We're back with another Amazin' Avenue Five For Five series preview, as the Mets take on the Colorado Rockies this weekend in their first trip out west. This week, I caught up with Andrew Martin, the manager of SB Nation's Rockies blog Purple Row. He graciously took the time to answer a few questions, while giving us an excellent preview of what to expect this weekend. In reciprocation, I also answered a few questions about the Mets for their series preview.
SS: Despite having a pair of offensive stars in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to go along with some good young pitchers and position players, the Rockies are coming off of a 73 win season and most pundits seem to have modest expectations for them this year. What sort of expectations do the fans have for the team this season, as well as in the short and longer term?
AM: Well, it depends on which fans you talk to. If you talk to the crazy die hards, the Rockies are gonna win regardless of what players they put on the field. Talk to the fans at Purple Row, and we're split down the middle on this season, but I think a lot of people would agree it could go either way. Ask the average Denver sports fan on the street, and they'll say "Oh, I don't know. They could probably win 12 with Manning at the helm, but 10 would be enough to take the AFC West." Long term, we're looking at guys like Nolan Arenado, Josh Rutledge, Tyler Matzek, Chad Bettis, guys like that who are in AA right now (well, Matzek is in High-A Modesto at the moment) to make up a lot of the meat of the team outside of Tulo and Cargo.
SS: Certainly, we’re still at an early point in the season but as of this moment, the Rockies have not gotten much offensively from the second and third base positions. Marco Scutaro has a history of being around league average to slightly below with a career 93 OPS+ but 26-year old Chris Nelson does not. What are the contingency plans at those positions should those players continue to struggle?
AM: You think they're bad now, check out last year's numbers from 2B and 3B. Contingency is "play guys who can defend the position" right now. Nelson has upside, but I don't think it's realistic that he's going to stick as anything more than a utility guy. 2013 should bring us Nolan Arenado at 3B, and we'll see how Rutledge does converting to 2B from SS.
SS: Veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez signed on with the Rockies in the offseason. However, they also have a highly regarded young prospect Wilin Rosario, who appears to be sitting on the bench despite hitting just .249/.284/.457 last year at AA Tulsa. What is the team’s plan with Rosario and do Rockies fans agree with the move to keep the catcher on the big league roster?
AM: Rosario is using this opportunity to learn from a veteran Latin catcher in Ramon Hernandez and learn how to work with a pitching staff. People see his raw talent and want to help mentor this guy to being a stud MLB catcher. He has a cannon on his right shoulder and his power is simply prodigious for a catcher. He's gonna be the guy, but they're trying to acclimate him to MLB play first. We're hoping he's one of those guys that needs an absurd goal to motivate them, and being a starting catcher is a pretty decent goal for a guy who scuffled in AA.
SS: Over the first few weeks of the season, what or who has been the biggest disappointment so far? Who’s off to a hot start? Any early surprises or promising performances you weren’t expecting? Any change in confidence level or season expectations between yourself and the fans?
AM: Well, it pains me to say it, but Marco Scutaro has been pretty disappointing. He's just an out machine at the current moment. But a 22% Line Drive rate along with a .236 BABIP has me thinking he'll be fine this season.
Hot start? Amusingly enough, Eric Young Jr. Coming off of the bench, he's 5-for-13 with 3 stolen bases, a double, triple, and a couple of ribbies. I mean, I could also say Michael Cuddyer, but he's dropped a bit over the past day or two, so I'm going to wait until the end of the month to really comment on that.
We could also mention Esmil Rogers, who is 3rd on the team in punchouts despite having pitched only 10 innings from the bullpen. He's a failed starter who the organization keeps jerking around between MLB and AAA, rotation and the bullpen, and it's really rewarding to see him dominating hitters like he is.
SS: Give us your best scouting report of the Rockies pitchers who will throw this weekend.
AM: Drew Pomeranz will be making his 3rd start, and it will be interesting to watch. He was the centerpiece of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, and he has Ace upside. It just isn't here yet. He's a fastball-curve-change pitcher who sits low-90s.
Jeremy Guthrie is going to give up a home run to someone. Enjoy 6-7 innings of him.
Jamie Moyer is really old. If the defense shows up though, you'll probably hit him for like 3 runs over 6 innings. He's old.
SS: Also, please tell Troy Tulowitzki to go easy on us this time.
AM: Yeah I'm sure your outfield is tired of ranging in to catch those clutch pop flies.
Again, big thanks go out to Andrew Martin of Purple Row! The next edition of Five For Five will be on Monday, prior to the start of the Mets/Astros series in Houston.