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Rockies enter Spring Training with best team in years

Brett Anderson
Brett Anderson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A 74-88 record by a major league team often results in the dismissal of a manager. But with a franchise like the Rockies, it led to a three-year contract extension of Walt Weiss.

Keeping Weiss for the long term came as no surprise. Players responded well to the former shortstop, who maintained an even keel throughout 2013.

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To his credit, Weiss dealt with numerous injuries to the pitching staff and Carlos Gonzalez, in addition to the eminent retirement of Todd Helton.

But expectations for 2014 will be different.

The Rox had their best offseason in a long time. The front office finally rolled the dice a bit, making trades and signing free agents to pricy deals.

A much maligned bullpen a year ago got a makeover. Relief pitchers LaTroy Hawkins, Boone Logan and Franklin Morales all figure to bolster a former area of weakness for the team.

In a move that had Rockies fans in uproar, Dexter Fowler was traded to the Astros for Brandon Barnes and Jordan Lyles, who primarily serve as depth at this point.

The money saved went to help sign Justin Morneau, a longtime All Star who should have a solid season in purple, barring injury.

Arguably the most intriguing acquisition was outfielder Drew Stubbs.

From 2010-2012, Stubbs averaged 17 home runs and 33 stolen bases. But last season, he only knocked 10 homers and stole just 17 bases.

Even though he strikes out a ton, Stubbs could be a difference maker for the Rockies. 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases aren’t out of the question.

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Much of the optimism this season stems from the trade that sent Drew Pomeranz to the A’s in exchange for Brett Anderson.

Pomeranz, the centerpiece of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, failed to turn into the ace the Rockies hoped he would.

The A’s touted Anderson as one of their prized starting pitchers from 2009-2011. Still just 25 years old, the southpaw battled through injuries much of the last two years.

There’s a reason though that Anderson pitched Opening Day for the A’s last season.

The Rox don’t need him to be the ace. But they need him to stay healthy and solidify the back end of the rotation.

Of all the players worth tracking the next five weeks, Anderson ranks high on the list.

Five other players to watch in Spring Training

  1. Juan Nicasio-If he doesn’t pitch to win the final rotation spot, he may not make the Opening Day roster.
  2. Nolan Arenado-He won a Gold Glove and hit a respectable .267 in 2013, but has to find his power stroke in order for the Rox lineup to be one of the best in baseball.
  3. Corey Dickerson-He’s the favorite to win the third outfield spot, but probably has to outplay Stubbs and Charlie Blackmon to do so.
  4. Jon Gray-The Rox seemed to have landed their future ace in last year’s draft with Gray. The former University of Oklahoma star isn’t supposed to make the Opening Day roster, but might force his way onto the team with his impressive fastball and wicked slider.
  5. Eddie Butler-Gray may have the electric stuff, yet Butler has the command. Butler climbed up the Rockies farm system and impressed at each level. In 2013, he ranked second in the minor leagues in earned run average and opponents’ average.

My Opening Day roster prediction:

Starting rotation

Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge de la Rosa, Tyler Chatwood, Brett Anderson, Juan Nicasio

Bullpen

Adam Ottavino, Franklin Morales, Chad Bettis, Wilton Lopez, Boone Logan, Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers, LaTroy Hawkins

Catchers

Wilin Rosario, Jordan Pacheco

Infielders

Nolan Arenado, Troy Tulowitzki, DJ LeMahieu, Justin Morneau, Josh Rutledge

Outfielders

Corey Dickerson, Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Drew Stubbs, Charlie Blackmon

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