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Tag:Omar Vizquel
Posted on: March 3, 2012 8:43 pm
 

Spring primer: Toronto Blue Jays



By Matt Snyder

The 2011 Blue Jays were 81-81, despite blowing an AL-worst 25 saves. So the task heading into the offseason for general manager Alex Anthopolous was pretty clear: Improve the bullpen. And he did, in trading for Sergio Santos and signing Francisco Cordero, among other upgrades. If the Blue Jays can knock off 10-15 of those blown saves and basically play similarly in every other aspect, they'll have a great shot at one of the two wild card spots. And the good news for the Jays is that they appear a bit better in other aspects than last season, like getting a full season from Brett Lawrie, to name one example.

Major additions: RHP Sergio Santos, RHP Francisco Cordero, LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Jason Frasor, OF Ben Francisco, IF Omar Vizquel
Major departures: C Jose Molina, RHP Frank Francisco, RHP Jon Rauch

Probable lineup
1. Yunel Escobar, SS
2. Kelly Johnson, 2B
3. Jose Bautista, RF
4. Adam Lind, 1B
5. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
6. Brett Lawrie, 3B
7. Colby Rasmus, CF
8. Eric Thames, LF
9. J.P. Arencibia, C

Probable rotation
1. Ricky Romero
2. Brandon Morrow
3. Henderson Alvarez
4. Brett Cecil
5. Dustin McGowan

Kyle Drabek is also in the mix.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Sergio Santos
Set-up: Francisco Cordero, Casey Janssen

Important bench players

OF Rajai Davis, OF Ben Francisco, OF Travis Snider, C Jeff Mathis, IF Omar Vizquel

Prospect to watch
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud, one of the players who came over in the Roy Halladay trade, just turned 23 years old and is considered a top 20 prospect in all of baseball. He hit .311/.371/.542 with 21 homers in 114 Double-A games last season. And while Arencibia hit 23 bombs last season, he also had a paltry .219 batting average and .282 on-base percentage. He struck out 133 times while only walking 36. So it's entirely possible he struggles mightily and is replaced by d'Arnaud at some point this season. Or maybe the Jays trade one of them? We'll see, but keep your eye on d'Arnaud's progress. Many believe he's special.

Fantasy sleeper: Henderson Alvarez
"Alvarez wasn't considered a high-profile prospect at this time last year, so understandably, his 10 starts during a late-season trial weren't enough to put him on most Fantasy owners' radars. But consider just how impressive those 10 starts were. Better yet, consider how impressive his final eight were. He pitched at least six innings in each, posting a 3.06 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He also issued only six walks during that stretch. Six. In 53 innings. And this isn't some soft-tosser who took the league by surprise simply by throwing strikes, a la Zach Duke in 2005. Alvarez throws in the mid-90s. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff to go along with a good feel for the strike zone and has already tasted success in the heavy-hitting AL East." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]

Fantasy bust: J.P. Arencibia
"Arencibia was one of five catchers to hit 20-plus homers last year, and he did it as a rookie. But before visions of Mike Piazza start dancing in your heads, keep in mind he was especially old for a rookie, turning 25 before the start of the season. He's 26 now, which means he's already in the thick of his prime, which means what you see with him might be exactly what you get. And it's even worse than it looks. Arencibia hit only .219 in 2011, which is discouraging enough, but when you consider he got worse over the course of the season, hitting .199 over the final four months, you have to wonder if his excessive strikeout rate makes him a sitting duck against major-league pitching." - Scott White [Full Blue Jays fantasy team preview]

Optimistic outlook
Morrow has a huge breakout campaign, giving the Jays a potent 1-2 punch in the rotation. Alvarez blossoms into a good No. 3 while Drabek realizes his potential and has a huge second half. Lawrie enters stardom early and Rasmus reaches his potential, making the offense even more potent than before. Plus, the new back-end of the bullpen is dominant. That gets the Blue Jays into the 90s in victories and they win a wild card.

