Rockies fans, brace yourself for another year of ecstatic highs and damning lows.
This preview is going to be broken down into three parts, each with three sections so that way it covers players that I believe will play a major factor in either the rotation, offense or bullpen this season for Colorado. This team is in a unique place; similar to last year the team can go either way. Let’s go more in depth, shall we?
Kyle Freeland: Kyle Freeland was top 5 in Cy Young voting last year and should be expected to produce similar numbers this season. Even if he has a fairly high 4.22 xFIP, statistics like FIP are never truly accurate for Coors Field. What matters here is 202 IP and 0.76 HR/9. He is a fan favorite and one of the best pitchers to watch in baseball.
German Marquez: Perhaps the pitcher with the best stuff in the rotation, German Marquez is the best pitcher on the Rockies right now. He had a 10.56 K/9 last season, as well as a whopping 124 ERA+. German Marquez could be a very good underdog Cy Young candidate if he stays healthy.
Jon Gray: He’s still the ace of the future, at least sometimes. He seems to have figured out what gave him a ERA north of 5 last year and all he really has to do is piece everything together again to show that 2017 isn’t a fluke. His xFIP makes him look better, last season he had a 3.48 xFIP which makes sense considering he did have some bad luck. The former number 3 overall pick has largely disappointed in his major league tenure, highlighted by a demotion to the minors in the middle of 2018, but he’ll look to earn and keep his spot in the rotation.
Jeff Hoffman: One of the few, if not only, things to work out from the Tulo trade back in 2015 is Jeff Hoffman. But, the numbers don’t look so hot. He has yet to pan out fully, showing flashes of brilliance at the Major League level but always being relegated to an odd man out in the rotation. This year, there could be more opportunities for him to play at the Major League level, whether it be in the rotation or as a long reliever. He was the 9th overall pick for a reason, and hopefully he gets more time to play in the majors this season. Last year in AAA, his xFIP was also over 4, he has yet to have an ERA or FIP under 4.88 in his Major League tenure. Hopefully he isn’t a bust.
Chad Bettis: Chad Bettis is difficult. His groundball numbers are not quite on the level that other Rockies starting pitchers are, as well as the fact that he was moved from the rotation to the bullpen at a point last year. He also has a meh 5.98 K/9. He’s still a starter, at least in my opinion, but out of all the options the Rockies have, I am not very high on him as someone who can flourish at Coors Field, at least not as a top tier starter.
Tyler Anderson: Tyler Anderson was looking like a dark horse for Cy Young in the first half after his brilliant June and July. However, he followed that with a massive fall in August, which was caused in part by allowing 9 home runs in 5 games started that month, leading to an ERA north of 11. If he can show us the same pitcher that he was in July, then he will be one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball. Just please, cool it with the long ball.
Antonio Senzatela: Tony, as I like to call him, has been a victim of too many starters, not enough spots, which was seen in both of his two seasons in Colorado. Though slightly over half his appearances were starts, that still leaves slightly under half of them to come from the bullpen. His xFIP tells the story of a bottom 3 starter, with around a 4 xFIP in the majors. Still, Senzatela is a starter, not a long reliever, and the Rockies may have to make a choice about Senzatela soon.
Yency Almonte: I have nothing against Yency, in fact I like him a lot. I like him a lot as a Chad Green-esque reliever, especially with the already huge logjam in the starting rotation, but he should never be in consideration to get starts for this team.
Chi Chi Gonzalez: Chi Chi, despite one of the best first names ever, is one of those people who would come up perhaps in September and eat up some innings, I trust Bud Black enough with the rotation that he will not be used in an important role, at least not yet.
Nolan Arenado: There isn’t much to say here, he’s Nolan Arenado, the best third baseman in baseball (sorry JF), and once his contract runs out, it is likely we call him the greatest player to ever be on the Colorado Rockies. The man has had over a 120 WRC+ every year since 2015, having a steady increase for each year. He had some unusual slumps in the previous year but, he is still Nolan Arenado.
Charlie Blackmon: Charlie is consistent. He is one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball, but he also has power. His issue, especially last year at times, was defense but his offensive value really makes him a valuable part of the Rockies core for years to come.
Tony Wolters: The problem with Tony Wolters is not him as a player, he is a solid backup catcher with good defensive skills and a mediocre bat. In that sense, he is a lock because what you get is what you get. The issue is that the Rockies do not have a number one catcher on their roster, shoving Wolters into a larger role with the team.
Ryan McMahon: This was a difficult one because I really love RyMac. He is a former top prospect, with versatility and flashes of brilliance at the major league level. He has been tearing up the Cactus League, if that means anything. Once he can consistently hit, he will be one of the strongest hitters in the lineup, with crucial versatility in the infield.
Brendan Rodgers: The question is if: If there is a roster spot, if there are regular AB’s, if he can come up and slug. He’s still a top prospect, and this should be the year Brendan Rogers finally arrives to Denver.
Garrett Hampson: Hampson has been good; even if it was just a cup of coffee with the Rockies, he had a .396 OBP in 24 games. He fills in holes the team needs to fill, whether it be in the outfield or to rest an infielder. The key is regular appearances. If he has those, then he will produce at least average numbers.
