This is the sixth edition of Hope for the Hopeless, where we will take a look at the first ten teams in the league eliminated from playoff contention, and examine what their fans can be optimistic about after a disappointing 2013 season. Next up: the Colorado Rockies.
Dare I say it, but the Rockies had a better season than any of us here at TOC expected in 2013…to an extent. Yes, Colorado has lost 80 games (and counting), but they've already surpassed last year's win total of 64, and we've still got 15 games left.
You can really tie Colorado's struggles this year to two moments – Troy Tulowitzki's yearly injury (this year, it was a broken rib) and Carlos Gonzalez's sprained finger. When Tulowitzki went on the DL on June 13th, the Rockies were a respectable 35-32. While he was out, the club went 9-17. When Gonzalez went on the DL on August 5th, the club was 52-61. While he was out, the club went 13-13. So as a whole, when their two stars were on the DL, the Rockies went 22-30. When neither was on the DL, 45-50 – not great, but certainly better than 22-30. Dexter Fowler going on the DL at the same time as Tulowitzki didn't help matters for the Rockies either.
When this team is healthy, their offense led by those three is unstoppable. The trio combined for 60 homers and 41 stolen bases, 40% and 39% respectively of the team's totals in each category. And guess what? Not only are all three back for 2014, they'll also be back for 2015, and possibly longer if Fowler agrees to an extension with the club.
The Rockies are going to return all of their key players from this 2013 squad as well with the possible exception of starting pitcher Jorge de la Rosa, who has an $11 million club option for the 2014 season that I'm reasonably sure will be exercised. Colorado's only true free agents are aging first baseman Todd Helton, backup catcher Yorvit Torrealba, and pitchers Jeff Francis and Roy Oswalt (who haven't been very good this season). The team also has mutual options on relievers Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt. Essentially, nearly everyone who contributed will be back, including promising starting pitchers Tyler Chatwood, Jhoulys Chacin, and Juan Nicasio.
There's help on the way for the Rockies as well. Third overall pick Jonathan Gray laid waste to the minors after being drafted, and might (though I'm not sure if it would be warranted) reach the majors in 2014. Drew Pomeranz was pretty good dealing with the awful environment in AAA Colorado Springs this year, but struggled in the majors. If he can get things together, the club might actually be in a good shape for pitching, which is a rarity for them. 22-year old Nolan Arenado also made the leap to the majors this season, and has held his own for the most part.
The Rockies aren't in the best situation in the NL West, but they're in a better place than they were a year ago. If that trio of Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, and Fowler can play 150 games apiece next year, Colorado could be a dark horse contender in the NL West. But of course, that's not an easy feat, considering Gonzalez has never reached that benchmark, Fowler hasn't reached it in the majors, and Tulowitzki hasn't gotten there since 2009.