The Rockies dismissed manager Walt Weiss after four losing seasons. He was replaced by veteran manager Bud Black, who himself led his Padres teams to losing seasons in seven of the nine he was there. The Rockies are coming off a 75-87 record, one that could have looked better using the Pythagorean win/ loss record (an estimated win/ loss record based off of run differential.) The Rockies have, for years, had an issue with giving up a lot of runs. In fact, in spite of a generally consistent offensive team, they always tended to have very bad pitching, which commonly led them to give up many runs than they could score themselves.
If you are down on the Rockies, it will not be because of their offense, which happened to be one of the best in baseball last season. And their pitching still managed to give up 15 more runs than they scored. The Rockies led the National League in runs scored (845), hits (1544), doubles (318), batting average (.275), slugging percentage (.457), and on base plus slugging (.794). Of course, on the opposite side of things is the team's pitching, which ranked near the bottom of the National League in hits allowed, runs allowed, and home runs allowed, as well as strikeouts.
The Rockies have been trying to develop their own starting pitching for years. It has been nearly impossible for them to add good starters through free agency, as all good starting pitchers and their agents have colluded together to avoid the high altitude of Colorado. That being said, for the first time in years, the Rockies may be able to start a season with three quality major league starting pitchers. Chad Bettis won 14 games and led the Rockies in games started (32) and innings pitched (186). 25 year-old Jonathan Gray made 29 starts and led the Rockies in strikeouts (185) and the Rockies' starters in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (9.9). Tyler Chatwood seems to finally be healthy, appearing in more games and making more starts in 2016 than he had since he was a rookie with the Los Angeles Angels in 2011. Surely, the last two spots have some question marks, But top pitching prospect Jeff Hoffman may be ready this season and the team is high on another young starter, German Marquez. Left handed pitcher Tyler Anderson pitched effectively in his 19 starts last season and fellow lefty Chris Rusin may finally be ready to turn the corner.
The Rockies continued to be aggressive in their pursuit of relief pitching, adding former All Star closer Greg Holland and lefty specialist Mike Dunn to the mix. Right hander Adam Ottavino burst onto the scene last season, finishing with a 2.64 ERA and striking out 35 batters in just 27 innings pitched. Left hander Jake McGee had a disappointing first season with the Rockies, but has a high 90's fastball and a solid track record. Veterans Jason Motte and Chad Qualls try to prove they have something left with Carlos Estevez, Jordan Lyles and Scott Oberg attempting to stick in the majors, Right hander Miguel Castro has more upside than the prior three mentioned and hope is, he can be pitching in the back of the team's bullpen before too long.
The Rockies surprised many when they signed Ian Desmond to a large free agent contract. Desmond hit .285 last year while playing center and left fields for the Texas Rangers. One of the Rockies biggest strengths is their depth in both the outfield and infield- for the exception of catcher and first base and maybe... shortstop. Of course, Trevor Story hit 27 home runs last season and had an OPS of .909 in 97 games. If he struggles or gets hurt, the Rockies should consider Desmond as a depth piece. Their projected outfield is Charlie Blackmon (.324, 29, 82, .933), Carlos Gonzalez (.298, 25, 100, .855) and 2016 rookie David Dahl (.315, 7, 24, .859). Combining his MLB, Double- A, and Triple- A numbers, he scored a total of 112 runs last season, with 39 doubles, 25 home runs, 180 hits, and 22 stolen bases. Though his spring training injury could delay the start of his season, potentially creating an opportunity for Desmond to play left field, the Rockies plan to play the former shortstop and outfielder at first base. Desmond has never played a major league game there. The Rockies did bring back veteran Mark Reynolds as a depth piece off the bench.
Gerardo Parra signed a three deal last off season and was terrible for the Rockies in year one. Parra saw his batting average drop almost forty points from 2015 and his OPS nearly 100 points in a year. Parra is a highly paid fourth outfielder, but is still expected to have a big role with this team, especially with the Dahl injury. Catchers Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy will get a full crack at the starting job with Dustin Garneau waiting for a shot. Third baseman Nolan Arenado should have won the National League MVP last season (.294, 41, 133, .932). Second baseman DJ LeMahieu won the NL batting title last year (.348) and OPS'ed .911. I would line the Rockies up like this: Blackmon CF, LeMahieu 2B, Gonzalez RF, Arenado 3B, Desmond 1B, Dahl LF, Story SS, Murphy/ Wolters C.
It will be interesting to see how quickly top prospect Brendan Rodgers will be ready to play in the major leagues. He hit 19 home runs last year as a teenager and could force the Rockies to act on their current players. Potentially, Story and LeMahieu could become expendable, allowing the Rockies to address other needs (they can never have enough pitching). Marquez and Hoffman will get their shot with Riley Pint and Kyle Freeland probably another full season away. The pitcher I am most intrigued with is right hander Antonio Senzatela, who has tremendous command of his fastball. I can see him maybe outperforming the likes of Hoffman, Marquez and Freeland, all of whom have been more highly touted.
Why the Rockies this year? Good question, but it is not like I bet on them to win the World Series. I think for the first time in the history of the franchise, they actually have a major league caliber pitching staff. One in which should not completely crumble when they happen to be playing a home game. They Rockies offense is one of the best in baseball and could likely get better this season. I like having Black, a former major league pitcher and pitching coach, as the manager. If the Rockies can get any pitching, they are better than they were last season. Las Vegas put the Rockies over/ under number at 79.5, showing even they have faith in this team being a near .500 team. I take the over and I have the Rockies at 85-77, third place in the National League West division.