I was on the Tyler Colvin bandwagon, sure. Heck, I might have been driving the vehicle, collecting tickets, barking out landmarks and instructions. I enjoyed his mad run in early July and I implored fantasy owners to grab him in most formats. By land and by sea, by all means of social media, the campaign was on. (I even convinced one valued friend to pick up Colvin, making my pitch at the end of a phone call. That's so 1997.)
And I was there when the stock crashed in the second part of July, when Colvin hit a brief slump and eventually landed on the bench. I took the losses, answered the inquiries, shook my head and wondered what might have been. That wistful theme came back Wednesday night, when Colvin stroked three hits (including a pair of triples) in Colorado's loss to St. Louis.
But at the end of it all, I don't regret any of the analysis tied directly to the player. I still view Colvin as an intriguing 26-year-old post-hype kid, someone who quickly fell out of favor in Chicago after a couple of bad months (and it was partially an excused absence, considering that fluky bat injury he suffered). If Colvin ever lands a solidified job in Colorado, I'm interested. The player instincts were on the mark here.
Alas, there was an X-factor I knew about but didn't take seriously enough. Jim Tracy, Colorado manager. The source of all roto pain.
At times every fantasy manager falls into the trap: you project playing time and role assignment the way you want it to shake down, underselling what the team might have in mind. We see Jamaal Charles going off as a part-timer in 2010 and, naturally, we demand more playing time (this happened regularly with Pierre Thomas, too). We see Aroldis Chapman throwing pellets and we expect him to get pushed into the rotation. We see a Washington running back we like and we insist Mike Shanahan, surely, will see it our way and stop jerking everyone around. We see a middle-relief hero who's untouchable, and we wonder why he isn't moving ahead of the soft-tossing closer, taking over the handshakes.
There's a lesson here that most of you know, but it's worth repeating and relearning: we have to analyze the coaches and managers along with the players in this numbers racket. As much as we'd love for all coaching decisions to come down to benevolence and fairness, the real world doesn't always run like that. Some managers fall in love with veterans even when it's nearly impossible to defend. Some coaches favor platoons and player competition, no matter how dynamic one option might look. Some pilots are patient when a high-visibility player hits a slump, while others might make a change with the slightest inclination. The styles are all over the map.
Tracy already had an established rep as a knee-jerk reaction manager and a veteran-favoring skipper, so it's no great shock that Colvin fell from grace as quickly as he did. He shouldn't care that Colvin slumped for a week and a half, that's something that happens to every ballplayer now and then. The kid has all of 11 starts since the All-Star break, and now he's back behind Todd Helton on the depth chart.
To be fair, the Rockies are in a bind with the Helton situation. The lefty swinger is 38 and in the midst of a cliff season: you can't carry a .238/.337/.398 stick at the corner. It's a good thing Coors Field has been there to break the fall; Helton is hitting .208 with nine RBIs on the road. There's nothing to see here any more.
Unfortunately, Helton is still the face of the franchise, a locally-beloved player who's logged 16 years with the team. Coors Field has Helton-themed food stands. The borderline Hall of Famer is still under contract through the 2013 season. It's a sticky situation when the branded star becomes the elephant in the room; the name still carries respect, but the numbers don't.
It doesn't take a weatherman to tell how the wind blows. The team is a 37-65 train wreck, hopelessly out of all playoff contention. It's time to see what your young players can do. It's time to shift into evaluation mode. It's time to make the future your focus.
Fitting Colvin into the lineup shouldn't be hard. He can play all three outfield spots and he can play first base. Although he didn't hit lefties well in Chicago, he's carrying a .293/.311/.534 slash against them in limited time this year. He has the third-highest OPS on the roster this year (among players with 100 or more at-bats), and ranks second in home OPS and second in road OPS. He's one of the team's best offensive players, and yet he's still seem as a part-time guy by the man making the decisions.
If I ran the club, I'd use Helton just once or twice a week at the most. Let Colvin play first base or right field (depending on where you want Michael Cuddyer). See what the 26-year-old prospect is capable of.
