer, but if you were in need of saves, he worked just fine.

Top Overachiever: Tyler Colvin

Colvin came over from the Cubs after a disastrous 2011 and promptly became the prototypical Coors Field splits creation. If you owned him, you only wanted to start him at home. He hit .338/.380/.652 at Coors, but was pretty worthless on the road (.244/.274/.413). The entire package added up to a pretty solid fantasy season (he added ten triples and 18 home runs), though he had to be managed carefully. He has two major weaknesses: left-handed pitchers and an utter lack of ability to take a walk. The former cuts into his playing time, the latter means it might be a matter of time before pitchers just plain stop throwing him fastballs. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he suffers a collapse as pitchers continue to realize that they don't have to throw him a strike.

Biggest Disappointment: Troy Tulowitzki

Many fantasy players (including yours truly) took Tulowitzki in the first round or bid a king's ransom on him in auction drafts. That his year was abbreviated due to a groin injury probably made Tulo the biggest disappointment in fantasy baseball this season. He did fine when he was healthy, and he looked to be well on the way to yet another big year, but after hurting himself 47 games into the season, he suffered setback after setback and was finally shelved after an abortive attempt to return in the season's final week. He's one of the best position players in fantasy baseball when healthy, and easily the top shortstop option, but after only one season in the last five with 150 or more games played, I think he's earned the dreaded "injury-prone" tag.

Top 2013 Sleeper: Nolan Arenado

The only thing holding Arenado back from a major league job is the completely uninspiring Chris Nelson. He didn't impress many with a somewhat poor season at AA, but he still hit for a solid average and retained his ability to make contact and avoid strikeouts. He'll start the 2013 season in AAA, but the Rockies may promote him if he gets hot, and the thin air of Coors Field may be all it takes to turn him into an immediate fantasy contributor.

2013 Saves Report

Betancourt led a surprisingly good bunch of bullpenites in 2013. He saved 31 games and was as stable as you could ask for any closer. With one more year left on a two-year deal, he should return to the role next year, and there's no reason to think he'll be anything less than a good mid-tier closer option.

Should Betancourt get hurt or implode, keep an eye on Adam Ottavino, a reclamation project and former Cardinals prospect who was given a bulpen role by the Rockies and performed admirably, striking out 81 batters in 79 innings.

2013 Fantasy Outlook

As usual, the Rockies are awash in solid hitting options. Gonzalez and Fowler should be steady fantasy producers, Tulowitzki is a fantasy stud when healthy, and Rosario could be one of the best catchers over the next few years if he can clean up his shoddy defense. There are also a number of sleeper candidates to contribute, including the aforementioned Arenado, DJ LeMahieu, Josh Rutledge, Charlie Blackmon, and perhaps even Rafael Ortega. For a bad team, the Rockies have a lot of hitting to offer fantasy teams, regardless of whether or not it's a Coors-addled illusion.

The pitching? It's Drew Pomeranz or look elsewhere. As hideous as the Rockies' pitching was this year, it's hard to see them making a lot of progress on this front next season. Pomeranz and Chacin are the only two players who could conceivably represent light at the end of the tunnel, but both fought injuries and the Rockies did Pomeranz no favors by babying him to the extreme this year (he averaged a ridiculous 4.4 innings per start). Where usually the Rockies have had an Ubaldo Jimenez or a (pre-injury) Jeff Francis to offer fantasy owners, the pitching cupboard looks completely bare for the near future, especially if the team continues with the 70-pitch limit they instituted this year.

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