Jordan Walgreen. 26th January, 2009 - 6:20 pm
The Colorado Rockies are starting the 2009 campaign at a crossroads. There are a great deal of unanswered questions and "what ifs" hanging over Blake Street right now.
Let's talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room that is the Matt Holliday exit. His on the field presence will be missed, but what I think hurts the club more is his clubhouse leadership. Who will step up and be the voice of this team? There are many contenders: Atkins, Tulo, and, of course, Todd Helton who in the past has been the on again, off again leader. Time will tell who steps up; whomever it is has big shoes to fill.
The pitching staff is always a point of frustration in Denver. This year that area seems to have at least some positive momentum. With the addition of Jason Marquis, the rotation seems to be solid one through four with the exception of some shoulder problems that may hinder Jeff Francis (who is still questionable for opening day). Aaron Cook appears to be healthy and is coming off the best season of his career.
The questions in the rotation come with the younger talent, namely Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales (more so for Morales after his complete self-destruction in 2008).
He has a great arm in that a lefty who can hurl in the mid-90 range is a special thing; the problem for Morales is accuracy. Morales has had a good winter, and he could end up being number five. Morales will compete with Greg Smith, Jason Hirsh, and Jorge De La Rosa all spring for that spot.
Ubaldo Jimenez has to still prove that he can be consistent over the entire season. He is lights-out most of the time but seems to break down on occasion. If the 'Rox are going to contend for the NL West, Ubaldo has to emerge as a star.
With Todd Helton appearing to be near playing shape, that puts Garrett Atkins back at third where he is most comfortable. Atkins should be the guy that has the bounce back year; the opportunity is right for him to dominate, and he has shown consistent improvement.
One key addition the Rockies made was Don Baylor as the team's hitting coach. Baylor should really have an impact on players like Atkins and Troy Tulowitzki, who had an abysmal year at the plate hitting .263. If the Rockies are going to be in the mix, Tulo has to shake off last year and swing for the fences.
Overall, the Rockies have the opportunity to make it to the postseason, maybe even deep into the postseason like they did in 2007.
Pieces need to fall in place, and the team needs to show the desire to win from day one ? not at the All-Star break.