2014 Rockies Preview: Looking To Rebound

2014 Rockies Preview: Looking To Rebound

This article is part of our MLB Team Previews series.

The final standings may have shown a last-place finish in the NL West for the second consecutive season, but the Rockies' 10-game improvement in the win column amounted to a respectable showing for first-year manager Walt Weiss. A shortstop for the prosperous Blake Street Bombers squads of the mid-90s, Weiss appeared to have the Rockies on track for a return to those halcyon days right out of spring training, as the team roared out to a 13-4 record in April on the strength of a hot-hitting lineup and, most surprisingly, competent starting pitching.

April would end up being the high-water mark for the Rockies, however, as the familiar issues that plagued the team during its 98-loss 2012 season started to reemerge again. Injuries limited stars Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to 110 and 126 games, respectively, with their replacements mostly struggling to replicate the lost production. A lack of rotation depth undermined the team's ability to sustain any sort of winning streak, as an ever-changing cast of No. 5 starters combined to go 4-28 after May 10. And finally, a leaky bullpen often gave away games on the rare occasion that a back-end starter positioned them for a victory.

The Rockies attempted to address these shortcomings with an active offseason, but that's not to say the new recruits will patch everything up entirely. Tulowitzki and Gonzalez remain the centerpieces of the lineup, but with the former having missed 35 or more games in four of the last six seasons and

The final standings may have shown a last-place finish in the NL West for the second consecutive season, but the Rockies' 10-game improvement in the win column amounted to a respectable showing for first-year manager Walt Weiss. A shortstop for the prosperous Blake Street Bombers squads of the mid-90s, Weiss appeared to have the Rockies on track for a return to those halcyon days right out of spring training, as the team roared out to a 13-4 record in April on the strength of a hot-hitting lineup and, most surprisingly, competent starting pitching.

April would end up being the high-water mark for the Rockies, however, as the familiar issues that plagued the team during its 98-loss 2012 season started to reemerge again. Injuries limited stars Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki to 110 and 126 games, respectively, with their replacements mostly struggling to replicate the lost production. A lack of rotation depth undermined the team's ability to sustain any sort of winning streak, as an ever-changing cast of No. 5 starters combined to go 4-28 after May 10. And finally, a leaky bullpen often gave away games on the rare occasion that a back-end starter positioned them for a victory.

The Rockies attempted to address these shortcomings with an active offseason, but that's not to say the new recruits will patch everything up entirely. Tulowitzki and Gonzalez remain the centerpieces of the lineup, but with the former having missed 35 or more games in four of the last six seasons and the latter foregoing offseason finger surgery and coming off a recent appendectomy, banking on them to stay healthy and effective is a dubious proposition. And while Brett Anderson is a huge upgrade on paper over the low-ceiling veteran retread types like Jeff Francis and Jon Garland that typically occupied back-end rotation spots last season, his injury history is even more disconcerting than either Tulowitzki's or Gonzalez's. And though free agent signings LaTroy Hawkins and Boone Logan are expected to give the Rockies a more reliable bullpen corps, so too was last season's premier bullpen acquisition, Wilton Lopez, who ended up floundering in his first season in Denver.

In short, it's certainly within the capacity of the Rockies to make the leap from also-ran to playoff contender, but they'll need to have things to break the right way on several fronts in order for that to materialize. Even an improvement to the .500 mark would probably still qualify as a success, setting up the team to make a bigger splash in 2015, when top pitching prospects Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler will likely be ready to assume full-time spots in the rotation. So long as the team doesn't take a step backward this season, Rockies fans have reason to be optimistic about the years to come.

Offseason Moves

Traded Dexter Fowler and a player to be named to the Astros for Brandon Barnes and Jordan Lyles.

Barnes figures to compete for a reserve outfield spot after receiving his first extended look in the majors with the Astros last season when Justin Maxwell went down with an injury and was subsequently traded. Known more for his prowess on defense, Barnes underwhelmed as a hitter with a .240/.289/.346 line over 445 plate appearances, striking out 28.5 percent of the time. He does offer slight power (eight home runs) and modest speed (11 steals), but he was also caught 11 times on the basepaths and his plate discipline (0.17 BB/K) was well below his minor league average (0.31).