David Dahl: David Dahl has the potential to be a crucial player; at times he has shown that he is one of the better players on the team. But, he has yet to play a full season. The biggest question is attributed to his health. His skills will develop even more with increased health. Remember, David Dahl debuted in 2016!
Raimel Tapia: Mucho swagger is in the house! Besides his great personality, Tapia has always been the odd man out in the outfield, relegated to backup or to “develop” in Albuquerque. Last season in his brief stints for the Rockies, the offense wasn’t impressive but the speedy outfielder stole 21 bases in 105 AAA games last season. But, since Mike Tauchman was traded, it appears that Tapia is going to have a chance to be in the Majors more often this season as at least the fourth outfielder.
Chris Iannetta: Chris is 35 and a catcher, which doesn’t always bode well, especially on an NL team with 3 first basemen on the 25 man roster. His SLG% dropped from .511 to .385 last season, his first with the Rockies since 2011. That drop-off is difficult for the Rockies to handle, as he was always a power hitting catcher but it appears that his power is gone. Perhaps he can turn it around and provide some more pop.
Daniel Murphy: I wrote a whole article about his homophobic beliefs but, besides that, Murphy is due for regression. Even if he moves to first, he is going to regress. I hope he hits home runs though, as people have begun to donate money to LGBTQ+ organizations on his behalf after every homer.
Ian Desmond: Ian Desmond is a great person. He has a wonderful personality and does a lot for the community that he is playing in. With that being said, he is being payed around 14 million dollars to be a below replacement player that has regular starts. He blocked Ryan McMahon for a lot of 2018 and has fell off a massive cliff since signing that large deal with the Rockies before the 2017 season. Looking up these stats made me wince. For someone who started 160 games, a .236/.307/.422 slash sums up everything. To think, that money could have been used to bolster up the bullpen this offseason.
Pat Valaika: He has had a decent Spring Training, but Patty Barrels had a really poor 2018. In 68 games, he had a whopping 16 OPS+. There are better utility options in Garrett Hampson and Ryan McMahon, please don’t let Pat fill a spot on the 25 roster.
Scott Oberg: Scott Oberg is the best reliever on the Rockies right now. He had a 2.01 ERA in the second half, with 36 strikeouts in 31 games. He has finally emerged, even if no one outside of Colorado really appreciates him yet.
Seunghwan Oh: Oh is sturdy; he can come out of the bullpen and, most of the time, hold the lead. A solid 2.65 ERA with just as solid peripherals, he is going to do more of the same, no matter the rumors of him wanting to be in Korea.
Jake McGee: Jake McGee got his payday after a solid 2017. With an upper 90’s fastball and good potential, he was signed to a 3 year, 27 million dollar deal in that offseason. Since that deal, his fastball velocity dropped 1 mph and he gave up 9 home runs on the fastball. He needs to get his fastball back, and if he does, he is a threat out of the bullpen. Until then, he is unstable.
Chris Rusin: Chris Rusin is actually the definition of unstable. He had a 2.65 ERA in 2017 and looked like the future anchor of this bullpen who could pitch in any inning. In 2018, his BB% doubled, his FIP increased, and it was not pretty to watch. Even if the metrics don’t match with ERA in 2017, he had something special then. Maybe it was a fluke, but I am still holding out hope in Chris.
Wade Davis: He was supposed to be the lockdown closer, the guy they needed to ensure that their leads were safe. Sadly, he just was not as good as he was at sea level. Perhaps he needed time to adjust, but he is still seen as a top closer of this decade. He will return to form.
D.J Johnson: D.J has won the last remaining D.J competition in Colorado. He has had a really good spring and is looking to start the season in the bullpen. He has potential, but the second best beard on the teamjust needs the stability to flourish.
Harrison Musgrave: Harrison Musgrave is in a similar boat to D.J’s. He has had a less than exceptional spring, but got more time in the majors last year. He also needs to figure out some stuff at the Major League level, but the question is if it’ll happen in Colorado.
Bryan Shaw: The less said about Bryan Shaw the better. He had a -0.3 fWAR last season, but that does not describe the pain that was watching 2018 Bryan Shaw pitch. Cleveland may have overworked him, pushed him too far, because he should not have a 1.5 HR/9 in 54 innings.
Mike Dunn: Mike Dunn has struggled to stay healthy as a Rockie. Even if he has had a lights out Spring Training, what we have seen in the regular season has been nothing short of disastrous. I hope that Mike Dunn proves everyone wrong, especially me. The statistics may be in an incredibly small sample size but, they do not look so hot; a 9 ERA and 6.87 xFIP, even with just 17 IP is pretty bad.
The Rockies this season are difficult to predict. Some say they are a .500 team and some say they are going to overtake the Dodgers and finally win an NL West title. This team can go either way as there are so many questions on the roster. They need to let the young players develop, whether that means a mediocre season or a third consecutive postseason appearance does not matter. The Dodgers are strong, but grow weaker every year. I am excited to watch more heart pounding Rockies baseball.