Pessimistic outlook
The Jays just didn't do enough to close the gap, as they still aren't good enough to finish ahead of any of the following, at the very least: Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers or Angels. Instead, they're more on the same footing as the Royals and Indians. Thus, it's another fourth-place finish for the Blue Jays, who haven't made the playoffs since 1993.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 23, 2012 7:44 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 8:09 pm
 

Blue Jays sign Omar Vizquel

By Matt Snyder

Omar Vizquel's career will be extended yet another season. The now-utility infielder has signed a one-year contract with the Blue Jays. He confirmed the news himself on Twitter Tuesday night. Assuming Vizquel makes it to opening day with the Jays, it will be his 24th season in the majors.

FREE AGENT TRACKER

Vizquel, 44, used to be an All-Star shortstop and routinely took home the Gold Glove while providing good offensive production, but those days are far in the rearview mirror. Now he's simply a bench player. Last season, he appeared in just 58 games for the White Sox, hitting .251/.287/.305 with 18 runs scored. He played all four infield positions at some point.

The Blue Jays will be Vizquel's sixth team.

Amazingly, Vizquel is not likely to be the oldest player in baseball -- even though he'll turn 45 in late April. Tim Wakefield has him beat and 49-year-old Jamie Moyer just signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies.

Vizquel is just 159 hits away from the coveted 3,000, but he only had 137 hits combined in the past two seasons. Still, he could very well make it there if he keeps finding work.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 5, 2012 5:54 pm
Edited on: January 6, 2012 6:49 pm
 

Seven active borderline Hall of Fame candidates



By C. Trent Rosecrans


It's Hall of Fame season, so instead of whining about how other people vote and hiding our ballot envy behind the safety of snark and namecalling, the Eye on Baseball team is looking ahead to future Hall of Fame classes. Yesterday, Matt Snyder looked at five sure-fire, no-doubt, if-their-career-ended-today active Hall of Fame players.
Hall of Fame coverage

Today, we'll look at what makes the Hall a little bit more fun -- the borderline guys. These are guys that if their career ended today would have an argument for the Hall of Fame and could get in or may not. What makes it a little more fun is that Matt and I couldn't even agree on the lists -- so here we go.

Vladimir Guerrero -- Guerrero's best years were in Montreal, where he was invisible to most baseball fans, like Tim Raines and Andre Dawson before him. Still, Guerrero has made nine All-Star teams and won the American League MVP in 2004, his first season outside of Montreal. Through 16 seasons, Guerrero has 2,590 hits and 449 home runs. At this point, it seems like he just doesn't have enough in the tank to get to 3,000 and 500 -- marks that would make his chances much better. Still, he's a career .318/.379/.553 hitter and has a career OPS+ of 140. He also has a career WAR of 59.2 (according to Baseball-Reference.com). 

If Guerrero's career ended now (which isn't a stretch, considering he's currently not under contract and is limited to DH), he'd be one of six players to finish their career with more than 400 home runs and a career batting average better than .315, joining Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Guerrero had 12 seasons with a .300 average and more than 25 homers -- only Williams (14), Ruth (14) and Hank Aaron (13) have as many as Guerrero.

Todd Helton -- Like Guerrero, it appears that he'll fall just short of the magic numbers of 3,000 hits and 500 homers. Helton, 38, has 2,363 career hits and is coming off another .300 season, but needs another 637 hits to get to 3,000 -- and over the last five seasons he has 663 hits. While he's signed through the next two seasons and could play into his 40s, his recent back problems make it seem like he's unlikely to get there.

Helton's a career .323/.421/550 hitter -- with his .421 on-base percentage the highest among active players.  Helton made five straight All-Star teams from 2000-2004, finishing int he top 10 in MVP voting in three of those years. He also won four Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves, all during that same period.

The biggest strike against Helton, though, is where he played. All 15 of his seasons have been with the Rockies and he's certainly benefitted by playing half of his games in Colorado. His career splits are .354/.451/.620 at home and .291/.391/.478 on the road. It should be pointed out those are still pretty darn good numbers -- another Hall of Fame first baseman, Tony Perez, hit .279/.391/.463 in his career. Overall, Helton has a career OPS+ of 136. That number accounts for not only what other players are doing, but also includes park factors. Helton's career WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.com, is 59.9 -- better than Dave Winfield, Richie Ashburn, Willie Stargell and Hank Greenberg, among other Hall of Famers.

