The Denver Nuggets’ impressive playoff run against the Los Angeles Lakers ended this past weekend, a loss that leaves our city with only one major professional team to get us through the summer. So, um, how about those Colorado Rockies?

Well, for starters, the team is below .500 at both home and on the road this season, much of the starting pitching has imploded, and the team still hasn’t addressed its long-standing problems at both second and third bases. Today, the team is 13-21 (the Rockies have lost nine of its past 10 games) and Colorado is near the bottom of the National League West standings.

Things might look glum right now, but Jeff Aberle—a writer from the Rockies blog Purple Row—sees reasons for hope. Aberle says the team could be a playoff contender. Is he being too optimistic?

5280: How would you assess the Rockies’ year so far?

Aberle: “If you’re comparing this team to last season’s team—which I think is fair to do—I don’t think you can be disappointed. It’s important to note that there has been some good hitting, and it’s been pretty consistent. The problem is with the pitching. It’s gone downhill quite a bit—mostly because the starting pitchers aren’t lasting long in games—and that’s going to hurt in the long-run when relievers are coming into the game early time after time. You’ve got, I think, the most-used bullpen in all of baseball. That can catch up with a team.

In reality, I think the front office is treating this year as a bridge to 2013. You’ve got Drew Pomeranz and Alex White as potentially good, young starting pitchers, and [minor league third baseman] Nolan Arenado is going to come in at some point. The team right now has some stop-gap solutions in other places to get through the season: [starting pitcher] Jeremy Guthrie and [catcher] Ramon Hernandez are a couple of guys who are just holding a roster spot until next year. Put Jamie Moyer in there, too, though he hasn’t been bad on this team. He’s actually one of their best pitchers right now.”

5280: So you believe in the next group of prospects?

Aberle: “We’ll have to see. But I think [general manager] Dan O’Dowd has a lot of young starting pitchers he can plug into the rotation—and that has to count for something. I think you’ve also got to look at Jhoulys Chacin, who underperformed expectations this season and isn’t with the major league team right now. Maybe he can turn things around. There’s a lot to like with some of these young guys, but it’s going to take a while before you see what this team has.”

5280: The team is 13-17 right now [as of Friday]. What’s the bright spot here?

Aberle: “I like the way [starting pitcher] Juan Nicasio has played. He hasn’t been exactly great, but let’s be honest—it’s an amazing story that the guy is even pitching right now. And you have to be encouraged by Pomeranz’s last few starts. I’ve been encouraged by the early performance from [outfielder] Michael Cuddyer. And put [catcher] Wilin Rosario in there, too. He has shown a lot of ability, and I think that has to be encouraging for Rockies fans.”

5280: I don’t hear Troy Tulowitzki’s name in that list.

Aberle: “Tulo can be a god for stretches, where he’s hitting everything out of the park. But by nature, he’s a pretty streaky guy. He has struggled somewhat on the offensive side, and he hasn’t looked the same in the field. For any fan, I think that’s frustrating to see because you know there are some general managers out there who would still say they’d build an entire team around him. He’s that good at times. But then you watch him commit two errors in one game. Who am I to know, but I have to think that this is mental and that he’ll work through it. He has been too good in the past.”

5280: Where do you see the team going this year?

Aberle: “On the offensive side, I think things will be fine. You have to believe that Tulowitzki will play better; Carlos Gonzalez has been hitting well. Plus, you play half the games at Coors Field, so I don’t see a drop-off happening.

Then you have the starting pitching. That’s the wildcard. [Starting pitcher] Jorge De La Rosa might be returning in the near future, and he’ll be a great option because he’ll get some innings. Can Chacin return to that form he had in 2010? Then you’ve got those pitching prospects, Pomeranz, White, Christian Friedrich. One or more of these guys will have to distance themselves—in a good way—from the rest. At the least, if a couple of these guys can be league-average pitchers, I think that would be a good thing.

If things start to come together—if De La Rosa can come in and help, if Tulowitzki puts these struggles behind him—you’re looking at a team that can win between 80 and 90 games, which definitely puts them in the wild card race. At the least, the team is in the playoff discussion at the end of the year, and I think most fans would take that.”

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