Monday, May 13, 2013

If Colorado Rockies want to salvage the season, changes need to start now

Juan Nicasio needs some Triple-A seasoning.
It's time.

The Colorado Rockies must start making moves to salvage a season that started with so much promise. It may seem early to declare a team in need of wholesale changes when they were expected to finish in the basement of the National League West. The problem is, they have the talent to compete, and they must not swing and miss at the opportunity.

The Rockies got shelled by a terrible Chicago Cubs team on Monday night. Juan Nicasio started on the mound for the Rockies and continued to cause head-scratching among those following this team. With Drew Pomeranz and Tyler Chatwood pitching well in Triple-A, why is Nicasio still on the big league roster?

Nicasio ended up going a season-high six innings in the loss, giving up five earned runs. It may not sound like the worst start in the history of baseball, and it certainly wasn't. However, a common theme is starting to show up over and over again for the Dominican right-hander. Nicasio starts the game poorly. He seemingly gives up a 1st inning run or two in every start. On Monday, he gave up two runs in the 1st, then three more in the 2nd.

For two games in St. Louis, the offense was to blame for the losses. They simply never showed up. The bats had a very similar night in Chicago. The difference on Monday though, was that the team never had a shot. It might not make sense, but when a starting pitcher goes out and puts his team in a five-run hole before the offense has gone through the order for the first time, it changes the mindset of a game. Instead of being able to scratch out a run here and there, build up a lead and shut the door, an offense is in Mount Everest mode, where they must start climbing a mountain to get back in it.

Nicasio's story, coming back from a broken neck after getting drilled on the mound, is one that has everyone rooting for him. There is no one out there who doesn't admire his courage.

The problem is, feel-good stories are for teams that aren't in playoff contention.

It is time for the Rockies to make some very difficult decisions. Currently, the Rockies feature Nicasio and Jeff Francis on back-to-back days. When they face a team like the Cubs, a team that isn't nearly as good as the Rockies, they should go in and easily take two of three. However, with Nicasio and Francis on back-to-back nights, it isn't hard to imagine that the team feels like they must win the finale just to avoid being swept.

If the Rockies are going to contend, as they have shown that they might be able to do, it is time to send Nicasio down to Triple-A and call up Drew Pomeranz. The prized lefty is 5-0 with a 3.18 ERA, while pitching in the friendliest hitters park in the Pacific Coast League. It is time to see if he is developed enough to be pitching at the big league level.

Nicasio has options remaining, so that decision should be a no-brainer. The next difficult decision the Rockies need to make goes against everything that they believe in. This is a move that has been written on the wall for quite a while. The reality is, Tuesday night's starter, Jeff Francis, should be making his final start in a Rockies uniform. He has etched his name in the Rockies history books, but his best days are behind him.  Long behind him.

With Tyler Chatwood lurking in Colorado Springs, there is no reason for a team that is serious about making a run to hold on to a guy who was essentially a stop-gap for a few prospects to develop. Those prospects are ready, and if they aren't, it is better to go down fighting with them on the mound. Francis will never be a part of the Rockies success. It is time to move on.

Those two moves would take care of the pitching issues. Now, for the elephant in the room. The offense, the  one aspect of this team that had everyone gushing in spring training, hasn't shown up since the team left Los Angeles almost two weeks ago.

Everyone knows that the talent is there. However, they aren't hitting right now, and one glance at the Sky Sox stat sheet and it is difficult to ignore the fact that there are plenty of solid options waiting in the wings. The future is knocking at the door, and the annual May slide for the Rockies is making that knock hard to ignore.

In his 2012 Rockies debut, infielder DJ LeMahieu was fairly impressive. He did enough to show that he is talented enough to play at the big league level. Instead of giving him a bench job, the Rockies traded for Reid Brignac from the Rays, and LeMahieu was relegated to Triple-A. All he has done is notched a 20-game hitting streak and hit at a nearly .400 clip since the season began.

Outfielder Corey Dickerson, not on the 40-man roster, is hitting an incredible .381 in Colorado Springs.

Charlie Blackmon, called up when Michael Cuddyer went on the disabled list, was doing plenty of damage himself at the Triple-A level.

Another guy everyone loves is Jonathan Herrera. He works hard, he takes good at-bats, he is versatile and does a good job pinch hitting. He has been very good in his appearances so far in 2013. But once again, he is a guy who isn't going to win the Rockies a World Series.

If the Rockies want to get serious about winning, they must do things that will improve the team and end their May slide.

It is time for the Rockies to not only bolster their starting pitching, but they must upgrade their offense as well. If Dexter Fowler is slumping, have someone else take his spot. If Brignac is not a game-changer, find a new place for him and let a prospect get their chance.

After all, if the Rockies don't end up contending in 2013, will anyone really be disappointed? This team wasn't supposed to turn around this quickly. However, if they lose, but get guys experience and make the future come early, isn't that something productive for the club to build on?

The reality is, if the Rockies want to win, they need to make big, difficult changes, and they can't wait around until it is too late, they must make those decisions right now.

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  1. Please do something Rockies unless you want another 2012 season. Your fans are getting fed up early this year.

  2. DITTO!!! like you said nicasio down to AAA and designate francis. next in line should be helton,pacheco is the incumbent 1st basemen along with playing all other positions except manager, plus the fact the kid can hit. granted helton is the face of the rockies but faces don't win for herrera and fowler good trade bait and should get someone that will help the rockies now.ey jr, is another possibility. what the rockies need are every day players that will contribute, folks we have the talent right now they just need to mesh together and that starts with the pitching.starting 5 pitchers should be chacin,de la rosa,garland,chatwood, and pomeranz, you start them and the hits and wins will come.