Lyles, 23, is coming off another rough season in the Astros' starting rotation, posting numbers that were nearly identical to the year prior. In 27 appearances (25 starts), the right-hander pitched to a 7-9 record with a 93:49 K:BB ratio in 141.2 innings. His 5.59 ERA and 1.51 WHIP ranked among the worst in baseball, and he had five outings during which he allowed seven earned runs or more. Lyles, like most young pitchers, has experienced growing pains early in his career. He has been very hittable, allowing opposing batters to hit .283, but if he can bring that number down this season, he's likely to take a step forward in his development. Lyles now faces the challenge of minimizing the damage of the contact he surrenders in the most hitter-friendly home park in baseball. He'll compete for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation in the spring but seems bound for Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Traded Drew Pomeranz and Chris Jensen to the Athletics for Brett Anderson and cash considerations.

Anderson added to his injury-prone reputation by throwing just 44.2 innings in 2013 after suffering an ankle injury early in the season and never fully recovering. The difference in his 2013 campaign was that when he did actually pitch, he wasn't even remotely effective. Anderson compiled a 6.04 ERA in 2013 while making five starts and 11 relief appearances. The A's hoped he would provide a presence in the back end of the bullpen while also saving his arm, but his ERA was 4.71 as a reliever. Anderson does have a ton of potential and upside (he still struck out more than a batter per inning in 2013), but the likelihood of him ever cashing in on it lessens each season. That won't prevent the Rockies from taking the gamble that he'll be able to overcome the injury bug and succeed in pitching half of his games at Coors Field. Any hopes of the Rockies reaching the postseason would likely hinge on Anderson's ability to stabilize the back end of the rotation.

Traded Josh Outman to the Indians and Jonathan Herrera to the Red Sox; received Drew Stubbs from the Indians and Franklin Morales and Chris Martin from the Red Sox in exchange.

Although Stubbs has experienced issues with striking out and getting on-base throughout his career, he should at least be a serviceable fourth outfielder for the Rockies, likely drawing most of his at-bats against lefty starters as a platoon mate for either Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson in left field. Stubbs' numbers against southpaws continue to make him useful when deployed properly, and the move back into an extremely hitter-friendly home park helps his chances to rebound from last season's .233/.305/.360 line. The outfielder did, however, fail to steal 30 bases last season with the Indians for the first time since becoming a regular in 2010, swiping just 17 bags despite being caught just twice. Although he still offers plenty of speed, Stubbs may struggle to see the playing time necessary to get back to the 30-steal plateau.

Morales, meanwhile, looks destined to become the next hybrid reliever, something that's been a staple of the Rockies' bullpen the past couple of seasons. Morales, who was a part of the 2007 Rockies team that went to the World Series, will get a chance to compete for the fifth starter role in spring training, but he's likely to settle in as a long reliever/spot starter while possible seeing duty in high-leverage situations against lefties.

Signed Justin Morneau to a two-year, $12.5 million contract.

While Morneau is well removed from his days as an MVP in 2006, his relocation to Colorado should help him retain some fantasy value. In 2013, the first baseman hit .259/.315/.426 with 17 homers and 74 RBI for the Twins, but struggled mightily after he was dealt to the Pirates after the deadline, batting a hollow .260 with no homers and three RBI in 77 at-bats. It appears he's finally past the concussions that haunted him for years, and with a full offseason to prepare for Coors Field, Morneau figures to put up numbers similar to those he compiled with the Twins the last couple seasons. So long as fantasy owners aren't forced to pay too much for the 32-year-old first baseman, he makes for a nice lower-tier target in 2014.

Signed LaTroy Hawkins to a one-year, $2.5 million contract.

