Milwaukee Brewers Series Preview: Brewers vs. Rockies

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The Milwaukee Brewers open the season with the Colorado Rockies. Last season Colorado was devastated with injury and finished fourth place in the highly competitive National League West, going 66-96.

I was able to catchup with the editor at the Roxpile, Bobby DeMuro and here is what he had to say about the team’s outlook heading into 2015:

With the West being so strong, What is the biggest key to the Rockies competing the season?

Health, right? It’s always health, for every team! But really, for the Rockies more than most, if Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez can stay healthy, the Rockies could sneak up on people. They won’t win the division (I mean, I hope they do, but let’s be honest), but look at their lineup if everyone stays healthy: Tulo, CarGo, 2014 batting champ Justin Morneau, Corey Dickerson, 2014 All Star Charlie Blackmon, 2014 Gold Glove winner D.J. LeMahieu, and the incredible Nolan Arenado. Plus, they’re trying to find a powerful spot for Wilin Rosario‘s bat, and have a halfway-decent catching tandem in Nick Hundley and Michael McKenry.

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The pitching staff, on the other hand…. well… reinforcements are (hopefully) coming soon.

The other key, besides health, will actually be seen in the first series in Milwaukee: the Rockies MUST play better on the road. The team won 21 road games last year, which is abysmal. That can’t continue. If they can play just slightly better on the road, and retain their home field advantage, things will start to turn in the right direction.

Corey Dickerson put up some awesome numbers last season. Does he have the talent to be the team’s next superstar?

Mar 25, 2015; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder Corey Dickerson (6) at bat in the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know if he’ll be a superstar in the mold of CarGo, but he could be a breakout in the mold of an Arenado.

I love his approach at the plate. This guy can hit. He’s a little suspect in the field and he doesn’t have a great arm, so the Rockies have him in left and will shift CarGo into right field to take advantage of his strong arm, but at the plate, Dickerson was a revelation last year. Remember, he nearly won a batting title (fell just short in BA and also a few plate appearances short of qualifying) in a lineup that didn’t have CarGo or Tulo, so he was hitting without that protection.

If CarGo and Tulo are healthy this year, look for Dickerson to get a lot of pitches to hit following them in the lineup, and look for him to continue his breakout at the plate.

There are a lot of young and talented bats on the roster, who is the one that will breakout this year?

I feel like a lot of the guys (Blackmon, Arenado, Dickerson) have already broken out, or are more established stars with a longer track record to begin with (Tulo, CarGo, Morneau). So if we remove those six from consideration, it’s a tough question. Look at Rafael Ynoa, one of the Rockies utility infielders. He’s no star by any means, but he could “break out” in the sense that he could establish himself as a very valuable utility man who can hit. He had a nice year in AAA last year before getting called up and tearing the cover off the ball, and I think he might continue to do that with the Rockies as a pinch-hitter/utility man extraordinaire (no, I refuse to think about Ynoa or anyone else playing every day in case Tulo goes down. No!)

How good is Jonathan Gray? With a pitching staff that lacks a true ace how long until he becomes the team’s ace?

Well the Rockies are hoping Gray will be up later this year, and between him and Eddie Butler, and down the road Tyler Anderson and Kyle Freeland, there is some reason to be excited about pitching prospects in Denver. Gray had a dominant spring until he blew up in his final start against the Cubs and cemented his fate to start the season in AAA. That’s a good thing; he’ll be able to develop and the Rockies could conceivably have control over him for an extra season (like the Cubs with Kris Bryant, and that whole debate).

With Jorge De La Rosa out to start the year, Eddie Butler having minor shoulder issues, and newcomer David Hale missing time early with an injury, the Rockies need the rotation in general to step up, and in a few weeks or months, they are going to need Gray to be ready to go. It’s his time.

With two former Brewers playing big role in the ‘pen who are some of the other arms that will be counted on and how good can the bullpen be?

Mar 1, 2015; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies pitcher John Axford poses for a portrait during photo day at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’ll be interesting to see how LaTroy Hawkins and John Axford do with the Rockies this year. Hawkins has already announced he will retire after the season, and both have closer experience, so conceivably, the Rockies are deeper in the bullpen than they’ve been in the past (especially with Boone Logan and Rafael Betancourt, too). I believe Hawkins, and maybe Betancourt or Adam Ottavino, will get the lion’s share of saves for the Rockies, but Axford had a good spring, so he is one to watch.

Other than that, watch Logan; he missed quite a bit of time last season and is in the second year of an expensive three-year deal; he has something to prove. Also, fellow lefty Christian Friedrich was converted to a reliever from a starter last season and did decently in a small sample size of innings; he could become a valuable left-handed reliever out of the pen.

Any injuries from the spring that could play a factor in the opening series?

Yes, unfortunately. The Rockies will be without Jorge De La Rosa due to a groin injury (he was supposed to start the home opener, but his departure bumped everyone else around, too). They also might be without Eddie Butler after he left a Spring Training game with a shoulder issue last week. However, Butler will start a game Saturday afternoon against the Mariners in Scottsdale, and could be part of the five-man rotation come Opening Day. With all those pitching issues, it looks like the Brewers will see Kyle Kendrick, Jordan Lyles, and probably Eddie Butler to open the season.

In the field, Dickerson has been held out of some games with lower-back tightness late this spring, but it’s admittedly a small issue that he’s said he would’ve played through in the regular season.

Where do you see the Rockies finishing this year?

I’d love to say surprising everybody and winning 85 games if the club stays healthy, but I just can’t see it happening. To do that, they’d need Tulo and CarGo to each play 145+ games, have career years, have Dickerson keep progressing, keep Arenado on the field, too, and have Jon Gray and Eddie Butler both have breakout years on the mound while maintaining a healthy and consistent bullpen that includes resurrections from Logan and Betancourt. I don’t think all those factors will come together in quite the way we’d all hope.

You are probably looking at a 70-75 win team, depending on a mixture of the above factors, as well as how they do on the road. With the Dodgers, Padres, and Giants the way they are, there’s no way the Rockies will challenge for the division, unfortunately.

You can follow the Rockies @roxpilefs or Bobby at @bobbydemuro or on Facebook

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