Monday, August 6, 2012

Colorado Rockies have a solid young nucleus

Jordan Pacheco has proven that he is a hitter.
There is plenty to be negative about in this 2012 Colorado Rockies season. However, there may be a silver lining in the whole mess.

That silver lining is that many of the young rookies and younger players have made a big enough impact to be counted on in 2013.  So much so that the Rockies lineup may remind some fans of the good old days when the Blake Street Bombers needed to score eight or nine runs a game to win.

The Rockies are on pace to lose over 100 games. They probably will end up losing closer to 110. Any team in that boat is in trouble. Things have to change in order for a team with that kind of record to expect a turnaround. The culture of the team, starting in the front office, has to change. However, this Rockies team is much more talented than a team that would normally lose 100 or more games.

The most recent story of success from a rookie has come from the most recent Rockie to make his debut. Josh Rutledge has had one of the more exciting debuts in recent history. In 21 games, the future second baseman is hitting .329 with a .659 slugging percentage. He has 14 extra base hits, including six doubles, two triples and six home runs. Filling in for Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop, Rutledge has played with an edge and has been exciting to watch. It is very easy to forget that Rutledge was called up directly from Double-A, and one year ago was playing Single-A baseball in Modesto.

With Rutledge, the test will be how well he can re-adjust when the scouting reports get bigger than a few pages and pitchers start to find his weaknesses and exploit them. The question will become if he is able to keep his composure and find a way to get hits while adjusting to tougher pitches.

Another positive has been Wilin Rosario. Any mention of the rookie catcher must be accompanied with a caveat that his defense must get better. He struggles with pitches in the dirt. However, at the plate he is far more than the Rockies ever could have asked for. His batting average might be just .239, but his on-base percentage is .802. He is sporting 18 home runs and 44 RBIs in just 246 plate appearances. His batting average is actually higher away from Coors Field, where he is hitting .281 on the road, compared to .209 at home.

The rookie making an impact is the most forgotten about of all of the rookies has been Jordan Pacheco. The third baseman was never supposed to be a guy who was starting all season long. The club viewed him as a seat warmer for Nolan Arenado, their young up-and-coming third baseman who is getting prepared at Double-A. Instead, Pacheco has forced his way into the lineup. His defense has been considerably better than what anyone has expected, and all he has done is get hits. Pacheco went 2-for-4 on Monday night to raise his average to .309.

As a rookie, he hasn't been intimidated by anyone, and he hasn't looked over matched. In a series against the Cincinnati Reds, Pacheco laced two singles off of Reds closer Aroldis Chapman on consecutive nights. Both pitches were clocked at 101 MPH.

The complaint about Pacheco has been his lack of power. The traditionalists suggest that someone who plays a corner position like third base, they need to hit the ball over the fence on a regular basis. However, those same traditionalists also expect a shortstop to only hit five or six home runs. The Rockies have a guy in Troy Tulowitzki who, if healthy, can be penciled in for 25 home runs. So if the third baseman hits seventh in the lineup and has a little less pop, does it really matter? Sure, it would be good for Pacheco to hit a few more home runs, but he gets on base and continues to hit.

As bad as the Rockies starting pitching has been, even that area seems to have a silver lining. Drew Pomeranz has shown that he is on the cusp of success. He needs to become more efficient, but he has the poise of a seasoned veteran with runners on base. In two consecutive innings, Pomeranz had runners on base with less than two outs. Both situations ended without a run scoring.

Pomeranz has the pedigree of a genuine ace. If Juan Nicasio, Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin come back healthy, and management is ready to admit that their 75-pitch, four-man rotation theory is dead wrong, and they stop making excuses about their home ballpark, the Rockies could actually make a quick turnaround.

However, the biggest issue holding this team back isn't the talent. The issue holding this team back is the way the talent is managed. If Dan O'Dowd can take a step back and stop over thinking the game, this team could be primed for a return to at least respectability.

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