Forced to settle for a minor league deal with the Mets last offseason, Hawkins was a godsend for the team, first in a setup role and then as the closer when Bobby Parnell went down with a herniated disc in his neck at the beginning of August. Hawkins notched 12 saves over the last two months of the season, posting a 2.42 ERA and 0.81 WHIP over that stretch due to his live fastball. Thanks to that resurgence, Hawkins was able to ink a new deal with the Rockies and is expected to open the season as the closer in Colorado. However, it still appears 26-year-old Rex Brothers is viewed as the club's long-term ninth-inning solution after an impressive run of his own as the closer last season, so don't be shocked if he receives extended save opportunities at some point regardless of how well Hawkins performs in his age-41 season.

Signed Boone Logan to a three-year, $16.5 million contract.

Logan gives the Rockies another late-inning lefty reliever to go along with Rex Brothers, giving manager Walt Weiss more flexibility with his bullpen late in games. The lefty posted a 3.23 ERA and 50:13 K:BB ratio with the Yankees last season and should be healthy heading into spring training after undergoing an offseason procedure to remove a bone spur in his elbow.

Signed Nick Masset, Manuel Corpas, Paul Janish and Mike McKenry to minor league contracts.

Of the Rockies' non-roster invitees, Janish and McKenry probably have the best chance of winning a roster spot in spring training. Much like the now-departed Jonathan Herrera, Janish offers strong defense at both middle infield spots, but an anemic bat will prevent him from ever ascending to a full-time gig. McKenry is a defense-first catcher who offers an alternative to the more offensively inclined Jordan Pacheco at the backup catcher spot.

Selected Tommy Kahnle in the Rule 5 Draft.

A fifth-round pick by the Yankees in 2010, Kahnle had a solid season in the Eastern League last year with a 2.85 ERA in 60 innings over 46 games. Kahnle has power stuff, but battles control issues (74:45 K:BB last year). The Rockies will use him in middle relief if he sticks.

Exercised $11 million club option on Jorge De La Rosa.

The Rockies had serious doubts about how De La Rosa might perform after missing nearly all of the previous two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the right-hander was probably even better than they imagined, anchoring the rotation with 16 wins, a 3.49 ERA (3.76 FIP) and a 2.9 WAR. He was at his most exceptional at Coors Field, where he posted a 2.73 ERA and 6.7 percent walk rate, the latter of which was integral to avoiding big innings at the hitter-friendly park. Aside from the hefty win total and useful ERA, however, De La Rosa wasn't an especially sought-after fantasy pitcher. His improved control came at the expense of his strikeout rate, and his increased willingness to keep the ball on the ground yielded more baserunners, resulting in a bloated 1.38 WHIP. These kind of numbers might normally prompt concern of regression, but as his FIP would suggest, De La Rosa seemed to be in firm control of the results he ended up generating. He'll be back as the Rockies' No. 2 starter in 2014 and should maintain his success even as it goes largely overlooked in the fantasy realm.

Exercised $4.5 million club option on Matt Belisle.

Belisle maintained his reputation as a bullpen iron man by surpassing the 70-inning plateau for his fourth straight campaign with the Rockies, but he seems to be showing diminishing effectiveness with each passing year. Along with his ERA, his average fastball velocity has tailed off in each of his four seasons in Denver, a sign that the excessive workload is beginning to take its toll. The offseason addition of LaTroy Hawkins to the back end of the bullpen should lessen some of the burden on Belisle, who still maintained acceptable 7.6 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 rates last season, even with the quality of his arsenal on the decline. While he should still see usage in the eighth inning, expect Belisle to log more time in middle relief in 2014 now that the team has more bullpen depth.

Declined contract option on Rafael Betancourt.

Working as the Rockies' closer once again to begin 2013, Betancourt seemed to be humming along just fine until a rash of injuries disrupted both his season and, potentially, the remainder of his career. Bouts with groin soreness and appendicitis landed him on the disabled list on two occasions, but a sprained elbow that ultimately required Tommy John surgery in September was truly the kiss of death. With a major arm operation on his ledger, Betancourt, now a 39-year-old free agent, is unlikely to be signed, as he will almost certainly miss the entire 2014 campaign. The reliever has indicated that he still wants to pitch again, but considering his advancing age, it will undoubtedly be more difficult for him than a younger pitcher to recover from the procedure and regain his effectiveness.