Alas, the Rockies don't seem to have much of a plan right now. They just reorganized the responsibilities of GM Dan O'Dowd; it sure sounds like a demotion to me. They only moved one veteran at the trading deadline, Marco Scutaro; they wanted to ship closer Rafael Betancourt somewhere but nothing went down. I'll be shocked if Tracy is still here at the beginning of next season. Winter changes appear imminent, in many areas.
So it looks like I can still hold onto my Tyler Colvin dream (or my Colvin delusion), call it what you will. I just need a new regime (that shares my view of the world) to take over.
Everyone has a rant inside of them, brewing somewhere. There is mine. Toss around your Colorado thoughts and I'll add some bullets shortly.
• Yes, the Rangers have a loaded lineup. You bet, the Athletics have a nice pitching rotation. But sometimes a talented youngster merits a call-up from the minors on talent and results alone, no matter if there's an obvious opening or not. With that in mind, let's talk about the two buzzy callups on the docket: Texas 3B Mike Olt and Oakland SP Dan Straily.
Olt's making a double-jump, after putting together 95 superb games at Double-A Frisco (.288/.398/.579). The 23-year-old corner (and occasional outfielder) was tabbed as the No. 43 prospect by Baseball America into this year, and he was a sandwich pick back in 2010. Are the Rangers finally ready to marginalize Michael Young? Is Mitch Moreland going to lose playing time? Talk to us, Ron Washington. I can't imagine the Rangers would make this move without planning on giving Olt a chance to play a fair amount, but it's not my decision to make.
Straily showed unpolished talent at a handful of Class-A stops last year, but the 23-year-old righty has hit the fast track in 2012. He's made 22 starts between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a 2.60 ERA and 0.969 WHIP over 138.1 electric innings. The strikeout rate grabs your attention: he's whiffing 11.4 men per nine innings, and that clip was static at both levels. The A's will start him Friday at home against Toronto, with Travis Blackley shifting to the bullpen.
In most Yahoo! leagues, we have to play the waiting game on Olt and Straily (I hear you, Homer: the waiting game sucks). You'll see these guys play before you have to make a waiver decision. I'll give you my on-field impressions in Twitter and in this space, and I might put Straily on the primary set for Friday night's slate.
• The buy-low case for Cameron Maybin has been open for several weeks, even if his output numbers haven't been supporting the story. His walk rate is up this year, strikeouts are down, and his BABIP has collapsed by 71 points. His line-drive rate has also dipped a little bit, but nothing substantial. A wrist injury also complicated things in late July.
Perhaps things are finally clearing up for Maybin now — he's clubbed a pair of homers this week (one Thursday) and he's still a factor on the bases (20-for-24 there). Maybe it's anecdotal noise, but let's keep in mind the monster run he went on during 2011's second half (.268-44-4-19-28, and that's in a modest 63 games). Maybe you can't get him dirt cheap any longer, but this is still someone to be open-minded on. Maybin is unowned in 59 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Post-hype sleepers are the patron saint of roto success, so we should mention a word or two about Brett Wallace. The 25-year-old cornerman (he turns 26 in a few weeks) whacked a couple of homers at Milwaukee, the lone bright spots in another blowout loss for the Astros. Wallace now has a .333/.418/.646 line for his brief time in the majors this year, with four homers in 48 at-bats. He's also struck out 18 times, an obvious concern.
Houston was in no hurry to promote Wallace this summer, despite his nifty run at Triple-A (.300/.379/.506, 16 homers over 86 games). Granted, he's old for the level and we're talking about someone who has 315 games in Triple-A; grain of salt rules apply. I'd prefer to focus on the pedigree part of the story: Wallace was the 13th overall pick in 2008, and he twice appeared as a Top 40 prospect in Baseball America. Maybe he's ready to put something together. Wally Cleaver is ready to add in 98 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Read the rest at: Veterans Stadium: Jim Tracy dashes the Tyler Colvin dream