The Rockies may very well have their best team in quite a while. Filling out a strong lineup is a young rotation that has the most potential perhaps in the Rockies young history. With Jon Gray poised to become an ace, Tyler Anderson finally living up to his draft spot potential, and a number of other pitchers who have number three starter potential, the Rockies have a young staff that could shut some teams down. The weakest spot is once again the bullpen, but even that has (hopefully) improved from last year. With the additions of Mike Dunn and Greg Holland, along with a recovered Adam Ottavino and hopefully improved Jake McGee, the Rockies may have a back end that will keep teams from rallying late.
But all of these are best case scenarios, what will the Rockies actually do over the course of the year and how will they finish?
With a projected record of 82-80, the Rockies will finish short of a playoff spot, but could finish over .500 for the first time since 2010. That alone would be reason for fans to be happy, but the expectations are higher and the potential for a wild card spot are certainly there.
Best Case Scenario: 88-74, finish with a wild card spot
The Rockies will not win 90 games this year and will not win their first division title. The Giants are too good at competing with whatever they have and the Dodgers staff is too good to not finish near first. With the Diamondbacks also hoping to recover from an awful 2016, the Rockies will really have to dominate outside of the division to fight late in the season. This also means keeping the injuries to a minimum and having depth that fills in for those injuries. The starters will have a little more flexibility this year than they have had in the past, but it is still not something you would want to count on if a few starters get injured. And the bullpen is another place that cannot really afford any injuries, especially to guys who will be closing games down. Ideally, David Dahl, Ian Desmond, and Tom Murphy will all come off the DL by May at the latest, and start impacting the lineup immediately. The starters will pitch with a 4.50 ERA at home and a 3.50 ERA on the road, with the bullpen blowing no more than three saves in the first two months, and the starters will pitch into the sixth inning or later for a majority of their games. Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and DJ LeMahieu will continue to hit for their 2016 success, Trevor Story will start where he left off before he was injured, and Tony Wolters will come into his own as an offensive and defensive catcher. But these are all best case scenarios and things like that can only be hoped for, not expected.
Actual Expectations: 83-79, Rockies finish 4 games back of Wild Card
This would be a more realistic expectation and even it might be a little generous. More than likely two of the young starters will struggle over the course of the year posting ERAs of 5.00+. The other starters will hover around the mid four’s and the offense will be streaky on the road while not posting enough runs at home to cover for a bullpen’s blown late game. If the Rockies can limit these fallbacks, they may reach the .500 mark, but it will not be easy. Players need to step up with the big names being Jon Gray and one of Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, or Kyle Freeland, Adam Ottavino and Jack McGee, and a depth player, most likely someone like Jordan Patterson. This team will ride on the backs of its young players, and succeed because of the older guys motivating and leading when the going gets rough. This team has veteran leadership in the form of Ian Desmond, Carlos Gonzalez, and Mark Reynolds for the offense, but the rotation will need a lot of self-learning to get by. Chris Rusin is really one of the veterans of the starting rotation and even he does not have much experience.
This year for the Rockies could very well lead to another Rocktober, but if they falter late into the year, the fans will have a lot to be frustrated about, as this is the year the Rockies finally start to fight for a playoff spot. This team is still young and still has a future over the next five years, but the earlier they can compete, the better.