Baltimore Sun

Baseball preview: Colorado Rockies

Last season, it looked like the Colorado Rockies' playoff hopes had completely been destroyed on Sept. 15. They had lost three consecutive games and their record dropped to 76-72. After wrapping up a weekend series against the Florida Marlins the following day, they had 13 consecutive games against NL West opponents to conclude the season.

The Rockies managed to win 12 of the final 13 games and finished the regular season tied with the San Diego Padres for the NL wild card berth. They defeated the Padres on Oct. 1 in a one-game playoff, 9-8, after falling behind 8-6 in the top of the 13th inning.


Entering the playoffs, the Rockies had a lot of momentum and they rattled off seven more victories to reach the World Series. After Sept. 15, the Rockies went 20-1 over the next 21 games heading into their meeting against the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately, their streak ended and they dropped four straight games to the Red Sox.

This season, the Rockies will again rely on the potent offense that carried them to the World Series appearance in 2007. Center fielder Willy Taveras provides the Rockies with a legitimate speed threat at the top of their lineup. The Rockies' No. 2 through No. 7 hitters all have the potential to hit at least 20 home runs, especially since they play half of their games at hitter-friendly Coors Field. In order for the Rockies to make the playoffs again in 2008, the offense will need to carry the load because they don't have a surplus of pitching.


Colorado Rockies

2007 record: 90-73 (2nd in NL West)

Key additions: RHP Luis Vizcaino, RHP Jose Capellan, RHP Kip Wells

Key losses: 2B Kazuo Matsui, RHP Josh Fogg, LHP Jeremy Affeldt, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, RHP Jorge Julio

Most valuable fantasy performers:

1. Matt Holliday, LF – After finishing second in the National League MVP voting in 2007, Holliday will likely be one of the favorites for the award in 2008. He led the NL in batting average last season (.340) and had 36 home runs and 137 RBIs. I think he's the best fantasy outfielder in the major leagues, and he should be drafted in the first round of your league's draft. Holliday will likely hit around .330 with 30-40 home runs, 120-130 RBIs and 10-15 stolen bases. He'll also score 115-125 runs.

2. Garrett Atkins, 3B – Atkins has emerged as one of the top third basemen in the NL following two consecutive impressive seasons. He's had a batting average above .300, at least 25 home runs and 110 RBIs in each season. It's not a stretch to think he'll hit at least .300 with 25 home runs and 110-120 RBIs again. While some people may believe that Coors Field's reputation has a lot to do with Atkins' power numbers, it's interesting to note that he hit more home runs away from Colorado in 2007.

3. Troy Tulowitzki, SS – In his first season as the starting shortstop, Tulowitzki showed that he is a top-level fantasy performer. He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting, hitting .291 with 104 runs scored, 24 home runs and 99 RBIs. For now, Tulowitzki is only the fourth-best shortstop available, but that's only because of the NL East trio of Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes. If Tulowitzki posts similar numbers in 2008, then he'll cement his place among the top shortstops.


4. Brad Hawpe, RF – Last season, Hawpe hit .291 with 29 home runs and 116 RBIs. After two full seasons, he has become a reliable fantasy option in right field. He'll likely hit around .290 with 20-25 home runs and 90-100 RBIs in 2008. Hawpe should be drafted in the middle rounds and he'll give you excellent fantasy value.

5. Todd Helton, 1B – Helton doesn't have the fantasy value that he possessed from 1999-2004 when he had 221 home runs and 728 RBIs in six seasons. Still, he should be drafted because he'll hit well over .300 with 15-20 home runs and 80-90 RBIs. Helton has a career .332 batting average, but he'll likely hit around .315 this season.

6. Jeff Francis, LHP – It's never easy to be a pitcher in Colorado, but Francis should be drafted because he'll win at least 15 games. He was 17-9 in 2007, but his ERA was 4.22. Francis won't help your team ERA, but he'll win enough games to make up for it. It's his fourth full season as a starter and he's improved every season.

Hidden gems:

1. Manny Corpas, RHP – Corpas enters the 2008 season as the Rockies closer and he'll pick up plenty of saves. Last season, he notched 19 saves after taking over as closer. Corpas had a 2.08 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 78 appearances. He's not well known, so you may be able to wait until the middle rounds to draft him.

2. Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP – After being called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs, Jimenez went 4-4 with a 4.28 ERA in 15 starts in 2007. This season, he'll likely be the No. 3 starter behind Francis and Aaron Cook, so he could reach double-digits in victories. I wouldn't select him unless you play in a league with a lot of teams, but keep an eye on how he performs during spring training.