Spring training is just days away, and the Colorado Rockies are coming into the 2010 season relatively strong at most positions on the field. But could high expectations derail them?

Managers and executives around the National League West are saying the Rockies are the team to beat for the division title this year, citing remarkable depth on the roster and a pitching rotation that should win plenty of games. But as The Denver Post’s Troy Renck points out, the Rockies have historically “treated expectations like plutonium.” But not this year.

As part of the Post’s spring preview, Renck breaks down five issues the team needs to address in order to win the division. The most important will be the return of pitcher Jeff Francis, who missed all of last season with a bum shoulder. He was replaced in the lineup by Jason Marquis, but Francis needs to come back and win at least 10 games to help the squad succeed this year.

Another issue is reducing strikeouts, something that killed the Rockies at various points last year. The worst offenders were third baseman Ian Stewart and second baseman Clint Barmes, who seemed to always be swinging for the fences rather than putting the ball in play.

It’s one thing for the hometown paper to give the Rockies love, but the national press is fawning, as well. Peter Gammons, a columnist for MLB.com and one of the best-known baseball scribes in the country, believes the Rockies deserve the same respect as other teams that have made the playoffs two of the last three years. The NL West was (rightly) called the “NL Worst” for years, but last year the division’s teams had a .533 winning percentage against teams outside of their division—the best in the National League.