The Rockies fell victim to one of the deepest divisions in baseball in 2017, as they lost to division rival Arizona in the wildcard game to end their season short. Colorado played up to the Mile High reputation with one of the best offenses in baseball, ranking top five in every major statistical offensive category besides home runs, which should improve in 2018 with the addition of Chris Iannetta and the developments of their young offensive core. However, the Rockies were not satisfied with their pitching staff after 2017, bolstering their bullpen to compete with the MLB arms race for the best bullpens with the additions of Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw on multi-year deals. These additions show the Rockies are ready to take advantage of their young core and boisterous bats right now, and in the NL West, every inch you gain goes a long way in improving your postseason hopes.
The Rockies may have had over 47 saves in 2017, their bullpen ranked near the bottom of the league in bullpen ERA, with all of two of their regular relief pitchers sporting an over 4.40 ERA, to go along with a team 4.51 team ERA. This is what makes the additions of Davis and Shaw so important if the Rockies don’t want to get left behind in the competitive NL West. Ianetta should help sure up the catcher position after Tony Wolters mediocre 2017.
The Rockies starting pitching was underwhelming in 2017, with five out of six qualified starters owning an over 4.10 ERA despite decently high strikeout per nine inning marks. Although 2017 was less than stellar, there is plenty of room for improvement in 2018 as the average age of the pitching staff at 24 years old.
Lefty Tyler Anderson is returning from a knee injury that wiped out most of his 2017 season, and with a lively fastball and workable changeup expect the young starter to have a great 2018. John Gray likely still has a bad taste in his mouth after a horrendous wild card showing but was one of the best pitchers for the Rockies during the regular season.
Expect more of 2017 regular season in 2018 than his wildcard performance as he looks to establish himself as the team’s ace. Kyle Freeland looks poised to take a big step forward after his first MLB season, which he admitted took a toll on him mentally and physically, and that experience will work as a good lesson for the starter in 2018.
Chad Bettis’ season was an outstanding success regardless of his statistic, as the 28-year-old is now cancer free after battling testicular cancer. Bettis velocity should return to normal levels in 2018 which will go a long way for a better season pitching-wise.
Look to see prized jewel from the Troy Tulowitzki trade, Jeff Hoffman, to finally break the majors at some point this year and, paired with fireball throwing German Marquez, could fill out the bottom of the rotation.
The bullpen is taking a huge step forward in 2018 after the $104 million investment made this offseason alone. Wade Davis will likely take the closer role, supported by Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw as setup pitchers, giving them plenty of versatility to go against righties and lefties.
After that, the Rockies have a bunch of young pitchers with plenty of arm talent who could contribute in middle and late innings to form an impact bullpen in 2018. Two names that stand out of the group are lefty Chris Rusin and righty Scott Oberg. Rusin was one of the best statistical pitchers for the Rockies, posting a 189 ERA+ in 2017, but needs to improve on getting swings and misses in 2018 if he wants to become a truly dominant reliever. Oberg, like Rusin, needs to up his strikeout numbers and avoiding putting balls in play in the thin air of Colorado, but with a 100 mph fastball and a little tinkering, the 27-year-old should improve in a hurry.
This lineup would need no introduction if you followed the MLB last year, as one of the top lineups only got better in 2018 with the addition of Iannetta. Lead by Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies batting order has plenty of pop and can hit for high averages, here’s a look at their lineup with Iannetta:
As you can see, it isn’t only Blackmon and Arenado that can punish a baseball, as DJ LeMahieu and Gerardo Parra both hit over .300 BA and .780 OPS. The second baseman hit about the same amount of home runs (8) than Parra (10), and with 71 RBIs of his own, the left fielder is no slouch.
Ian Desmond is a name to watch in 2018, as the utility player could bounce back in a big way if healthy. The righty came to the Rockies after an impressive season in Texas where he batted .285/.355/.782 with a 2.7 WAR (Baseball Reference), and if he can return to that form, he could be a massive addition to an already stacked lineup.
First base is up for grabs in spring training with Mark Reynolds still a free agent, so far the leader in the clubhouse is rookie Ryan McMahon. The lefty is currently batting .333/.367/.865 with seven doubles, one home run, and seven RBI in just 57 at-bats, and could secure the first base job by the end of spring training if he keeps up this pace. The 2013 2nd round pick and Rockies second overall prospect is really the only true first baseman on the roster, which gives him even more of an edge in the competition.
Nolan Arenado will continue his ascension to superstar status with an even more impressive in 2018. The fantastic third baseman has improved his triple slash line every year as a pro, and he should continue that trend in 2018, and with that, you can expect another 35-45 homerun effort as well, which will put him in the NL MVP conversation too.
Chad Bettis will complete his inspiring feel-good story as he returned to his 2016 form when he sported a 14-8 record with an excellent 2.34 strikeouts to walks ratio. Bettis velocity should improve and likely even eclipse his previous numbers which will give him plenty of confidence to pick apart opposing batters.
Record Projection: 84-78
Bovada sets the over/under for the Rockies at 82 wins for 2018, which is a bit low for as talented an offense and bullpen as Colorado. However, like other teams we’ve covered in the NL West, the teams will have lower win totals than their talent may suggest due to the depth of the division. When you have to play 76 games against the likes of the LA, Arizona, and even the Padres and Giants, it’s tough to make it out of that without a few dents on your record.
The Rockies will likely batter opposing pitchers at a similar clip to 2017, and an improved bullpen will help them win more close games, but their starting rotation has a lot of question marks and is banking on the development of younger players to stabilize the group, which is an unlikely outcome. These young players are expected to have plenty of ups and downs over a 162 game season, and in a division like the NL West, will cause them drop a good amount of critical games. The Rockies have built a roster fit for the modern game, a strong and deep bullpen and a potent lineup, which will likely keep them in the hunt for October for most of the year, and if they can make the big dance, they will have one of the more dangerous teams in all of the NL.
Article by: Maxx Hotton/Follow me @getinhottonhere/Follow us @FPC_MLB