The Colorado Rockies are coming into town for a four-game series, and as usual, I don't know anything about them. So I went straight to the source and asked Bryan Kilpatrick of Purple Row what to expect Coors Field's finest.
1. After 17 years, Todd Helton has finally hung up the cleats. How are Rockies fans handling a roster without him? And how can Justin Morneau possibly fill those shoes?
Padres fans, more so than any other fans in the game, should be able to relate to what it's like for a legend who spent nearly two decades with their team finally hang 'em up. Helton was a shadow of his former self in recent years, but it's still a bit disappointing that the team felt Morneau was the best it could do in terms of replacing the Toddfather.
That said, Morneau is off to a pretty good start and the Rockies have actually been doing a pretty good job utilizing him in a platoon, putting Michael Cuddyer at first base and giving Drew Stubbs and/or Brandon Barnes in his place in right field when the team faces a left-handed starter. I'd like to see that continue.
2. The Rockies finished 5th in the NL West last season, and as near as I can tell, their offseason was spent shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic. What's the organization's roadmap look like?
Shuffling deck chairs is a good way to put it. The Rockies didn't quite do a good enough job filling what, in my mind, was their largest need: insurance to the stars. And the incessant injury problems have only gotten worse so far this season, though thankfully not to Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, so it's going to be tough for the team to compete with the likes of the Dodgers and other good teams in the league without the sort of depth those clubs employ.
As far as a plan goes, I think the team is hoping beyond all hope for health and the emergence of their top two young pitching prospects (which I'll cover below). One of those two things is a already starting to fail them; if the other goes the same way, this year could be disastrous.
3. Your offense has leapt out of the gate and is currently the best in the league. In sharp contrast, the pitching staff is one of the worst in the league. Do you expect similar rankings at the end of the season, or is this just small sample size weirdness?
If the key contributors on offense (CarGo, Tulo, Cuddyer, etc.) stay healthy and produce like they always have, the unit will remain one of the best in the league. Charlie Blackmon isn't going to hit .500 forever and some regression should be expected of Cuddyer, but on the other hand, Wilin Rosario and Nolan Arenado will get better, so things should even out pretty good.
The rotation is a big question mark, particularly with the injury to Brett Anderson. Jorge De La Rosa's struggles are highly disconcerting, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood are coming back from--or about ready to come back from--injuries, so both are kind of a wild card at this point. And Jordan Lyles and Juan Nicasio shouldn't be counted on to consistently pitch well. If the rotation continues to struggle, it would surprise no one.
4. Not to harp on it, but pitching has been a problem for the Rockies for a long time. Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? Any hot young pitchers on the farm to look out for?
Jon Gray and Eddie Butler are two of the most promising pitching prospects the Rockies have ever had, and it would be a pretty hefty disappointment if they don't end up having an impact with the Rockies this season. Gray has not been good to start the year, so that's surely posing a concern in the back of the Rockies' minds. Butler, on the other hand, has been his usual dominant self early on and could force his way into the big-league rotation very soon--especially if the unit continues to be wrecked by injuries and ineffectiveness.
5. Speaking of hot young pitchers, Andrew Cashner will face the Rockies on Wednesday, following up his dominating 1-hit shutout of the Tigers. Which Rockies hitter is most likely to break up a no-no?
Cashner is terrific and I'm not thrilled the Rockies have to face him. But, Charlie Blackmon has been hitting just about every pitcher he's faced, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him lace a base hit off of Cashner in the first at-bat of the game to get that no-hitter out of the way real quick.