  3. David while your comments about prospects in Triple a are encouraging let's not get to hasty here the Rocxs are still playing above 500 baseball and are way ahead of where most fans and pundits thought they would be. Maybe a tweaking of the roster here and there is called for but by no means should this team go immediately young and change the roster completely. As a whole the weak leak in this team was supposed to be the pitching and while I wouldn't give this team An "A" grade it is has been much better then a "C". There is no need for wholesale changes yet. As I have stated all along this team is not geared to win it all but is in real good shape to make a run at the wildcard and I still believe they will do that and get there. Dramatic changes and going young and you can kiss that good bye. It will serve the team much better if you wait till after All Star Break to see how this thing plays out and gives the team a lot of confidence for next year meaning if the veterans keep this thing going and win 88 and squeak in then the young kids can continue to grow and next year you have a core group of veterans that made the playoffs and have a season to show the the youngsters how to be accountable and set expectations as they infuse a ton of young talent with core veteran superstars ie Cudeyer,Cargo,Tulo. Way too early to panic. Stay the course for now and if need be make those changes in 2 months.

    1. ScoMan @MLBColoRockiesMay 14, 2013 at 11:05 PM

      If they continue on the course they will be 10+ games out of a wild card spot, at which time they will be sellers instead of buyers come the ASG break. They need to bring up the future of this team to make a solid run at a WS appearance next year with a WC spot this year.

    2. ScoMan, I always respect your baseball opinion and your knowledge of the game. However this time your totally wrong. If they continue this pace and have been slumping as of late but all 162 count they will be about 6-7 games above 500 at All Star Break. (using math of 3 games above 500 at the 38 game mark translates to 6 games approx at the break) Which conservatively puts them 10-12 games above 500 by seasons end. And does not make them a shoe in but very close to second wild card with about 88 wins which I feel is the magic number to obtain second wildcard birth. This doesn't guarantee they will make it, but my point is you can always firesale and go young after the break if things go south but for now stay the course and let this onion peel itself. whats the worse that could happen we go young last 50 games of the year instead of 80.

  4. Well put! I know that maybe Clint Hurdle isn't all that highly thought of nowadays, but he used to say that this is the "Big Boy League" and you don't get rewarded for being a great guy. That was one of Don Baylor's strenghts: he basically said: "Play, produce or we'll get someone who can!"
    I personally think that Francis is going to have a good outing today, and truth to tell, his last start against the Yanks really wasn't that bad, especially considering the weather he pitched in- and the stops and starts. But Chatwood and Pomeranz have earned a shot. Nicasio needs to go down today! And, before he goes down, Weiss ought to call him in and tell him- "you have to do two things to get back here: one- find consistent command of your fastball, and two- develop another pitch that you can get someone to swing and miss at.
    I wish I knew what they see in Brignac. I think that LeMahieu could give them a player who can play all four infield spots. (He's so tall, he would be an excellent first baseman.) I think that Jonny Herrera is on the team because he reminds Walt Weiss of himself. He's a wonderful defensive player and he's pesky at the plate. He's also someone who you can put in late in the game and he's going to play defense. The Rox really don't have anyone else like that.
    David, I really agree with you that the Rox need to make their moves now. If memory serves, it was about at this time back in 2007, that they shook things up and brought Spilly back from the Sky Sox. He shook up the clubhouse. Maybe that's what they need now.

  5. You are definitely pointing out the obvious, but yes Nicasio needs to go down. I have no problem with Jeff though, he has his spot in the rotation.

    Brignac is the guy I cant stand. He hasnt been productive all year & had some really poor AB pinch hitting. He needs to be replaced as Herrera or Pacheco can backup 3B.

    I do love the fact they Rockies gave Nelson another chance. He played ok to start but when he went downhill they shipped him & brought up the future. Glad to see Arenado

  6. Get ready for a great season. We have great pitching and a healthy line up. Should be in the running for the second Wildcard. Forget 2012 already!!

    1. Healthy??? What game are you watching? Cuddyer is out, Tulo will never be healthy,and Helton just got back for now. I know it will never happen since he is thought of as God in Colorado, but it's time to cut Tulo's choke hold on the Rockies. They depend to much on this guy who seems to let them down year after year.He'll play ok for awhile then get hurt. IMO I don't think his defense is all that the hype says it is. He oles too many hits for fear he might get an error and his arm isn't all its cracked up to be. If it weren't for Helton at first base, there would have been many errors. And why does he have to make such a big production with his throws. Last year Rutledge had no problem getting the ball to first in a smooth efficient manner. If he is so "great" then it should be no problem getting some pretty good pitching for him. The Rockies have plenty of players that can play SS that don't "pat themselves on the back" as he has stated.

  7. I generally agree with the pitching changes suggested. However, one habit that the Rockies have had for years is holding back their starting position players too much. When healthy, why are Tulo, Cargo, Helton, and Fowler held out of the lineup for the sake of giving them "a day off"? What are they saving them for? Tracy was much worse at this than Weiss as Tracy would routinely replace all of the starters for some games. Fans hate this! Time to make these guys earn their millions by playing every day possible!

  8. Time to trade Tulo for pitching, slide Rutledge over to SS, there are guys in the system that play 2nd or put EY there. Bring Colvin up he can play 1st/OF and have a lefty in the lineup.So many moves with so much talent in the system including all the pitching comments. If not it will be another wait till next year attitude. If fans stop coming that may be the only thing that gets Monfort's attention.