Colorado Rockies Season Preview; Talented Arms and a Balanced Lineup Bring Excitement

Now that the MLB season has begun, let’s take a quick look at this year’s Colorado Rockies season preview, packed with information.

The crack of the bat. The whooshing of every pitchers fastball screaming past your ears; and the thud of the ball and glove connecting – awe, the sounds of major league baseball are upon us at last.

Colorado Rockies Season Preview

Colorado Rockies Season Preview

For the past month, baseball spectators have watched as the blending of their favorite teams’ roster present day and future have come together in a thirty game exhibition as every player gets himself ready for the long grueling one hundred sixty two (162) game season. Officially, today April 3, 2016 – six teams (St Louis vs Pittsburgh; Toronto vs Tampa Bay; New York vs Kansas City) will begin their season budding with optimism – hopeful to become this seasons version of last year’s Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays, or Chicago Cubs – all with one goal in mind; to dethrone the World Series Champion, Kansas City Royals.

Tomorrow, the remaining twenty four (24) teams will make their 2016 season debuts; each team with a reason to be optimistic about their chances to compete well into September.

Today, we are going to discuss the Colorado Rockies; a team stuck in mediocrity since 2010; the last time they carried an offense as dangerous as their lineup is constructed today, mixing a starting rotation of young budding stars and old veteran workhorses, similar to the rotation of 2007.

(Colorado Rockies Season Preview)

Team Profile

Team: Colorado Rockies

Inaugural Season: 1993

City, State, Home Park: Denver, CO; Coors Field

Division: National League West

Owner: Dick Monfort; Charlie Monfort

General Manager: Jeff Bridich

Manager: Walt Weiss (3rd year, 208-278-.423)

2015 Record: 68-94, 5th in NL West

Projected 2016 Record: 76-86, 4th in NL West

Major Offseason Acquisitions: LHP – Jake McGee, RHP – Chad Qualls, RHP – Jason Motte, Utility – Ryan Rayburn, 1B/OF – Mark Reynolds, C – Tony Wolters, LF – Gerardo Para,

Major Offseason Departures: LF – Corey Dickerson, C/1B – Wilin Rosario, 1B – Justin Morneau, RHP – Kyle Kendrick, 1B/OF – Kyle Parker, OF – Drew Stubbs, C – Michael McKenry,

(Colorado Rockies Season Preview)

Lineup                       Rotation                  Bench                           Bullpen

CF – Blackmon           1 – De La Rosa          C – Wolters                   LHP – Rusin

SS – Story                   2 – Bettis                   1B / OF – Paulsen        LHP – Logan

RF – Gonzalez            3 – Chatwood            2B / SS – Adames        RHP – Miller

3B – Arenado             4 – Lyles                    OF – Rayburn               LHP – Gurka

LF – Parra                  5 – Bergman              OF – Barnes                 RHP – Qualls

1B –Reynolds                                                                                         LHP – McGee (Closer)

C – Hundley                                                                                           RHP – Castro

2B – DJ LeMahieu

(Colorado Rockies Season Preview)

2016 Lineup

Playing baseball in Colorado has some very distinct advantages. Balls leave the yard a lot quicker. So, like every year; the 2016 Colorado Rockies will live and die based on the production of their offense. Led by a core group built around middle of the order power hitters Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez; and fast start leadoff man Charlie Blackmon, the Colorado Rockies offense was up to par in 2015, finishing first in the National League in runs scored.

Colorado Rockies Season Preview

Colorado Rockies Season Preview

Turn the page to this season and the Colorado Rockies have added some very interesting pieces to bolster the lineup, improve the defense, and balance the team’s Right-Left combination.

In addition to a lineup already filled with the star power of Blackmon, Gonzalez, and Arenado; the Colorado Rockies added Left Fielder Gerrardo Para, a Gold Glove Left Fielder who bolsters a career .277/.326/.404 slash line. Para is a defensive improvement over Corey Dickerson. Para should see an improvement in offensive production, hitting fifth in Colorado behind Gonzalez and Arenado. His defensive presence should give the young arms in Colorado’s rotation more confidence as he has both of his Gold Gloves from the corner outfield spots.

