Was it that beautiful Colorado sky that had me thinking Red Rocks in the early 80s, or last night's Chinese Food and Nyquil? Ah, I suppose it doesn't matter. Take in the backdrop, settle on the music of your choice, and let's explore the carnival of the National League, Coors Field.
It should be a fun year to be Rockies-invested with our make-believe teams. Troy Tulowitzki (ADP: 4.65) and Carlos Gonzalez (6.77) are both parked in the first round for 2011, and Ubaldo Jimenez generally comes off the board in the fourth round. Colorado has made the playoffs twice in the last four years, and the Rockies were a respectable 83-79 last season. Runs will be scored here, and in recent years we've learned that it's okay to own a Colorado pitcher or two, as well.
Pace yourself today, gamers. We'll be in thin air all afternoon
Let's start with the ballpark – is Coors Field still a very favorable hitter's park?
Absolutely. Reports of the death of Coors Field have been greatly exaggerated. It's no longer a ridiculously-extreme park, perhaps, but the bottom line still paints a pretty picture.
Let the numbers tell the story. Coors Field had the highest affect on runs scored last year on the Park Factors table, and it also pushed along home runs (second) and hits (first). Stick with the runs column and go back six more years; this is how Coors Field has ranked: first, third, second, second, second, first. Crooked numbers are alive and well at Planet Coors. The ball travels well, the hitters have terrific sight lines, and the expansive outfield makes this a haven for extra-base hits.
The change in recent years (winking at you, humidor) is that Coors isn't ranking first all the time on the runs chart, and even when it does, other parks are within hailing distance. In the good old days (or bad old days, deepening on your perspective), Coors Field used to dwarf every other stadium when it came to scoring effects. These days, it's just one of the leaders on the block. Back in the day we almost had to plan our entire draft and strategy (pre-season and week-by-week) around Coors Field, and it was just about suicidal to own any Colorado starting pitcher. We used to fear Coors Field at all times; today, we just have to be mindful of it.
Is Jorge De La Rosa the next pitching star to emerge here?
The Rockies think so. They signed De La Rosa to a two-year deal in November, along with two more option years. Underrated pitching coach Bob Apodaca has made excellent strides with De La Rosa, and the lefty probably would have had an emphatic breakout year last season if not for a finger injury.
De La Rosa does have bouts with wildness (4.07 BB/9 last year) and his HR/FB rate (15.8) took a bite out of his ERA. But De La Rosa has the two most important skills for Coors Field: he misses bats (7.98 K/9 for his career) and he gets ground balls (last year he spiked that rate to 52.3 percent). A devastating change-up and a plus slider fuel the way for De La Rosa's potential greatness; he just needs to get ahead in the count a little more often. A career year could be waiting in his age-30 season, and his current ADP is just an eyelash under 200.
Has Jose Lopez died and gone to heaven?
Probably. Look, I love Safeco Field and just about everything about Seattle, but I don't want to be there if I'm a hitter. Mind you, Lopez didn't want to be hitting anywhere in 2010, taking down fantasy owners with a horrendous season. Not all of it was his fault, of course: an unlucky BABIP (.239) and a low HR/FB rate (4.9) were along for the ride. And it's not like Lopez never made good contact – his line-drive rate was exactly the same as it was in 2009.
Let's also not minimize the mental affect a position switch may have had on Lopez last year. Whenever you ask an infielder to go to the other side of the diamond, you're taking a bit of a chance. Chone Figgins and Gordon Beckham had awful years in similar situations. And now Lopez gets to go to a new league and his old position, cushioned by the friendliest hitting backdrop in the majors.
I'm in. I think he'll be this year's Kelly Johnson, and it won't cost you that much in public leagues (Lopez's current ADP is over 280, ridiculous). In the industry environment it's a little different – Lopez could become one of those trendy sleepers that become too buzzy and wreck all the value. But my advice to you is simple: go get him.
Is Dinger the ugliest mascot currently in the majors?
He's at least in the argument. Dinger is an oddly-constructed purple dinosaur and I was afraid to directly link a picture of him here; frankly, he's a little scary. Don't bid $1 on Dinger at your Mascot Auction – the sound of crickets will surely follow. (Dinger does do a lot of positive things away from the game – he promotes physical fitness and literacy in Colorado schools. That's wonderful. I just don't want him promoting baseball, at least until he's re-designed into a more fan-friendly uniform.)
Time for the slow hike back to sea level – anything else from the Rockpile?
I don't think it's possible to take Tulowitzki too early, given the scarcity at shortstop this year. Gonzalez probably makes sense as a pick in the 7-12 range, since outfield is so deep, but you really can't go wrong with either blue chipper. … Felipe Paulino was an interesting addition from Houston. He's always had bat-missing stuff, and now he gets a year to work with Apodaca. … Ryan Spilborghs is one of the best fourth outfielders in the NL, and that could be enough to keep Seth Smith from being mixed-league worthy as Colorado's left fielder. … I'd like to see something on the field before I get tied to Dexter Fowler. He's got a mediocre .243/.339/.391 line for his career against right-handers (being a switch-hitter doesn't magically fix everything), and he was a mediocre 13-for-21 on the bases last year. It's not hard to find cheap speed in 2011, and with that, I'm not forcing a pick on Fowler.