Spring Training: Rockies Report
The Rockies recently locked up slugger Brad Hawpe to a long-term deal. (AI Wire photo)
Defending NL Champion Colorado, coming off a 90-win season, has done a superb job of turning the organization around, but will face to tough challenge to top that record and get back to the playoffs in what is sure to be a very competitive NL West.
Some random observations from spring:
- Todd Helton is batting .250 through five games, but he’s scored five runs. Then again, are you really concerned about a dude who has eight .320 seasons on his resume? His 30-homer days appear to be a thing of the past – especially with a major hike in his groundball rate last season – but Helton should again compete for the batting title and prove to be among the more valuable players in leagues that track OBP.
- Brad Hawpe, fresh off penning a new three-year deal (the Rox are wisely locking up their core players), is batting just .231, but he’s driven in five runs in five games. Hawpe has gotten progressively better each year he’s been a major leaguer, and while I’d love to see him bat higher than sixth in the lineup as far as scoring runs goes, he’s proven himself a tremendously valuable commodity. I’m expected him to again be a major run producer with a strong BA and he’s likely in line for his first 30-homer season.
- Jeff Francis, who surrendered three hits and a run in two innings in his first outing, tossed four innings of two-hit ball Thursday morning in a B game. I’m looking to see Francis surrender far less homers this year, and experience a corresponding drop in ERA. His first of what should be many seasons with a sub-4.00 ERA is coming.
- Rookie backstop Edwin Bellorin will try to unseat the (to date) underwhelming Chris Ianneta as Yorvit Torrealba’s primary backup, but so far, he hasn’t had much of a chance, with just two at bats. Bellorin, 26, is ready for an opportunity, batting .326 with 45 RBI in 59 games at Triple-A last season. Of course, we had never seen numbers like this from the former Dodger farmhand before, and he very much benefited from playing home games in Colorado Springs (almost a .360 BA at home).
- Clint Barmes is probably not a legitimate candidate to earn the second base job, but he is in the mix for a utility role. He’ll need to show more at the plate than he has so far (2-for-11 with no runs or ribbies in four games), however. I think it’s more likely that Omar Quintanilla comes away with the utility infielder role, and Barmes heads back to triple-A, where he spent most of last season.
- You know it’s Spring Training when you see things like Willy Taveras going yard, as he did this morning for a two-run jack in that B game. Look out, because Taveras, owner of six career jacks, has his sights set on his first five-homer year. Urine test, please!
- Franklin Morales, trying to earn a rotation spot, is working to refine his delivery with the help of pitching coach Bob Apodaca. If Jason Hirsh’s shoulder woes prove to be more serious than expected, it will definitely help Morales’ chances. Hirsh won’t throw again until Sunday.
- As discussed, Colorado is locking up its important youngsters, and the signing of closer Manny Corpas to a four-year deal was a big part of this plan. He really helped settle what amounted to a strong bullpen (composite ERA of 3.85), saving 19 of 20 once he took over the closer job.