Andruw Jones -- The knee-jerk reaction to Andruw Jones and the Hall of Fame is of course not -- the thought just doesn't seem right. Instead, for many, Jones represents the squandering of talent, not the Hall of Fame. Jones came up at 19 and immediately made an impact in the 1996 World Series.

Jones is just a career .256/.339/.488 hitter and will need a couple more years in his current role of a fourth outfielder to get to 2,000 hits. He does have 420 homers, but hit just .256/.339/.448 in his first 16 seasons in the big leagues.

But then there's the defense. Jones is a 10-time Gold Glove winner in center field, but that only starts to tell how good Jones was defensively in his prime. In a Hall of Fame discussion, it may be best to compare Jones to Ozzie Smith -- another transcendent defensive player. Smith was a career .262/.337/.328 hitter, with Jones' power numbers more than making up for the difference in batting averages. While shortstop is unquestionably the most important defensive position on the field, center field is probably second. And at his prime, there's probably no center fielder as good as Jones.

Overall, Jones checks in with a 60.4 career WAR from Baseball-Reference, but FanGraphs.com's formula rates him even higher, at 71.7. Both numbers are inflated by defense, but few players were ever as good as Jones was defensively.

Jorge Posada -- Posada's always been lumped in with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as the trio came up with the Yankees at the same time in the mid-90s and were parts of not only the late-90s World Series dynasty, but also the team's run in the 2000s. While Posada isn't a slam-dunk like Jeter and Rivera, he has a case.

In his 17 seasons, all with the Yankees, Posada hit .273/.374/.474 with 275 home runs and 1,664 hits. He's not going to reach any of the magical numbers, but as a catcher, those are tough to achieve. Over his career, he has an OPS+ of 121 and a WAR of 44.7. His career OPS+ is better than Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter, the last two catchers inducted in Cooperstown.

While many can point to his participation in so many postseason games, he was hardly a great player during the fall, hitting .248/.358/.387 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI in 125 career postseason games. In 29 World Series games, Posada hit just .219/.333/.333 with two homers.

Defensively, Posada probably wasn't as bad as his reputation, but he was hardly Ivan Rodriguez, his contemporary -- and along with Johnny Bench one of the top two defensive catchers ever.

Scott Rolen -- Really. He's not the type that you think of when you think of Hall of Famers. Some people -- and I used to be one -- say you know a Hall of Famer when you see one. And Rolen never fit in that mold. He was always seen as good, but maybe not great. But when you look at his career as a whole, he certainly merits discussion and consideration.

While Rolen's counting stats of 2,005 career hits and 308 homers and the fact he'll be 37 in April mean he's unlikely to hit the big milestones, has a .282/.366/.494 career line with an OPS+ of 123. He has a Silver Slugger to his resume, was the 1997 Rookie of the Year and finished fourth in the 2004 MVP voting.

Third base is the most underrepresented position in the Hall of Fame, and Rolen may not be Mike Schmidt or George Brett, but he does rank up with the best to ever play the position. Of players who played more than 50 percent of their games at third base, only three third basemen have 2,000 hits, 300 home runs, 1,200 RBI and 500 doubles -- Brett, Chipper Jones and Rolen.

And then there's the case of defense -- Rolen has been an outstanding defensive third baseman his entire career, winning eight Gold Gloves. Only Brooks Robinson and Schmidt have more Gold Gloves at third than Rolen.

Ron Santo will get his well-deserved enshrinement in Cooperstown this summer, and the two have similar career numbers. Santo hit .277/.362/.464 with 2,254 career hits, 342 homers and five Gold Gloves. Santo's career OPS+ was 125.

Rolen's career WAR is 66.2 according to Baseball-Reference.com, tied with Craig Biggio and just behind Gary Carter (66.3) and Santo (66.4) and better than Willie McCovey (65.1) and Ernie Banks (64.4).

Ichiro Suzuki -- While I seem to think if the border is located in Brownsville, Ichiro is Houston -- and at the very least Corpus Christi. But Matt thought differently, so I guess that makes him ineligible for the "no doubt."

