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Rockies Team Health Report 2011

Is Keith Duggar the most important man on the Rockies or the least? During the past five seasons, the Rockies have whipsawed from World Series contenders to pretenders and back again. Those moves have come in lockstep with the health of the players, most notably Troy Tulowitzki. It's more than just the key shortstop however, as the whipsaw ride that the Rockies' injury stats have taken over the decade track their winning and losing perfectly. It calls up the eternal question of luck vs. skill and how much even the best medical staff can affect the injuries a team suffers. Some teams seem to go back and forth, like the Rockies, ending up at exactly the midpoint over a broader sample but near the bottom last year. That suggests allowing the random nature of traumatic injuries to be just a bit too random. With a risk profile heading into 2011 that's not too high and not too low, the Rockies should be able to control things. Like the team on the field, 2011 is going to tell us a lot about how good this medical staff is ... or isn't.

(HEAD TRAINER: Keith Duggar; FIVE YEAR RANK: 15; 2010 RANK: 26)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
GREEN LIGHT
2B Jose Lopez
Lopez is going to share the position with Eric Young Jr., so the playing time is going to be low enough to keep him deep in the green. It doesn't make him a good fantasy option, even in Colorado.

SP Ubaldo Jimenez
Jimenez is reminiscent of Pedro Martinez. He's not as dominant, but as a skinny guy with a shifty fastball and a great sense of how to pitch, he's also more durable than you'd expect. Pedro was solid until he was in his mid-30's and was just peaking at the same age (26) as Jiminez. With three years above 190 IP, Jiminez might be the first pitcher who's both good in Coors and lasts at Coors.

SP Jason Hammel
Keep his innings down and the expectations low and Hammel's a solid back-of-rotation guy who'll take the ball every fifth day. Of course, it's not just inefficiency that holds his IP down, it's ineffectiveness. Opportunity is a knife that cuts both ways.

RP Matt Lindstrom
I hate this rating and think Lindstrom should be much higher given his back problems and injury history. The System thinks the fact that he's always come back from them is a plus. He's a possible sleeper, will get some save opps, but I still don't like the risk of Lindstrom and Huston Street both being out at the same time, which is what bringing Lindstrom to Colorado was all about.

Also Green:
CF Dexter Fowler
YELLOW LIGHT
C Chris Iannetta
The extended struggle of getting Iannetta to the starting role looks a lot like the ups and downs of injuries to The System. Iannetta's risky, in the sense that he's a catcher, lacks solid backup, and hasn't done it over any extended basis. The lack of options behind him and his home field make him a decent second-tier catcher pick.

SS Troy Tulowitzki
The Rockies have Tulowitzki locked up for a long time, but was that the smart play? He put up MVP-caliber numbers, but he also suffered the kind of injuries that he's had all of his career. Those "hustle injuries" -- a broken wrist from diving in on the ball and a groin strain trying to beat out a throw -- are signs that the player is playing at their physical maximum. Tulowitzki's likely to see more of these as he ages, meaning the contract he signed is essentially a really expensive insurance contract for him in case one of them is serious.

3B Ian Stewart
Stewart's slight step back statistically is the result of an oblique injury that came at the end of the season. The timing suggests fatigue contributed to the injury. Stewart's never been able to put up a full season at any level, so expecting him to do it at this stage is just silly. It doesn't make him a bad third baseman or a bad pick. The Rockies are backing him with Ty Wigginton, which is a pretty smart move.

LF Sean Smith
Smith is a platoon outfielder who lacks a platoon partner this season. He's really an ideal fourth outfielder inflated by his home park, but the Rockies' lack of depth is going to expose Smith as much as any of their players.

RF Carlos Gonzalez
Gonzalez exploded last season and immediately becomes a first-round fantasy option. The risk here is that he's only got one full season at the major league level. Minor knee and hand injuries actually held him back a bit last year in power and speed, so there's actually more upside than many realize.

SP Jorge De La Rosa
De La Rosa always had talent, but injuries and inconsistencies caused the Brewers to give up on him. The Rockies should collect pitchers like that on the cheap, in case they come together the way De La Rosa did in '09. The risk is that the injuries and inconsistencies will show up again, like they did in '10, but the reward is well worth the risk. De La Rosa's finger injury shouldn't be a problem for him in '11 but the odds say something will be.

SP Jhoulys Chacin
Chacin is a groundball machine with control issues. If he can keep the former while fixing the latter--or at least getting a bit more efficient -- he should be a good back of rotation guy for the Rockies. His risk is that he'll need to exceed the 180 mark to make a full season here.
RED LIGHT
1B Todd Helton
Helton bounced off a 2009 comeback in precisely the fashion that most worries medheads. The back injury cost him power and bat speed, though he's kept his good batting eye. Without the power, Helton's just Lyle Overbay with walks and back injuries linger.

SP Aaron Cook
There's a simple pattern with Cook. If he goes 200 innings or more, he drops off the next year. At 33, the question is whether he'll ever get back to that level or if he can be useful at the 150 IP level. The odds work against him in both cases and the multi-system breakdowns he had last year make even a lowered threshold unlikely.

CL Huston Street
Street pitched through broken ribs after being hit by a comebacker, in large part because he didn't like being tagged as injury-prone. Fact is, he is and his football mentality doesn't help things. He's like Chipper Jones, in that he often tries to come back to quickly from minor things, only hurting himself more. With Lindstrom available, the Rockies would do better to keep tighter reins on Street when he gets injured next time.
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