Looking for a major boost in production from the First Base position, Colorado also signed notorious power hitting first baseman/outfielder Mark Reynolds to platoon with incumbent first baseman Ben Paulsen. In Mark Reynolds, the Rockies receive a feast or famine power hitter with the capabilities of clubbing forty home runs and striking out two hundred times this season. Last year, Mark hit .230 with 13 homeruns and 48 RBI’s. His .398 slugging percentage was the third lowest of his career, and 44 points lower than his career .452 mark. Coors Field could lead to a major resurrection of his career; and the best chance to reach the .543 slugging mark he connected with in 2009 while a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Another major addition to the 2016 Colorado Rockies is internal product, Shortstop Trevor Story. With all of the offseason news surrounding Jose Reyes and his Domestic Violence case in Hawaii; the Rockies brass informed Trevor Story he would be competing with fellow infield prospect Christian Adames and Utility man Daniel Descalso for the starting role. Following an eye popping spring (and an injury to Descalso), Trevor Story won the starting role outright by hitting .344 with a team leading 6 homeruns, and 17 RBI’s. Last season, while splitting equal time between AA New Britain and AAA Albuquerque; Story slashed .279 / .350 / .514 while clubbing 20 homeruns and

Colorado Rockies Season Preview

Colorado Rockies Season Preview

driving in 80 RBI’s. His speed translates as well, as he would steal 22 bases in 25 attempts. As the heir replacement for Troy Tulowitzki, the Colorado Rockies enter a territory with another 20-20 caliber shortstop taking the reins on opening day.

Other roster additions to the lineup go beyond measurable roster balance. In many players cases, they bring a level of athleticism never seen before in Colorado. Starting with the roster additions of Utility Men Ryan Rayburn and Tony Wolters, who in addition to being Nick Hundley’s backup Catcher, is able to play second base, third base and the corner outfield positions. Ryan Rayburn is a corner outfielder who can play the corner infield positions, as well as second base. Ben Paulsen is a First Baseman who is also able to play Left Field and Right Field, while Christian Adames is capable of playing second base, shortstop, and third base. The focus on athleticism could become a valuable asset to the Colorado Rockies as the season wears on.

(Colorado Rockies Season Preview)

2016 Rotation

In 2007, the Colorado Rockies fielded a pitching rotation mixed with young arms and a stable group of proven veterans. By seasons end, the Rockies had two of its opening day starters on their post season roster. As the organization found out, it was the franchises minor league depth that carried it into the post season.

As 2015 proved, it was the organizations lack of true depth that would ultimately hurt it the most. In 2016, that problem looks like it is in some pretty good standing.

Starting with their opening day starter, Jorge De La Rosa, the organizations most winning pitcher; and ending with Jon Gray, the organizations number three prospect; the Colorado Rockies will field a rotation of youth, experience, great talent, and a whole lot of health concerns.

Starting with thirty three (33) year old Jorge De La Rosa, and second year starter Chad Bettis, the Rockies look to both pitchers to stabilize the front of the rotation.

De La Rosa has become the organizations most winning pitcher,

Colorado Rockies Season Preview

Colorado Rockies Season Preview

beginning with a 48-16 lifetime record at Coors Field; he gives the younger arms a fearlessness the organization hopes will rub off on the rest of the pitching staff. His consistent production, and workhorse nature is expected stabilize the front of the rotation, while eating up enough innings to help the bullpen from another long season.

In 2015, Chad Bettis set himself apart as the front runner to eventually succeed the mantle of ace for the Colorado Rockies in 2017 and beyond. Starting with an 8-5 overall record that included two of the most dominating performances in the franchises history, Bettis is expected to take the next natural leap as a front of the rotation arm. Armed with a plus fastball, dirt pounding sinker and the competitive nature to constantly want to improve, Bettis could be the Rockies 2016 X-Factor if they plan to compete for the second Wild Card spot very few believe they will.

The third member of the five-man rotation is the often injured, but incredibly talented Tyler Chatwood. Like De La Rosa, Chatwood has shown a fearlessness very few pitchers have shown at Coors Field. Armed with a 10-4 overall Coors Field record, Tyler Chatwood showed signs of brilliance in 2013 when his 8-5 record gave the organization faith to believe the talent was there to see another top of the rotation arm. Coming off his second Tommy Surgery that eradicated his 2014 and 2015 seasons, Chatwood showed great command, good velocity, and a strong enough arm in Spring Training to earn a spot, and the opportunity to contribute to a rotation in need of some veteran leadership.

The fourth member of the Colorado Rockies rotation comes from another talented, but freakishly injured pitcher in the likes of Jordan Lyles. Lyles, a first round selection of the Houston Astros in 2008; has overcome some freakish injuries over the past two years. His good fortune has come in the light that neither of his injuries has been pitching related. Since his arrival to Colorado in 2014, Jordan Lyles has a 9-9 record to go along with a 4.56 ERA. Armed with a five pitch repertoire that generally is built around his four seam fastball, hard sinker and a developing split change; a healthy Jordan Lyles has the best opportunity in 2016 to stabilize the back end of a Colorado Rockies rotation that has used more than thirty different pitchers in its position since the start of the 2012 major league season.