Leave aside for the moment Suzuki's accomplishments in Japan -- in just the United States, Suzuki has 2,428 hits, 423 stolen bases and a .326/.370/.421 line. He's also been named to 10 All-Star games, won two batting titles, won the MVP in 2001, the same year he won the Rookie of the Year, and has finished in the top 10 of MVP voting four times and in the top 20 eight times. He also has 10 Gold Gloves and three Silver Sluggers. He also had more than 200 hits in each of his first 10 seasons in the United States, leading the majors in that category seven times. 

Honestly, like I said, I'm not sure why he's on this list and not the "no doubt" list. Maybe his career WAR is a little low at 54.5 (according to BaseballReference.com), but remember that's just 11 years.

Suzuki is 38 and will likely play at the least two more years and with three, he's nearly a lock to get to 3,000 career hits in the United States. If he gets to 3,000 in the big leagues, he'll have 4,278 career hits combined between Japan and the United States.

Omar Vizquel -- Only Ozzie Smith has more Gold Gloves at shortstop than Vizquel's 11, and if any shortstop can be mentioned in the same breath as Smith defensively, it's Vizquel.

The two are also similar offensively. Vizquel's career line is .272/.337/.353 with an OPS+ of 82, picking up 2,841 hits, while stealing 401 bases. Smith was a career .262/.337/.328 hitter with an OPS+ of 87, accumulating 2,460 hits, while stealing 580 bases.

Vizquel has just one top 20 MVP finish, while Smith had four. Smith also had 15 All-Star nods to Vizquel's three, but Vizquel played in the post-Cal Ripken era when more was expected offensively out of shortstops.

Vizquel will be 45 in April and hopes to play another season, but it seems unlikely he'll be able to get the 159 hits he needs to get to 3,000 and make him an easier choice.

Wednesday: Surefire active Hall of Famers
Coming Friday: Players over 30 who have a shot of getting there with a few more good years
Saturday: Players under 30 building a good foundation
Sunday: Asterisk candidates -- on-field numbers good enough but PED issues cloud matters

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: October 28, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 1:19 pm
 

Free agent third base rankings: Aramis or bust



By Matt Snyder

If your favorite team is looking for a really good run producer to play third base next season and free agency is the route it's taking, there is only one choice. Otherwise, this free agency class is mostly backups or guys who will retire. It's a pretty embarrassing position in terms of how thin it is. How it affects Aramis Ramirez's ability to get a big deal remains to be seen, but it seems like he should have a lot of leverage, no? You need a third baseman? It's Wilson Betemit after me.

List of MLB free agents

1. Aramis Ramirez. He's only 33 and showed he can still swing the bat with authority in 2011, as he hit .306/.361/.510 with 26 homers and 93 RBI. He's also not the butcher many believe he is at third base -- though he's not exactly Adrian Beltre, either. Ramirez is unlikely to have his option picked up by the Cubs, so it seems like he'll have a new home for the first time since 2003, when he landed in Chicago on a July trade. As already stated, if someone wants to sign a good free agent third baseman, the buck stops here.
Potential teams: Marlins, Brewers, Tigers, Rockies, Angels, Orioles (mercifully making Mark Reynolds a DH) ... and the Cubs are still possible

2. Wilson Betemit. He hit .285/.343/.452 with 22 doubles and eight home runs this season in 97 games. He's a decent to slightly above-average hitter who can play several infield positions, but not really an everyday starter. The dearth of good free agent options at third base could very easily land Betemit a starting job, though. I'd just be weary of a multiple-year deal, as he hasn't played in more than 97 games since 2007.
Potential teams: Brewers, Tigers, Rockies, Marlins, Angels

3. Casey Blake. He only hit .252/.342/.371 and had serious neck issues, causing him to contemplate retirement. The Dodgers have declined Blake's option, so he's headed elsewhere. Retirement is possible, but Blake is seeking a one-year deal and probably willing to be a backup.
Potential teams: Yankees, Brewers, Tigers, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Marlins, Reds, retirement

4. Eric Chavez. He hit .263 with two homers and 26 RBI in his first non-Oakland season, but he still couldn't avoid an extended trip to the disabled list. According to various reports, Chavez isn't sure if he wants to play again in 2012 or retire. If he decides to play, he'll likely get the Yankees' backup third base job again. If he doesn't, he'll be free from the aggravation of constantly being injured. My guess is he retires and the Yankees grab Blake.
Potential teams: Yankees, retirement

