The Colorado Rockies have been a source of two things for fantasy baseball owners through the years: hitters that carry enhanced value due to playing half of their games at hitter-friendly Coors Field, and pitchers that are mostly worth avoiding for the same reason.
As I continue to analyze teams from a fantasy baseball angle for 2013, here’s my look at the Rockies, broken down by position.
Catcher– Wilin Rosario had a fantastic rookie season in 2012, hitting .270 with 28 home runs and 71 RBI over 426 plate appearances. He was not as good a hitter on the road (.242, 10 home runs, 27 RBI), but a strong finish (.309, 12 home runs and 41 RBI over the final two months of the season) creates some momentum for him heading into this season. Rosario’s power alone makes him a top-10 fantasy catcher for 2013, just don’t expect more than an adequate batting average.
Ramon Hernandez and Yorvit Torrealba are currently in place behind Rosario, but both have a long way to go before becoming fantasy relevant.
First Base– The venerable Todd Helton played just 69 games last season, and offseason knee and hip surgeries lead to speculation he would retire. But all indications are he will play in 2013, despite a recent DUI arrest, and he did produce solidly as recently as 2011 (.302, 14 home runs, 69 RBI). Helton’s days as a significant fantasy contributor are long gone, but he could have some fringe value in NL-only leagues if healthy.
Jordan Pacheco saw significant playing time after being promoted to the big leagues in May, and hit .309 with five home runs, 54 RBI and seven stolen bases over 505 plate appearances. He saw significant time at both corner infield spots (82 games at third base, 43 games at first base), while also playing some catcher (five games). That versatility makes Pacheco a potentially valuable piece in NL-only leagues, but he will really only help fantasy owners in batting average.
Second Base– Josh Rutledge was yet another young player that got an opportunity for Colorado in 2012, as he primarily replaced an injured Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop. He performed well enough, hitting .274 with eight home runs and 37 RBI, to become the front runner to be the Rockies’ Opening Day second baseman. Rutledge needs to improve his approach at the plate (54 strikeouts and just nine walks with Colorado last season), but he can help mixed league owners in all five standard categories.
Shortstop- Troy Tulowitzki had another injury-shortened season in 2012, as he was limited this time to just 47 games by a groin injury, and his production was not great even when he was healthy (.287, eight home runs, 27 RBI, two stolen bases). His average stat line from 2009-2011 was a .304 batting average with 30 home runs, 97 RBI and 13 stolen bases, so he could be the top fantasy shortstop in 2013 if he can stay on the field. Owners that draft Tulowitzki know they are getting a player with virtually unrivaled fantasy upside at his position, but the injury risk knocks him down a couple notches in preseason rankings.
Third Base- The Rockies look likely to use a platoon here, with Chris Nelson and Ryan Wheeler the primary options at this point. Nelson was a solid offensive producer for Colorado last season, hitting .301 with nine home runs and 53 RBI, while seeing action at third base (92 games) and second base (21 games). Wheeler was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks this offseason, and he hit .239 with one home run and 10 RBI for Arizona in 2012 as he got his first big league action. The fantasy value of both guys is limited to NL-only leagues, with Nelson carrying slightly more appeal due to his multi-position eligibility.
Left Field- Carlos Gonzalez had his third straight 20-20 season in 2012, and he has now placed himself in the top tier of fantasy outfielders. Injuries have kept him from playing in even 140 games over the last two seasons, but he is theoretically just entering his prime at age 27 and carries significant upside potential. There could be a buy-low opportunity here, as a return to his 2010 production (.336, 34 home runs, 117 RBI, 111 runs scored, 26 stolen bases) could be coming for Gonzalez is he can stay healthy.
Center Field- Dexter Fowler was another player bothered by injuries last season for the Rockies, but he did put together a solid season; hitting .300 with 13 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. The Coors Field effect is in full view for Fowler, with significant home/road splits in terms of batting average (.295 at home, .248 on the road) and slugging percentage (.487 at home, .367 on the road) during his career. Fowler’s lack of efficiency as a base stealer (67 percent for his career) has led to a drop in his chances and sheer quantity in that category, but he can still be a contributor for mixed league owners in all five standard categories.
Right Field- Michael Cuddyer’s first season in Colorado was a disappointment, as he was shut down for the season in mid-August due to an oblique issue and hit just .260 with 16 home runs and 58 RBI. Cuddyer’s multi-position eligibility (26 games at first base in 2012) adds to his appeal in deep mixed leagues. All things considered, somewhere between his 2009 (.276, 32 home runs, 94 RBI) and 2011 (.284, 20 home runs, 74 RBI, 11 stolen bases) production is a reasonable expectation for Cuddyer in 2013.
Tyler Colvin had a solid first season with the Rockies last season, hitting .290 with 18 home runs and 72 RBI over 452 plate appearances. He could see time at first base if Helton again struggles to stay healthy, and that may be his easiest path to significant playing time. In any case, Colvin’s power potential and multi-position eligibility (94 games in the outfield and 31 games at first base last season) makes him a worthy late-round draft pick in NL-only leagues.
In terms of starting pitching, there’s not much for fantasy owners to see here. Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio looked locked into rotation spots, with Drew Pomeranz, Christian Friedrich, Jeff Francis and Tyler Chatwood among those in the mix as well. Owners in NL-only leagues could consider drafting De La Rosa, Chacin or Nicasio, but even that seems like a reach.
The most fantasy relevant Rockies’ pitcher is clearly Rafael Betancourt, since he stepped in as the team’s primary closer last season and performed well (31 saves, 2.81 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 1.9 BB/9). If Betancourt were to struggle or be traded at some point, Wilton Lopez and Rex Brothers look to be first in line for save opportunities, with Lopez perhaps getting the first chance since he has experience as a closer.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.