To start the 2016 season, the Colorado Rockies will carry a four man rotation. Once he is available to return, Jon Gray will assume the role of the rotations fifth member when he is cleared from the Disabled List. Compared by most scouts to Roger Clemens, Jon Gray was given his first taste of the major leagues in 2015 where he made nine starts, going 0-2 with 5.53 ERA in 40 2/3 innings pitched. Gray was limited to a strict pitch count in 2015, but has been told the leash would be off in 2016 as he sets his eyes on stabilizing a solid rotation while providing the talent that led to his number 3 pick in the 2013 major league amateur draft. Armed with a four seam fastball, slider, curveball, and change-up mix; Jon Gray is the future ace the Colorado Rockies and their fans have been looking for. If he pitches to his industry comparison, the Colorado Rockies could make some serious noise in 2016 and surprise a lot of people.

(Colorado Rockies Season Preview)

2016 Bullpen

In 2016, the Rockies’ greatest strength may come from its bullpen. Armed with a solid collection of hard throwing arms, the Colorado Rockies may have the best collection of talent the organization has ever had to carry the torch from the sixth inning on.

While there was a lot of speculation surrounding the Colorado Rockies this offseason and their potential pursuit of a front of the rotation arm, General Manager Jeff Bridich chose to take a different route. He chose to add hard throwing arms to the back end of the bullpen to shorten the game, and trust in the developmental process of the organizations elite farm system.

With good reason for trusting his instincts, Bridich chose to deal power hitting left fielder Corey Dickerson to the Tampa Bay Rays for hard throwing closer Jake McGee. He would also sign veteran late inning relievers Chad Qualls and Jason Motte; both of whom have closed in their careers; to give the Colorado Rockies a bullpen that could potentially rival the World Series Champion Kansas City Royals.

In addition to the veteran arms, Colorado’s bullpen will boast the improved arms of young power lefty Jason Gurka and right hander Miguel Castro (acquired in last year’s blockbuster deal for Troy Tulowitzki). Both youngsters dominated the senior circuit in Spring training, earning their rotation spots outright. Mixed with bullpen mainstays Christian Bergman (long relief / spot starting), Chris Russin (long relief / spot starting), and lefty specialist Boone Logan.

In 2016, the Colorado Rockies bullpen, mixed with youth and veteran leadership, power and length; could potentially rival the best in Baseball, while providing the needed bridge between a rotation still building the necessary strength to pitch late into games; and the power arms ready to close them out.

(Colorado Rockies Season Preview)

2016 Team Outlook

On paper, the Colorado Rockies look like a team of misfits, spare parts, and a bag of door prizes. To the trained baseball eye, this team is an offensive force not to be reckoned with. Armed with a balanced lineup the 2016 Colorado Rockies will send out a lineup full of surprising speed, star fire power, and professional hitters; while anchoring a young pitching rotation with a defense full of gold glove hardware.

Anchored by the presence of 2016 MVP candidate Nolan Arenado, perennial All Star Right Fielder Carlos Gonzalez, table setting Center Fielder Charlie Blackmon, and the toolsy presence of shortstop Trevor Story the Colorado Rockies will boast the National League’s most dynamic offense; and a top five defense that by itself will give the young rotation a little more room to breathe when it takes the mound.

The rotation for 2016 will be a work in progress. Young, and talented, the resurgence of right hander’s Tyler Chatwood and Jordan Lyles could prove to be X-Factors in determining the success of the Colorado Rockies, and their overall finish in the heavily competitive National League West. The presence of franchise wins leader Jorge De La Rosa, and the always improving Chad Bettis only helps to anchor what could be a surprising, but solid starting rotation. Jon Gray’s ability to adapt to the major leagues could ultimately define whether or not Colorado finishes below .500 for a sixth consecutive year.

The bullpen will be Colorado’s strength in 2016. The length to which the starting rotation can pitch will go a long way to helping Colorado’s bullpen define its dominance and improve on the last place finish they had amongst the league a year ago. If the starters can pitch 972 innings (6 IP/start) in 2016, the games will be shortened to the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings – providing Colorado with an ideal position for their new additions (Gurka, Castro, Qualls, Motte, and closer Jake McGee) to better suited in Colorado.

In all, I believe the Colorado Rockies organization is on the right path toward righting the ship; and positioning the organization for contention in the years to come. 2016 will continue to be a rebuilding year, but it will provide the organization a blue print for the next several years. This will be the final seasons in Colorado for Carlos Gonzalez, Jorge De La Rosa, and Jordan Lyles. With the organizations top outfield and pitching prospects all starting the season at AAA; if the above mentioned players are all healthy (and productive) by the deadline, we could see them all dealt to contenders, as the Rockies move their rebuilding process forward – and restock the next wave of their farm systems depth.

Realistically, a 76-86 record and 4th place finish is the most probable ending. By season’s end, we will see the organizations duplicated rendition of the 2001 Oakland Athletics, who boasted a starting rotation built around the arms of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito. 2016 will be the end of one era in Rockies history (CarGo / De La Rosa) and the beginning of another (Bettis / Chatwood / Gray / Freeland / Hoffman).

(Colorado Rockies Season Preview)