2017 MLB Preview: NL West- Colorado Rockies
2016 Record- 75-87 (3rd Place)
Manager: Bud Black
2016 was another typical year for the Colorado Rockies, who led the National League with 845 runs scored but put up a team ERA of 4.91. This has been an ongoing issue for the Rockies, who have a difficult time attracting pitchers to play in the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the game.
Nolan Arenado was at their center of their offensive production last season, who led the National League with 41 home runs and 133 RBI’s while posting a .294 average. The soon to be 26 year old also continued his excellent play at third base, picking up his fourth consecutive Gold Glove award. Second baseman D.J. LeMahieu set career highs in just about every offensive category, winning the NL batting title with a .348 batting average. Much of his success can be attributed to his .391 average in games played at Coors Field, as opposed to a .303 average on the road.
Shortstop Trevor Story exploded onto the scene in his rookie season, hitting seven home runs in his first six games in the majors. He would go on to lead all shortstops in the National League with 27 home runs, which could turn into 40 home runs as he enters his second MLB season at just 24 years of age.
The team added yet another force to their lineup this offseason, signing Ian Desmond to a five-year deal to play first base for the club. Desmond is coming off of a comeback season, where he hit .285 with 22 HR and 86 RBI’s on a one-year “prove it” deal with Texas. He will begin the season on the DL however after fracturing his hand in spring training, which will likely have Mark Reynolds starting a first base on opening day. Gerardo Parra is also likely to be in the opening day lineup, whose job looked like it could be in jeopardy as the Rockies look for ways to get their talented young outfielder David Dahl at bats. Parra was a disappointment in the first year of the four-year deal he signed with the team, hitting a career-low .253 and appearing in only 102 games after suffering a nasty ankle sprain. Dahl could be in jeopardy to miss Opening Day, who is continuing to struggle with a stress reaction in one of his ribs.
Carlos Gonzalez managed to stay healthy last season, who saw a significant decrease in power hitting just 25 home runs (he hit 40 in 2015), but finished with his highest batting average (.298) since 2013. The Rockies will almost certainly deal Gonzalez by the trade deadline if they find themselves out of the wild card mix, especially with Gonzalez in a contract year. This would also free up space in their outfield for Dahl and their top outfield prospect Raimel Tapia. It’s unlikely that the team parts ways with Charlie Blackmon, coming off a season where he hit .324 with 29 HR and 82 RBI’s, earning him a Silver Slugger award. The asking price for the 30-year-old signed through 2018 should be through the roof, making it less likely that he will find himself in a new uniform.
The injury of their top catching prospect Tom Murphy pretty much confirms Tony Wolters as their everyday catcher to start the season. The 24-year-old has already displayed his excellent defensive abilities, but will need to show some sort of potential on offense to hold off Murphy as the season goes on.
The Rockies’ already depleted rotation took a huge hit this spring with their ace Chad Bettis found to have reoccurring cancer, leaving him out indefinitely as he undergoes chemotherapy. This puts 27-year-old Tyler Chatwood at the top of their rotation, who went 12-9 last season with a 3.87 ERA over 27 games started. He will look to keep his ERA under 4.00 over a full season this year, which is not such a common achievement in Coors Field.
Jon Gray showed improvement in his second season in the majors, but could still use an immense amount of improvement after finishing last season with a 4.61 ERA over 168 innings. The team’s first round pick in the 2013 draft, the Rockies still have high expectation for the 25-year-old as he continues to develop his arsenal of pitches. Tyler Anderson proved to be the most promising of the Rockies’ former first round picks, posting a 3.54 ERA over 114.1 innings last season. This was a great comeback for the now 27-year-old, who missed all of 2015 after fracturing his elbow in spring training.
The final two spots in the rotation are not set in stone, however there looks to be two leading candidates as spring training goes on. A strong spring from the 22-year-old German Marquez will likely earn him a rotation spot, who struggled in six major league appearances last season but is still regarded as a top pitching prospect in baseball (ranked #73 by MLB.com). Nobody expected 23-year-old southpaw Kyle Freeland to be a contender in the competition, but he looks to be the favorite to earn the final spot in their rotation as yet another former previous first round selection. Freeland must maintain his success of the spring to keep his job, with top pitching prospect Jeff Hoffman beginning the season in Triple-A and 25-year-old Harrison Musgrave looking like another legitimate option to enter the rotation at some point in the season.
Greg Holland will once again be a big league closer after missing all of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Rockies brought in Holland on a one-year-deal, and are hoping he can return to the once dominant closer he was for Kansas City.*
Bottom Line: The Rockies will continue to be an offensive powerhouse in 2017, however this won’t be enough to compensate for their weak rotation. While their rotation has a lot of promising young arms, the inexperience of some of these young pitchers paired along with the extremely difficult conditions of Coors Field will leave them just short of being a contending team.
*Stats and Info from Baseball Reference
-Featured Image from Zimbo.com