Lost Todd Helton to retirement and Yorvit Torrealba to free agency. Placed Collin McHugh on waivers (claimed by HOU).

Although he retires as the most decorated player in franchise history, Helton's bat had been in decline for a few years now, and Morneau figures to replace most of his production rather easily. McKenry is a de facto replacement for Torrealba as a veteran backstop, while McHugh bombed during his brief stint as the Rockies' fifth starter last season and was a long shot to receive another extended opportunity in the rotation.

Projected Lineup (vs. RH/LH)
1. Charlie Blackmon or Corey Dickerson, LF/Drew Stubbs, CF
2. D.J. LeMahieu, 2B
3. Carlos Gonzalez, CF/Carlos Gonzalez, LF
4. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
5. Justin Morneau, 1B/Michael Cuddyer, RF
6. Michael Cuddyer, RF/Wilin Rosario, C
7. Wilin Rosario, C/Nolan Arenado, 3B
8. Nolan Arenado, 3B/Jordan Pacheco, 1B

When fully healthy, the Rockies' lineup from three through eight stacks up well with just about any in baseball, with the power-hitting Rosario looking especially nightmarish for opposing pitchers in the No. 7 spot. Morneau would appear to be a weak link at fifth in the order, but his presence at that spot gives the Rockies an ideal left/right/left/right arrangement from Gonzalez to Cuddyer.

In addition to competing for the starting left field job, Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson would also appear in line to earn the leadoff gig with none of the team's more established hitters profiling as a prototypical leadoff man. Blackmon and Dickerson don't necessarily fit that criteria either, but their presence at the top of the order nonetheless aids their fantasy value.

Arenado probably has the most variation of any player in this initial projection. Should he cash in on his impressive minor league credentials as a hitter and take the step forward many expect from him in his second season in the majors, it's certainly possible that he settles in at the No. 2 or No. 5 spot as one of the bookends for the team's two stars.

Projected Rotation
1. Jorge De La Rosa
2. Jhoulys Chacin
3. Tyler Chatwood
4. Brett Anderson
5. Juan Nicasio

De La Rosa, Chacin and Chatwood have solidified their respective places in the rotation after each hurler provided much-needed stability for the Rockies a season after their pitching staff combined for a disastrous 5.22 ERA. All three found success by subscribing to the pitch-to-contact approach, resulting in below-average strikeout rates that made them less attractive in the fantasy game than pitchers with similar ERAs or win totals. Anderson, acquired from the A's in the offseason, is penciled in for the No. 4 rotation spot. He carries more fantasy potential than any of the other starters, but his repeated health issues, along with the adjustment he'll face moving to Coors Field, make him a high-risk investment. Nicasio, who was torched for a 5.14 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in his first complete season with the Rockies, will compete with Jordan Lyles and Franklin Morales for the fifth spot.

Closer: The Rockies have already spared any suspense by surprisingly naming LaTroy Hawkins their closer to open the season, but it would be an upset if he held off Rex Brothers for the gig all season. Brothers dazzled in the ninth inning while filling in for the injured Rafael Betancourt last season, posting a 1.74 ERA, 10.1 K/9 rate and converting 19-of-21 save chances. For all his successes, however, Brothers continued to experience issues with walks (4.8 BB/9) and benefited from an unusually high 89 percent strand rate. Those blemishes were enough to give the Rockies pause in anointing Brothers as their full-time closer in 2014, but it's apparent the club wants him to handle the role long-term. The situation would appear similar to the Brandon League/Kenley Jansen predicament of last season, with fantasy players advised to prioritize the skills (Brothers) over the role (Hawkins).