5. Greg Dobbs. Dobbs enjoyed lots of playing time in 2011, gathering the most plate appearances of his career. He hit .275 with 23 doubles and eight homers while showing versatility on defense. He's not a great option to start every day, but a really good player to have off the bench. The Marlins reportedly want him back, but a dry free agency crop might land him a decent contract and starting job elsewhere.
Potential teams: Marlins, Brewers, Rockies, Phillies

6. Kevin Kouzmanoff.
Once a decent prospect with power potential -- he did hit 23 home runs while playing half his games in Petco Park in 2008 -- Kouzmanoff's stock has plummeted. He hit .255 with three homers in 27 games after joining Colorado, and the Rockies reportedly haven't ruled out bringing him back. It's possible he has a good full season in a hitter's park, if he stays there (he'd only previously played extended stretches in pitcher's ballparks).
Potential teams: Rockies, Brewers, Cubs, Marlins, Reds, Tigers

7. Omar Vizquel. The 44 year old just keeps hanging on. Is he trying to get to 3,000 hits? He currently has 2,841, but only collected 42 in 2011. So it doesn't really seem to be happening any time soon. Vizquel might just love the game so much he refuses to go until someone won't sign him. And someone will this offseason. He'll be playing again in 2012, bet on it.
Potential teams: White Sox, after that it's a complete guessing game. Any team looking for a veteran backup infielder would have interest, and that could be anyone.

8. Bill Hall. At age 26, Hall hit 35 homers for the Brewers. At age 31, he finished the season in the minors after hitting just .158/.220/.211 for 16 games with the Giants. He might get a shot with the Yankees if neither Blake nor Chavez are there, or someone could use him as a pinch-hitter off the bench. Regardless, don't expect there to be tons of interest. He hasn't been a good player for five years.
Potential teams: Orioles, Nationals, Yankees, retirement

9. Jorge Cantu. The 29 year old was once a run producer, but Cantu had a dreadful 2011 season, hitting .194/.232/.285 in 155 plate appearances for the Padres. He was decent after signing with the Rockies ... in Triple-A.
Potential teams: Rockies, Marlins, Brewers -- but this would be a desperation move to start him. He's basically going to be a backup or retire.

10. Andy LaRoche. Once a top-20 prospect -- for two straight seasons -- LaRoche's career has been a monumental disappointment. The only season he approached being a decent player was 2009 for the Pirates, but last season LaRoche was designated for assignment by the lackluster A's. So that should tell you where his stock stands. It's possible a team strapped for cash attempts to catch lightning in a bottle, as LaRoche is still only 28.
Potential teams: Reds, Marlins, Brewers, Cubs, Orioles, Mariners, Red Sox, Indians, many more.

11. Alex Cora. Cora's on-field value has dwindled all the way to zero, but he's reportedly a great clubhouse guy and baseball mind. Several reporters, fellow players and coaches have noted in the recent past that Cora will make a great manager someday. Cora has said he wants to keep playing in 2012, but it might behoove him to get a start on his next career quite soon.
Potential teams: Nationals, retirement

Other free agents who could play third: Jamey Carroll, Edwin Encarnacion, Jerry Hairston, Ramon Santiago, Willie Bloomquist, Aaron Miles, Ronny Cedeno, Jack Wilson, Mark DeRosa, Nick Punto, Willie Harris, Craig Counsell, Jose Lopez, Orlando Cabrera

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 6, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 4:55 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Chicago White Sox

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series... 

