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Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on March 15, 2003
4th in NL West - 25 Games Back
Home: Coors Field
The Rockies have finally decided that it was time to end the experiment of using control pitchers at Coors field. Even with the humidor, the curve ball has problems curving, and the slider and breaking ball just don’t have the movement. So in the off-season, they’ve tried to dump their overpaid pitchers and bolster the offense.
The Rockies landed additional offensive firepower in the off-season in the form of Preston Wilson, Charles Johnson, Pablo Ozuna and Jose Hernandez. All of these guys will enjoy what Coors will do to their offensive totals. The downside of these additions is that both Wilson and Hernandez are strikeout kings and are moving to a division with better pitching than what they have seen over the past few seasons. Also, Wilson and Johnson have been injury prone in the past, and this problem could continue to haunt them.
Another interesting player to watch is OF Jack Cust. Cust is a hitter who can pound the ball and may be one of the best hitters in the minors. While everyone has high hopes for his bat, unfortunately, he fields with about the mobility and agility of a tree stump. While the Rockies would love to fit his bat into the lineup, there is a very good chance that he will end up as trade bait to an AL team where he can DH.
Not much has been lost, just aging third baseman Todd Zeile and the disappointing Jose Ortiz. Their replacements will adequately fill their shoes.
Newsflash! “It sucks to be a pitcher in Colorado.” The best pitchers for this team are likely to be power pitchers, and not control specialists like Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton. The staff here looks like it will be Jason Jennings (last year’s Rookie of the Year), Dennis Stark, Denny Neagle, Aaron Cook, and Shawn Chacon.
Cook is the wildcard in this bunch. One of the Rockies’ top prospects, he is almost guaranteed a starting spot. He fits the definition of power pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and a great sinker. He’s a lower end starter, who probably is a better fit for Colorado than other teams because of his limited repertoire of pitches. He is not a strikeout pitcher, but is noted for terrific control.
The trio of Jennings, Stark and Cook are the beginnings of the Colorado movement to develop pitchers who can thrive in the rarified air at Coors Field. Jennings and Stark managed 27 wins in 42 starts last season, and probably will add to that total this year. Throw in Cook and you still probably won’t see any 20 game winners, but don’t be surprised to see 35-45 wins for the trio.
The Rockies are not a playoff contender, but probably will steal a few more wins than people expect this season. I would have picked them for last in the NL West, but with San Diego losing Trevor Hoffman for most of the season and Phil Nevin for the year, the Rockies should manage to finish in fourth, once again. Still, their offense should be a lot of fun to watch.