Key Bullpen Members: A key contributor in Betancourt may be gone, but the Rockies brought plenty of reinforcements into the fold with the signings of Hawkins and Boone Logan and the trade for Franklin Morales. Logan and Brothers give the Rockies two lefties with success against hitters from either side of the plate, while Belisle has been dependable for several seasons now as the team's primary right-handed setup man. Morales and Adam Ottavino offer added versatility as long men or as a part of the bridge to the closer. Any sort of improvement from Wilton Lopez, who struggled to adapt to late-inning duties in his first season with the Rockies, could turn the bullpen into one of the team's areas of strength.

Fantasy Questions of Note:

Can the Rockies count on Jhoulys Chacin as a viable anchor of the rotation?

Chacin was able to execute the organization's template for success to perfection last season, trimming his BB/9 rate from 4.2 to 2.8, while inducing more groundballs and cutting his HR/FB rate in half. In much more forgiving road settings, Chacin's dominance could be even better appreciated, as he delivered a 2.44 ERA away from Coors and held the opposition to a .241 batting average. Like De La Rosa, Chacin appears to be a very good real-life pitcher, but his pitch-to-contact approach naturally deflates his strikeout totals, and with it, his fantasy value. In any case, a 3.47 FIP that precisely matched his ERA and a strand rate and BABIP that were actually slightly worse than his career figures indicate that his improvement wasn't a mirage. Expect him to make further gains as he enters his age-26 season.

What position players will be battling for starting jobs in spring training?

As mentioned in the projected lineup portion of this preview, the competition between Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson for the left field job (and presumably, leadoff duties) will garner most of the headlines in camp. Though both players had their moments last season, Blackmon would seem to be the favorite to win the gig, by virtue of his more neutral home/road splits. Dickerson was able to maintain a 7.5 percent walk rate while batting a respectable .263 over 194 at-bats last season, but his .231/.268/.308 away from Coors Field is a red flag for a team that struggled to a 29-52 road record.

If Dickerson indeed loses out on the starting job, he would seem at risk of being traded after the spring. As left-handed hitting outfielders who have similar power/speed profiles, both Blackmon and Dickerson are rather redundant, especially with Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes offering better defense as reserves.

The job battle at second base isn't expected to be as hotly contested as leftfield, but still warrants attention nonetheless. After Josh Rutledge flopped when given the starting job out of spring training last season, DJ LeMahieu stepped in and provided stability with his glove and contact skills. Still, his lack of power and inability to draw walks make him best suited for a utility role over the long haul, but Rutledge's disappointing campaign probably leaves LeMahieu as the Opening Day starter by default. In any case, Rutledge maintains more upside as a fantasy player given the power potential he brings to the position. If Rutledge can show improved defense and deliver a strong performance at the plate early in the season, he could quickly unseat LeMahieu for starting duties.


Like anything where Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez factor prominently, the caveat "when healthy" is in play, but few teams can match the ability of the Rockies' lineup to hit for contact and power, as the team ranked first in the National League in batting average (.270) and slugging percentage (.418) last season. Of course, much of that was a byproduct of half the team's games being played at Coors Field, but fantasy leagues don't penalize a player for park factors. The friendly confines of Coors Field only further supplement the value of guys like Justin Morneau that might not otherwise command much attention in shallow or mid-sized leagues.


Even if Brett Anderson stays healthy and is able to cash in on his considerable potential, the fifth spot in the rotation still looks like it could be a stumbling block for the Rockies. The team will give the Juan Nicasio, Franklin Morales and Jordan Lyles the opportunity to compete for the gig in the spring, but none of those options inspire much confidence. Each pitcher had an ERA above 4.50 last season.

Rising:Nolan Arenado got the call to the big leagues in late April and never looked back, holding down the everyday job at third base while posting a quality 2.7 WAR. Much of that value derived from his defense, as Arenado disputed earlier scouting reports suggesting he was slow-footed by finishing second among NL third basemen in UZR and accruing a number of highlight-reel plays en route to a Gold Glove Award. Arenado's work in the batter's box wasn't quite as sublime as his play in the field, but the 22-year-old acquitted himself well with a .267/.301/.405 line. Prior to reaching the majors, Arenado was universally recognized as one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball, so making further improvement from last season's offensive marks a relatively safe assumption. As he matures, Arenado figures to add further power, while the hitting environment of Coors Field should allow him to maintain a consistently high batting average. A breakout might not fully metastasize in 2014, but Arenado should at least get things trending in that direction.

