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If it’s been said once, it’s been said a thousand times. If the Colorado Rockies can stay healthy, they have a chance to compete in the competitive National League West.
The injury “if” is the biggest one, year-in and year-out for the Rockies. Everything hinges on the health of their superstars. The health of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are paramount to the ultimate direction that the Rockies will go in 2015.
The Rockies routinely talk about the health of their club. The previous regime referenced their bad luck in the training room time and time again. Fans were constantly reminded how many of the team’s contributing members were on the disabled list. It almost seemed like an omen. As soon as the Rockies talked about the need for health, it seemed that their best players went down.
Make no mistake, as Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez go, so go the Rockies. However, a team that has lost more than 90 games in back-to-back seasons, finishing nowhere near the top of the division, needs more than health in order for them to find success. In order to contend, the Rockies are going to need their two stars to be healthy, but also a few more things to happen exactly right.
Pretend for a minute that Tulo and CarGo stay healthy for the entire season. Pessimists might say that suggestion is laughable. Optimists would say that they are due for a full season of health. Either way, if both stay healthy, the Rockies will undoubtedly be better. That alone, however, will not make the Rockies contenders.
The Rockies are going to need contributions from far more than their superstars. For this team to be a contender in 2015, the most important part of their club, much like every team in the league, is their pitchers. Not only their starting pitchers, but their bullpen, which was shaky at best a year ago.
If the Rockies are successful in 2015, the names who are talked about will go far beyond Tulo and CarGo. If the Rockies are successful, the names that will be praised for the success will be guys like Tyler Matzek, John Axford, Eddie Butler, Kyle Kendrick and Jon Gray.
When the Rockies caught lightning in a bottle in 2007, guys like Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales stormed onto the scene to help the Rockies down the stretch. They got great starts from those two. In addition, Manny Corpas took over as a closer and pitched far beyond his talent level suggested he should have pitched.
In 2009, the Rockies got contributions from Tulo and CarGo, but it is easy to forget that the acquisitions of Jason Hammel and Jason Marquis were the reason the Rockies were able to turn the corner in the early going of that season.
If the 2015 Rockies are able to shock the baseball world, Matzek will have to build significantly on his rookie campaign. He will have to prove that his ability to be efficient and get outs wasn’t a fluke, but was a product of his development.
Gray or Butler, the prized prospects in the Rockies system, will have to avoid the rookie pitfalls when they get called up. They will have to maximize their talent in a big way if they are going to pitch the Rockies miraculously into the race.
The signing of Kyle Kendrick will also need to be a success for the Rockies. Kendrick doesn’t need to be an ace, but he needs to bring a veteran presence to the mound that solidly makes him a guy the Rockies can rely on to keep them in games. Kendrick doesn’t need to pitch as well as Jorge De La Rosa at Coors Field, but he needs to be someone who the team can trust.
Finally, John Axford needs to be the diamond-in-the-rough type of signing that every team hopes to find. He needs to be the guy from the scrap heap that has a point to prove to the rest of the league. He isn’t going to be the closer when the team opens in Milwaukee on April 6th, but he needs to pitch well enough to move into that role as the season gets into full swing.
Talking about contention in 2015 is probably something that won’t be brought up by Rockies fans beyond Memorial Day. However, the formula exists for the Rockies. The problem is, it isn’t as simple as simply keeping Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez healthy.
For the Rockies to legitimately contend in 2015, there are several “if’s” that need to happen.