This week, I had the opportunity to pose five questions to The Denver Post’s Troy Renck in the latest Ask the Expert. He shed some light on many of the intriguing questions surrounding the team, like the closer’s role, if Troy Tulowitzki will rebound and who will emerge as the team’s ace. It is some great insight into a team that we all have questions about heading into our fantasy drafts.
To read more from Renck, you can check out his blog by clicking here. Now, without further adieu, let’s take a look at what he had to say:
1) The Rockies have a pair of top quality OF prospects in Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler. How much playing time do you see them receiving in 2009 and how do you see them producing?
Troy Renck: Dexter Fowler has enjoyed a terrific winter, adding muscle that could help make him a factor sooner rather than later. He is the Rockies’ top prospect, but skipped Triple-A so he’s probably going to need more offensive seasoning. I see him in the big leagues by July. Carlos Gonzalez will be there sooner. If he shows better strike zone discipline, he will compete for the starting left field job in spring traning with Seth Smith. He oozes confidence. The issue is whether he can correct his offensive approach in spring or need time in Colorado Springs.
2) Huston Street or Manny Corpas. How do you see the closers role playing out both at the beginning of the season and by year’s end?
Troy Renck: As it stands, Street has the slight edge. He has more experience, and the Rockies are trying to send Corpas a message after his difficult 2008 season. Street is a consumate teammate, and will fit in either a setup or closer’s role. The Rockies want Corpas to close again eventually, and that could happen in July if Street is traded. That will only happen if Colorado is out of contention.
3) The Rockies middle infield is filled with questions. Who will play 2B? Will Troy Tulowitzki be able to rebound? How do you think these scenarios play out?
Troy Renck: Clint Barmes enters spring training as the starter at second baseman, with Jeff Baker backing up. The Rockies internally discussed making a run at Orlando Hudson, but are committed to giving Barmes and Baker a chance. Barmes has great range as a former shortstop, and made big strides offensively last season. Much more selective, while sticking with a consistent approach. Tulowitzki is a star and will play like one again. His left quad is healed, which will allow him to regain his aggressiveness in the field and on the bases. The thing to watch for is whether he can get back his power while limiting strikeouts. The Rockies need him to hit 20 to 25 home runs. He knows that.
4) How do you see the Rockies corner infield situation play out between Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins and Ian Stewart? Will Helton be healthy enough to play? How will they find AB for Stewart?
Troy Renck: Todd Helton is ahead of the game in his recovery from back surgery, already swinging with full force. Moreover, Garrett Atkins has already been told he will be the third baseman. So the likely scenario is that Atkins spells Helton at first base and Stewart scrabbles together at-bats at third and left field. Stewart has the athleticism to play outfield, but has never been out there so that part of the equation is an unknown
5) Which pitcher do you see emerging as the ace of the staff in 2009? Do you see the new imports filling in the back-end of the rotation well, or may they struggle in their new surroundings?
Troy Renck: Ubaldo Jimenez is primed to be the ace. Nobody threw more fastballs over 95 miles per hour last season in the big leagues. The issue is command. When he has average command, he’s a no-hitter waiting to happen. But teams continue to exercise patience against him. Jimenez gets it, works on his correcting his mistakes. He should win 18 games this season. With Jeff Francis bothered by lingering shoulder tendinitis, Jason Marquis’ arrival becomes critical. The Rockies need him to not only eat innings, but win 12 to 15 games. Greg Smith will get a long look in spring. The X factor is Franklin Morales, who is throwing 94 miles per hour again after recovering from a back problem.
Picture courtesy of Icon Sports Media, Inc.