Declining: Nobody could have forecasted the incredible numbers Michael Cuddyer posted in his age-34 season, as the outfielder improbably took home the NL batting crown with a .331 average while supplying 20 homers and 84 RBI. The counting numbers may have been even more remarkable if an assortment of injuries didn't limit him to 130 games, but Cuddyer would probably do well to match those totals again even with optimal health. Almost everything about Cuddyer's 2013 season was baffling, particularly his dramatic reverse splits (.350 vs. RHP, .276 vs. LHP) that deviate wildly from his career marks and raise just as many red flags as his .382 BABIP. In addition, Cuddyer's underlying peripherals (8.5 percent walk rate, 18.5 percent strikeout rate, .198 ISO) were otherwise mostly in line with his career norms, suggesting he benefited from a good deal of luck in delivering his aberrant performance. Cuddyer should continue to occupy a premium spot in the order behind Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but fantasy owners need to avoid paying for last year's numbers.

Sleeper: Foiled by a turf toe issue just a season before, Charlie Blackmon was actually the beneficiary of injuries in 2013. With Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler sidelined for large swaths of the second half, Blackmon received his first extended opportunity at regular duty in the majors and was magnificent, batting .309/.336/.467 in 258 at-bats, while showing moderate speed and power. He could stand for some improvement in plate discipline (2.7 percent walk rate), but his well-rounded skill set allows him to compensate for the deficiency. For the first time in his career, he'll now have a legitimate chance at earning a starting gig out of spring training, with Dexter Fowler out of the picture. Blackmon will face stiff competition from Corey Dickerson for the left field job and may ultimately have to settle for the larger half of a platoon with offseason acquisition Drew Stubbs, but he should at least offer cheap, multi-category production with the plate appearances he does receive.

Supersleeper(s): If the Rockies find themselves in playoff contention by the time the All-Star break rolls around, rather than turn to the trade market for further pitching help, expect the team to bolster their hopes by calling up prized prospect, Jonathan Gray, who checks in at No. 17 in RotoWire's latest Top 200 Fantasy Baseball Prospects rankings.

The third overall pick in the first-year player draft last June, Gray immediately made a splash on the professional stage. He quickly advanced through rookie ball and proceeded to breeze through his five California League starts, going 4-0 with a 0.75 ERA and 36:6 K:BB ratio over 24 innings. The Rockies have made it known they intend to fast-track Gray's development, making a deployment to Double-A Tulsa or Triple-A Colorado Springs out of spring training a distinct possibility for the ascendant right-hander. At 6-foot-4 and 255 pounds, Gray possesses the ideal frame for a power pitcher and the repertoire to match. With a fastball that routinely touches the upper-90s to go along with his plus-slider, Gray projects as a high-volume strikeout artist at the next level and he should already attract attention in dynasty formats.

Top Prospects

Jonathan Gray, SP – (See above.)

Eddie Butler, SP – Although he entered the past season as a highly-touted commodity within his own organization, Butler concluded 2013 as one of the more coveted prospects in all of baseball, after dominating at three different levels. It was at his last stop, Double-A Tulsa, where he was particularly unhittable, allowing just two earned runs over 27.2 innings, while striking out 25 and walking six. With a devastating three-pitch mix, highlighted by a fastball consistently clocked in the mid-90s, Butler is viewed as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter once he reaches his peak for the Rockies, who have lacked a legitimate ace since trading away Ubaldo Jimenez. The Rockies only have three rotation spots seemingly solidified at the moment, presenting Butler with an outside chance at grabbing a starting gig in the spring, but it's more likely that he opens 2014 in the high minors. If those levels continue to prove unchallenging for him, however, look for the 23-year-old to make his MLB debut at some point this season and remain a long-term fixture.