Team name: Chicago White Sox
Record: 79-83, 3rd place AL Central, 16 GB
Manager: Ozzie Guillen/Don Cooper
Best hitter: Paul Konerko -- .300/.388/.517 with 31 HR, 105 RBI
Best pitcher:Mark Buehrle -- 13-0, 3.59 ERA, 205 1/3 IP, 109 SO, 45 BB

2011 SEASON RECAP

That feeling Red Sox and Braves fans had in the last days of the season? That's what it felt like all season long on the Southside of Chicago. The White Sox spent big money to bring Adam Dunn to town and dreams of him crushing balls out of U.S. Cellular Field. Instead, he was the biggest flop since Cowboys vs. Aliens. Dunn had an emergency appendectomy early in the season, and that may have been his highlight for 2011, finishing the season hitting .159/.292/.277 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI. The disappointment in Dunn permeated the entire season, even though the White Sox were just three games back in the American League Central leading up to the trade deadline, they never looked like a serious contender. They didn't disappoint, going 11-17 over the last month of the season as manager Ozzie Guillen dropped hints about wanting out before getting his way and being sent to the Marlins for a couple of minor-leaguers.

2012 AUDIT

The White Sox already have nearly $90 million committed for 2012, so there's little chance of a quick fix. Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Dunn and Konerko alone will account for $55.5 million, more than the entire 2011 opening day payroll for the Diamondbacks, Indians, Padres, Pirates, Rays and Royals. The will be looking to get some of its younger players, like catcher Tyler Flowers and outfielders Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza.

FREE AGENTS

LHP Mark Buehrle
OF Juan Pierre
RHP Jason Frasor ($3.75 team option)
UTIL Omar Vizquel
C Ramon Castro

OFFSEASON FOCUS

  • Forget the big-name managerial candidates. There's no need to throw money at Tony La Russa or Terry Francona. Hire Rays bench coach Dave Martinez. He's learned at the hand of baseball's best manager, Joe Maddon, and he's ready for his own challenge. Martinez also knows the landscape, as part of his long big-league career, he played for both the White Sox and Cubs. Sandy Alomar Jr., another former White Sox, would be a good choice, as well. UPDATE: Former third baseman Robin Ventura has been named manager, just hours after this was originally posted.
  • Avoid the free agent market. Yes, this could be difficult for Kenny Williams, but this is not the time for the White Sox to spend big bucks on free agents.
  • Not that anyone expects anything different, the White Sox should give Buehrle a nice watch and wave him goodbye. Buehrle would like to return, but his price tag is likely too high. His time, like Guillen's, is over.
  • Juan Pierre? Gone.
  • Dangle John Danks and Gavin Floyd. While there are some attractive names on the free agent market, the pitching market isn't as as good as the available position players. Teams will be looking for pitching, and either Floyd (making $7 million in 2012 with a club options or 2013) or Danks (in his final year of arbitration). If neither bring back the kind of return the team wants, you can pull them back. Look at Toronto's trade of Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie as an example. The White Sox have by far the worst minor-league system in baseball, and it needs replacements.
  • Tell Chris Sale to get ready to start. Kenny Williams already told him this, but let it be known it's his spot to lose.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 3:16 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 1:19 pm
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Colorado Rockies

By Evan Brunell

RockiesAnother season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Colorado Rockies
Record: 73-89, 4th place, 21 games back
Manager: Jim Tracy
Best hitter: Troy Tulowitzki -- .302/.372/.544 with 30 HR, 105 RBI
Best pitcher: Jhoulys Chacin -- 11-14, 31 GS, 194 IP, 3.62 ERA, 150 K, 87 BB

The Rockies season didn't go as intended. Instead of competing for the division title, the club barely avoided the cellar and saw their rotation ripped up. Jorge De La Rosa dealt the big blow, suffering an injury that required Tommy John surgery while Ubaldo Jimenez found himself packed off to Cleveland. With a disappointing season in the books, Colorado is ready to plunge ahead and change their fortunes next season.

2011 SEASON RECAP

The Rockies got the season off to a nice start, finishing April with a 17-8 record, enough to pace the division by four games. The wheels fell off in May, though, with two separate four-game losing streaks in the month. There were also two separate instances of a three-game losing streak, including one to end the month at 8-21, slipping out to 4 1/2 back. The first game of a double-header on May 24 was an especially big blow, with De La Rosa exiting the game after 2 1/3 innings and later undergoing Tommy John surgery. The left-hander had signed a two-year, $21.25 million deal in the offseason.

The rest of the season basically played out the string, as the team hovered around .500 the next three months, dealing Ubaldo Jimenez at the trade deadline. September saw a collapse, suffering a nine-game losing streak that perfectly capped the year for Colorado. The silver lining is that the team will get a high draft pick in next year's draft and restocked its pitching depth, but the year was still a big letdown.

