A First Guess on Rockies Opening Day Roster
Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich is quick to point out that while the Rockies will open the season with a 25-man roster the team’s management is well aware that it well more than 25 players will play significant roles in determining what will happen to the Rockies during the 2018 season.
A year ago, when the Rockies advanced to the post-season for only the fourth time in their 25 years of competition they used 41 players, including 21 pitchers, eight of whom started games.
A team has to start somewhere, however, and that is in spring training, which opens this week. Even that, however, can be risky, as the Rockies again proved last year.
By the time the regular season opened projected starting pitcher Chad Bettis (testicular cancer), projected starting catcher Tom Murphy (broken forearm), projected starting first baseman Ian Desmond (broken hand), projected starting left fielder David Dahl (stress reaction rib) along with relievers Chris Rusin (right oblique strain) and Chad Qualls (right forearm tightness) were on the disabled list. And three starts into the season, Opening Day starter Jon Gray gave into a broken left foot and went on the disabled list for 78 days.
Spring training, however, opens this week for the Rockies, which means the groundwork for decisions for Opening day will be laid.
With that in mind, a look at the battles for the 25-man Opening Day roster spots:
Chris Iannetta was signed to a two-year free-agent contract to provide a veteran presence, and Tony Wolters has been a serviceable catching reserve the past two years. Murphy, however, is considered the Rockies prime catching prospect and his chance to prove himself last year was sidetracked, giving rise to the expectation of three catchers. Wolters was originally a middle infielder and adds depth in that area, too.
Ryan McMahon, ranked the second best prospect in the organization by Baseball America, reaffirmed his potential with an impact season split between Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque and earned his big-league opportunity. The presence of versatile Ian Desmond provides a right-handed alternative for an expected platoon
DJ LeMahieu is a potential free agent, but the Rockies are looking to win now so they aren’t going to sacrifice his bat control and defense.
Nolan Areando is four weeks shy of five full big-league seasons, but already has won five Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers and been a three-time All-Star.
Trevor Story has proven to be a top-grade defensive player with plus power. He has room to grow and desire to do it.
Dahl had the first shot at the job last year, but the injury kept him from getting a big-league at-bat. He will get the first shot at the job with knowledge of the presence of Desmond to provide protection, and also the likes of Ramiel Tapia and Jordan Patterson.
Charlie Blackmon is a late bloomer who emerged as an All-Star. The question isn’t his role in center field, but whether he will move down in the lineup or continue to hit leadoff after setting an MLB record for RBI by a center field a year ago.
Gerardo Parra had a bounce back year in 2017 and became a factor in the Rockies post-season drive, helping make up for the struggles of Carlos Gonzalez. He was primarily a left fielder last year, but with Gonzalez gone Parra has the physical skills to move to right.
The idea of carrying three catchers could force the Rockies to go with only two utility players. Pat Valaika gives them versatility as an infielder and outfielder. They also have Desmond who has proven he can play first, short, left field and center field in the big leagues. Tapia’s speed is an asset the Rockies can use, and gives him the initial edge over Patterson as the extra outfielder.
The Rockies were careful not to tax the young arms last year and it figures to be true again in 2018, which means seven legit starting pitchers with Jonathan Gray in the No. 1 slot, and a season-opening five-man rotation filled out by Kyle Freeland, Chat Bettis, Tyler Anderson, and German Marquez. Gray emerged a year ago as the Rockies No. 1 starter while Marquez was the most consistent of a banner group of rookies, which included Kyle Freeland. Bettis brings a leadership quality in his return from a battle with testicular cancer. Anderson has shown promise but was sidetrack by injuries a year ago. Jeff Hoffman and Antonio Senzatela, rookies a year ago, add depth.
The Rockies learned the real value of a bullpen last year, and so they filled major voids create by the loss of closer Greg Holland and setup man Pat Neshek to free agency by signing free agents themselves. Wade Davis received a three-year deal with the highest annual average value ($17.3 million) ever by a closer, and Bryan Shaw was added as a right-handed setup reliever on a three-year deal. The Rockies return lefties Jake McGee, Mike Dunn and Chris Rusin, and right-handers Scott Oberg, Adam Ottavino and Jeff Hoffman. Rusin is one of the game’s most versatile pitchers, able of filling any role on the staff. McGee showed his lack of fear of altitude when he re-signed after filing for free agency. Ottavino was a puzzle last year with sudden command problems. Oberg has the best pure stuff of any one on the staff.
1B Ian Desmond
1B Ryan McMahon
2B DJ LeMahieu
3B Nolan Arenado
SS Trevor Story
LF David Dahl
CF Charlie Blackmon
RF Gerardo Parra
INF/OF Pat Valaika
LHP Tyler Anderson
LHP Kyle Freeland
RHP Jon Gray
RHP German Marquez
RHP Chad Bettis
RHP Wade Davis
RHP Bryan Shaw
RHP Scott Oberg
RHP Adam Ottavino
RHP Jeff Hoffman
LHP Jake McGee
LHP Mike Dunn
LHP Chris Rusin