Rosell Herrera, SS – While Trevor Story entered the 2013 campaign as the Rockies' top infield prospect by most counts, it was Herrera who captured most of the attention by season's end. Despite amassing only nine total homers in 989 plate appearances over his first three seasons in the minors, Herrera busted out with 16 long balls at Low-A Asheville en route to an absurd .343/.419/.515 season battling line. It's not uncommon for young hitters - especially highly-regarded international ones - to have the kind of breakthrough that Herrera had in his second go-around of the Sally League, but he'll need to prove himself against higher quality competition before scouts buy into him completely. With Troy Tulowitzki not expected to relocate from shortstop anytime soon, the Rockies will give Herrera plenty of time to develop in the minors. He'll likely spend the entire 2014 season at High-A Modesto.

Kyle Parker, OF/1B – Moving up to Double-A Tulsa last season, Parker came close to maintaining the power production he displayed in the California League, finishing 2013 with 23 homers and a satisfying .288/.345/.492 batting line. He didn't stop hitting in the Arizona Fall League, but what was more significant was that he saw most of his AFL duty at first base instead of the corner outfield spot he manned throughout the minors. With Todd Helton's retirement creating an opening at first base for the first time, it appears the Rockies view Parker as a worthy long-term successor, though he probably won't be handed the gig out of spring training this season. Instead, the Rockies will likely have Parker begin 2014 at Triple-A Colorado Springs to gain more defensive experience at first and improve his pitch recognition after his walk rate noticed a sizable dip at Tulsa. He should make his debut with the big club at some point later in the season.

Chad Bettis, P – After he was sidelined for the entire 2012 season with a shoulder injury, Bettis quickly showed some renewed promise at Double-A Tulsa, where he dominated with a 68:13 K:BB ratio over 12 starts. Although it would have been ideal to allow him to log a full season in the minors coming off a major injury, the Rockies were in desperate need for a fifth starter in July and eventually tabbed the right-hander for the role. He proved ill-prepared for the promotion, as control issues and a proclivity toward big innings amounted to a 5.64 ERA in his 44.2 frames. The Rockies still remain high on Bettis' potential, but there appears to be some division in the organization regarding the pitcher's future. Though some feel the former college closer's big fastball and sharp slider would make him most amenable to a relief role, others feel that with more minor league seasoning, he can still develop into a quality major league starter. He'll likely open the season at Triple-A, as the Rockies attempt to figure out that dilemma.

David Dahl, OF – A team-mandated suspension for an apparent lack of maturity and a hamstring injury suffered shortly thereafter amounted to a lost season for Dahl, who appeared in just 10 games for Low-A Asheville in 2013. Neither issue is expected to be a concern for Dahl entering the spring, but he'll need to perform well at Asheville right away to validate the impressive marks he received from talent evaluators following his outstanding professional debut with rookie-level Grand Junction in 2012. Still just 19 years old, Dahl already possesses natural hitting skills and a keen understanding of the strike zone, with more power likely to come as he develops. Health permitting, expect Dahl to establish himself as one of the better lower-level outfield prospects in the minors.

Tom Murphy, C – The Sally League proved to be no challenge for Murphy, who slashed an impressive .288/.385/.590 with 19 homers before getting the call to Double-A Tulsa, skipping High-A entirely. He was able to maintain his success at the plate following the promotion, but still seems likely to spend most of the 2014 campaign at Tulsa for further defensive polish and some light refinement to his swing. Though Murphy doesn't possess the game-changing power of Wilin Rosario, the Rockies' anointed catcher of the present and future, he appears to be much more adequate as a game-caller and pitch-blocker, and has thus far proven capable with the bat. Colorado's pursuit of Carlos Ruiz in free agency in the offseason suggests the organization is somewhat skeptical Rosario can make the necessary defensive improvements to stay behind the plate long-term, which could open the door for Murphy at some point if he continues to thrive in the upper minors.

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Adam Wolf
Adam previously headed the site's NHL and NBA coverage and now works primarily as an NFL and MLB contributor. He began writing for RotoWire in 2012 as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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