2012 AUDIT

Despite nearly finishing in the cellar, the Rockies are poised to contend. The offense isn't an issue, anchored by Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. Even the pitching figures to rebound now that the club will get a full year of Chacin and a projected second-half return of De La Rosa. The rest of the rotation is a question mark, although the club will look for Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, part of the return in the Jimenez trade, to fill out the rotation. If Juan Nicasio can return from breaking his neck to round out a solid front five, the bullpen will be able to end games.

FREE AGENTS

Aaron Cook, SP (mutual option that will be declined by the team)
Jason Giambi, 1B (mutual option)
Mark Ellis, 2B
Kevin Millwood, SP
J.C. Romero, RP

OFFSEASON FOCUS
  • The Rockies have been linked to Michael Cuddyer hot and heavy over the last few months. Cuddyer would be a great fit for most teams, but the Rockies need to pass. There are more pressing concerns, and the outfield is set with a Seth Smith - Dexter Fowler - Carlos Gonzalez setup, although Smith will platoon. The Rox are rumored to want to shop Ty Wigginton, but he is a great option to platoon with Smith, plus Wiggy can play multiple positions off the bench.
  • The priority the Rockies have to go after here is a starting pitcher. There's just too many question marks beyond Chacin, who is hardly capable of anchoring the rotation. There needs to be at least one other pitcher the team can count on. Edwin Jackson would be an intriguing sign, but there isn't much room to maneuver in the payroll. Better for Colorado to take the plunge and sign some high-risk, high-reward pitchers like Rich Harden and Erik Bedard. The rest of the rotation is also high-risk for various reasons, but the more pitchers you add, the better chances you have of hitting on a couple. The Rockies could also go the trade market here and could revisit Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros if Houston capitulates on eating a larger percentage of his contract.
  • Hang onto Huston Street. The market will be flooded with elite and solid closers, plus a good amount of quality relievers. It will be difficult to get a good return for Street, so the team would be better off hanging onto him to create a lockdown bullpen that can take the slack off the rotation and be used as a trade chip in July.
  • Resign Mark Ellis. Ellis was a sparkplug upon being dealt to the Rockies and provides fantastic defense up the middle. The offense has plenty of thump, so Colorado should focus on shoring up middle-infield defense.
  • Sign Omar Vizquel or acquire another middle infielder capable of playing short and third. Vizquel may not be interested in Colorado, but there are plenty of middle infielders the Rockies can sign or trade for. The team needs a backup infielder primarily, but most importantly, needs a viable option behind Ian Stewart at third base should Stewart crash and burn yet again. Jerry Hairston, Jr., with his oodles of versatility, might also be a nice fit.
  • Don't trade Chris Iannetta. Having quality catchers is a rarity and while the team is high on Wilin Rosario, the hot prospect needs more time in the minors. If Rosario is ready by mid-July, that's a great problem to have, but Colorado shouldn't handicap itself by entering Opening Day with a question mark in Rosario's ability to sustain a full season in the bigs.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 21, 2011 4:57 pm
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Posted on: September 16, 2011 12:59 am
 

Vizquel hopes to play in 2012

Omar VizquelBy C. Trent Rosecrans

Omar Vizquel will turn 45 next April and he hopes he's still playing in the big leagues.

"I would love to have an opportunity to play another year," Vizquel told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I'm not expecting to play every day but I think I have the ability to play."

Vizquel has played in 57 games for the White Sox this season, starting 19 games at third base, 14 at second base and eight at shortstop. He's also served as the team's DH and played first base in one game.

An 11-time Gold Glove winner, Vizquel has one error this season. It came at second base. Overall, he's hit .245/.282/.294 without a home run and eight RBI. He is a career .272/.337/.353 hitter and 161 hits shy of 3,000 -- but he has just 182 over the last three full seasons.

"I feel 35," Vizquel told the newspaper. "I look at players on this team who are around that age or less. You look at them playing … the body language is not what you like to see. I don't think I have that kind of body language and I don't like to show it even if I'm tired. I feel great. I still have the passion, still have the legs."

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