Posted on April 3, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
Quietly, the Colorado Rockies have become one of the more intriguing teams in the National League. They’ve made steady progress the past couple of years, and at least internally, the club believes it can compete in 2017. Is that blind optimism or can Colorado really make some noise in 2017?
Traditionally, the Rockies have trouble putting together a competent pitching staff, but heading into 2017, the team has an intriguing collection of young pitchers. Jon Gray will lead the rotation. He has true ace potential and showed glimpses of that at times last season. Tyler Anderson and Tyler Chatwood will complement him at the top of Colorado’s rotation after both posted ERAs below 4 last season, setting them up to be reliable starters for the Rockies this season.
Unfortunately, the Rockies will lose their most experienced starter, Chad Bettis, at least at the start of the season while he undergoes treatment for cancer. As a result, the Rockies will have to depend on rookies like Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela to hold down the back end of their starting rotation. However, both are well-regarded prospects who should grow into competent big league pitchers.
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In addition to hopefully getting Bettis back at some point, top prospects like Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez should be able to contribute at some point this season. This gives the Rockies one of the youngest and most intriguing collections of starters in baseball.
Colorado’s bullpen was the worst in baseball last year, but the Rockies are hoping to turn that around in 2017. The addition of Greg Holland should give the Rockies a bona fide closer, assuming he comes back healthy from Tommy John surgery. Colorado also signed Mike Dunn to give them a proven lefty who can be an asset in the Rockies bullpen.
Holland and Dunn will join a bullpen that includes Adam Ottavino and Jake McGee, who were two of the team’s most reliable relievers last season. The Rockies are also hopeful that Chad Qualls can have a bounce back season after struggling during his first year in Colorado in 2016.
The Rockies may not have one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball, but if the additions of Holland and Dunn pan out as the team hopes, Colorado’s bullpen could be middle of the pack, which would be a huge improvement from last season.
Scoring runs is rarely an issue for the Rockies, and the same should be true in 2017, at least when the team gets healthy. Tom Murphy, David Dahl, and Ian Desmond, the team’s top free agent acquisition this winter, will all be out early in the season, which will force the Rockies to make some lineup adjustments until those players can return.
When everyone’s healthy, the Rockies will have Desmond, Dahl, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, and Trevor Story in the middle of their lineup. That’s five players who are all capable of hitting at least 20 home runs. That list doesn’t even include leadoff man Charlie Blackmon, who is coming off a career year in 2016. Second baseman D.J. LeMahieu is also worth mentioning after having a breakout season last year.
The Rockies are usually one of the best offensive teams in baseball, but this year’s team has the most fire power Colorado fans have seen in quite some time. Gonzalez, Blackmon, and Arenado are all established stars while Dahl has a chance to breakout the way Story and LeMahieu did last year. With Desmond being added to the mix, once he recovers from his broken hand, the Rockies will have one of the most intimidating lineups in baseball.
The Rockies won 75 games last year, a seven-win improvement from the previous season and similar progress in 2017 is certainly possible. Offensively, Colorado is as scary as ever offensively and the team’s young pitching staff will be fascinating to watch this year, as they possess great potential.
Expect the Rockies to finish 81-81 this season. If things break well, the Rockies are a team that can compete for a wild card spot. However, with Bettis unavailable for the time being, the team’s rotation lacks experience despite possessing talent. There’s also uncertainty regarding the bullpen, which will hold the Rockies back from being a true playoff contender in 2017.