BY AXEL BOADA
2013 Record: 74-88 (5th Place NL West, 18 GB)
After finishing fifth in the NL West, the Colorado Rockies have nowhere to go but up.
The same was said after the 2012 season and, well, they followed that up by finishing dead last for the second consecutive year.
But if Colorado’s 10-win improvement last season under rookie manager Walt Weiss indicates anything, it is that the team is on the come-up. Or at least in limbo.
1B Justin Morneau (2 yr/$12.5M)
RP LaTroy Hawkins (1 yr/$2.5M)
CF Drew Stubbs (1 yr/$4.1M)
Morneau comes in to replace Todd Helton, who retired after last season. He is a fitting replacement for the future Hall-of-Famer. Since 2003, Morneau’s .996 fielding percentage is second in the entire league to Helton’s .997. However, he is no longer is the all-star-caliber batter he once was with the Minnesota Twins. In his MVP-winning 2006 campaign, Morneau batted .321 with 34 home runs and 130 RBIs. Last season with the Twins and Pittsburgh Pirates, he hit just .259 with 17 home runs and 77 RBIs – only recording three with the Pirates.
My man LaTroy has traveled the world and back. He rejoins the Rockies after being part of their pennant-winning team in 2007. Hawkins has played on 10 teams during his 19-year career, nine of which he spent in Minnesota. His signing came as a bit of a surprise, as the 41-year-old will reportedly be Colorado’s closer despite a promising 2013 season from Rex Brothers. Brothers saved 19 games and had an ERA of just 1.74, so it will be interesting to see if the team sticks with Hawkins the entire year.
Stubbs strikes out. A lot. Though he is projected to be on the Rockies’ bench, he figures to get some good playing time against left-handed pitchers. Essentially, Stubbs is a Dexter Fowler doppelgänger who will give the team a little bit more pop on offense, but at the expense of on-base percentage.
Todd Helton: Major League Baseball lost one of the sport’s true good guys when Helton retired. The first-baseman spent his entire 17-year career with the Rockies and set countless offensive records for the team. Writing just some of his career achievements would take up way too much space in this article, so I’ll just leave this here to showcase how awesome of a player Helton was.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Troy Tulowitzki: The shortstop is back to being healthy and will co-anchor this team alongside LF Carlos Gonzalez. Tulo had a rookie season for the ages in 2007 and has kept up his stellar play since. Only problem is he has struggled to stay on the field. Tulo appeared in 126 games last season after just playing 47 games in 2012. Colorado is going to need him to stay healthy the course of the season to have any chance of improving from last year.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
The Rockies were very active this offseason but they did not do much to improve their team overall. Tulowitzki and Gonzalez should continue to put up big numbers but the Dodgers-led NL West is just too competitive. However, do expect Colorado to jump the San Diego Padres and finish fourth in the division, just a touch below .500.