Fantasy Baseball Spotlight: Colorado Rockies

(Rookie Watch has turned into Prospect Watch. Highlighting the Key Players in the BA top 10 for the organization.)

The Rockies are one of my favorite National League teams to root for. They've usually got exciting young players and because of their mile high environment, they score a lot of runs and hit a lot of dingers. For a fantasy player, you dream of your guy getting dealt to the Rockies... if he is a hitter.

As a Mariners fan, I've seen my team score under 700 runs in six of the last eight seasons. The only time the Rockies have ever scored less than 700 runs was in the strike-shortened 1994 season. They rack up runs, but because they tend to give up a lot of runs, they've had an up-and-down series of seasons lately.

In 2006, they won 76 games.

In 2007, they won 90 games.

In 2008, they won 74 games.

In 2009, they won 92 games.

In 2010, they won 83 games.

In 2011, they won 73 games.

Which basically tells me that if things break right this season, they could easily improve by 20 games and win the NL West for the first time in franchise history. (That's right. They've never won the division.)

With a few All-Stars already on the roster and another couple potentially on the way, the Rockies are one of the most interesting teams from a fantasy perspective in MLB. Let's take a look at the most important or interesting ones.

Best Hitter: Troy Tulowitzki

Even if Carlos Gonzalez were a consistent 30/30 threat, he wouldn't compete with the best shortstop in baseball. As the top hitter at one of the most scarce positions, Tulo is one of the top 5 fantasy players in baseball.

After a very impressive rookie season when he hit .291/.359/.479 with 24 HR and 99 RBI, Tulowitzki struggled in his sophomore season (8 HR, .263/.332/.401 in 101 games.) Since then however, he's been among the best players in baseball.

Over the last three seasons, Tulo is hitting .304/.376/.554 and averaging 30 HR, 97 RBI, 13 SB, 90 R, 31 2B and 286 total bases. He's only 27 and there's little reason to think he can't be a top 5 player for the next 3-4 seasons, at least.

Best Pitcher: Jhoulys Chacin

By the time I'm done writing this sentence, it might be Drew Pomeranz, but Chacin already has 342.1 mostly successful major league innings under his belt and is only 24-years-old.

Last season he pitched 194 innings, gave up 168 hits, 150/87 K/BB, and 3.62 ERA/4.23 FIP/3.95 xFIP

Obviously, its the walks that he has to get under control. Walking over 4 batters per 9 isn't so acceptable when you only struck out ~7 per 9. In 2010, he struck out over a batter an inning with the same walk rate and his FIP was 3.54, so he needs to get those strikeouts back and if he can lower walks at the same time, he'll be a solid #2 pitcher.

A closer candidate for this title is Rafael Betancourt, now that Huston Street is in San Diego. Betancourt has been amazingly accurate over the last two seasons, pitching 124.2 innings of relief with 162/16 K/BB ratio. That would make him one of the best relief pitchers in the game, especially if he racks up 40-45 saves this season at age 37. He has 27 career saves.

23-year-old Drew Pomeranz, the key piece to the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, was unhittable in the minors and made 4 starts in Colorado last season, pitching 18.1 innings with 13/5 K/BB ratio and 5.40 ERA. He could be a solid back-end fantasy starter this season with potential to be much, much more.

Potential Breakout: Betancourt

He's the only real candidate as most of the players that the Rockies brought in to fill spots while the young guys get ready are very old: Jamie Moyer, Marco Scutaro, Michael Cuddyer, Ramon Hernandez, Casey Blake.

Of course, Pomeranz, Alex White, and 3B prospect Nolan Arenado could contribute, but that's not the "Breakout" that I'm looking for. Every Rockies player is either established, a rookie, or a known-quantity veteran.

Potential Disappointment: Carlos Gonzalez as a first round pick

My confession: I have not fully bought into CarGo.

He was phenomenal in 2010, but had his struggles last season. He had an 0-for-22 stretch in April. He went .233/.317/.415 from April 19th to June 8th. I mean, maybe I'm nitpicking because everybody has their struggles, but when the BABIP is good to him, CarGo is good and when it's not he strikes out too much and doesn't walk enough. He hit 34 HR and stole 26 bases in 2010 and he dropped major points in BA and SLG in 2011 while missing significant time, including the fantasy playoffs.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but CarGo strikes out 20% of the time and walked only 8.9% last season. I'd like to see him play 150 games, not lose power or speed while improving his strikezone discipline before I'm ready to make him a high draft pick.

Prospect Watch:

The BA Top 10

1. Drew Pomeranz, lhp
2. Nolan Arenado, 3b
3. Chad Bettis, rhp
4. Wilin Rosario, c
5. Tim Wheeler, of
6. Trevor Story, ss/3b
7. Tyler Anderson, lhp
8. Kent Matthes, of
9. Kyle Parker, of
10. Josh Rutledge, ss

Notes:

Pomeranz is likely to make the rotation out of Spring Training and could become one of the top left-handed pitchers in the NL if he continues to build off of his major success in the minors after being the 5th overall pick in 2010.

Arenado will become the top "prospect" after Pomeranz graduates, having led the minor leagues in RBI with 122 last season. He hit .298/.349/.487 at High-A Modesto and turns 21 in April. The Rockies will give him a shot to win the third base job, the position of the infield that's been the most volatile for them since Ian Stewart flamed out.

Bettis was also at High-A last season and pitched 169.2 innings with 184/45 K/BB and 3.34 ERA. The Rockies will probably be looking for additional help in the rotation at some point this season and Bettis is a good sleeper candidate. At age 23, he's near read for the show if he can handle AA.

With nobody having a strong hold on 2B, Josh Rutledge may be one to watch. The 23-year-old hit .348/.414/.517 at high-A last season with 33 2B, 9 3B, 9 HR and 16 SB.

The Rockies were expecting Rosario to win the catchers job by now, but he struggled in his big league trial (.204/.228/.463 in a SSS of 57 PAs) and in AA, when he hit .249/.284/.457. The power is there, but he's going to have to get better behind the plate and with his plate discipline. He struck out 91 times and walked only 19 in 426 PAs in AA.

Tim Wheeler could win a job this season if Cuddyer struggles. The former first round pick hit .287/.365/.535 with 33 HR and 21 SB in AA last season at age 23. He did however strike out 142 times.

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