The Brewers open March on Friday with their first of three games against the Rockies. To help you get ready we interviewed Jeff Aberle of Purple Row, and you can see his answers below.
BCB: With apologies for opening on a down note, I feel like this is the only place to start. This Rockies team narrowly avoided 100 losses a year ago and now shares a division with the team with the highest payroll in baseball history. Is there hope for this team in the short or long term future?
PR: It's certainly tougher to have a positive outlook on this team's postseason chances than it was in, say, 2011. With that said, 2012 was a confluence of bad luck, injuries, and generally awful pitching. A regression to the mean is in order for this team, even if it's back toward a high-70s win total in 2013 (yes, I'm taking the Vegas over).
Still, you really have to squint to see the Rockies making the postseason in the next few years, simply because I don't think there's enough talent on the team to really compete at that level.
BCB: The Rockies made headlines a year ago by going with a four-man rotation, and their starting pitchers posted a 5.81 ERA while averaging just 4.2 innings per start. Is that experiment still on for 2013?
PR: It won't be a 4 man rotation this year, but there will be pitch limits in place for the 2013 vintage of Colorado's rotation. More so than any other MLB team, the Rockies will be relying on their relief corps for a bunch of quality innings this season. Colorado's main off-season move (trading former top prospect starting pitcher Alex White for ace reliever Wilton Lopez) was made with that idea in mind. The Rockies' bullpen is really one of this team's strengths, so giving them some more innings isn't a bad thing.
BCB: Nolan Arenado is in camp as a 21-year-old, Baseball America is listing him as baseball's #52 prospect and he appeared in 134 AA games a year ago. Does he have a chance to make an impact in the majors this season?'
PR: ZiPS projects Arenado to be the Rockies' best third baseman in 2013, but I wouldn't be surprised if he spent much of the year in the minors. After all, he's still 21 and he hasn't played above AA yet. Colorado's situation is such that an extra incremental win here or there doesn't really mean a whole lot. Better than Arenado gain confidence and continue to develop in the minors than he unnecessarily struggle in the Show.
BCB: Former Brewer Jorge De La Rosa made just three starts in 2012 and has pitched more than 130 innings just once in nine major league seasons. Is he healthy this spring? And if he is, what's a reasonable expectation for his 2013 performance?
PR: Nobody really knows what to expect from De La Rosa. When healthy, he's Colorado's best pitcher. Is he healthy? So far so good. His recovery from shoulder surgery took over a year and he really hasn't had an opportunity to establish his health (and effectiveness) over a large sample size. I expect him to throw over 100 innings this year, but I will also be nervous every time he takes the mound.
BCB: What's the biggest Rockies storyline this spring that I'm missing here?
PR: The Eric Young Jr. experiment. The son of the Rockies' first ever 2nd baseman has carved out an existence for himself as a 5th outfielder on this team, but this spring he's getting looks at 2nd (where he played in the minors) and 3rd (where he's never played before). Last year he produced 1.8 fWAR in just 196 plate appearances, so if the Rockies could get his bat (and game-changing speed) in the line-up on a regular basis, that could be a real boon.
Also, if you're looking for a fantasy sleeper this year, you can't go wrong with Josh Rutledge. He'll have both SS and 2B eligibility, with the ability to deliver in all 5 offensive categories.
Thanks to Jeff for taking the time, and check out Purple Row for more on the Rockies!