2016 Recap: 75-87, 3rd in the NL West. For the sixth straight season, the Colorado Rockies finished with a losing record and missed the playoffs for the seventh straight year. As is the case most years with the Rockies, their pitching just couldn’t get the job done in the altitude at Coors Field. The Rockies lineup, led by budding superstar Nolan Arenado, led the NL in runs scored, while their pitching staff allowed the second most runs in the league (well done Arizona). There was some optimism surrounding the Rockies’ staff by season’s end however, as young starters Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson showed real flashes of brilliance both at home and on the road, while Tyler Chatwood was dominant on the road posting a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts away from Coors Field. The offseason saw the Rockies add right handed slugger Ian Desmond in free agency who they are expected to move from the outfield to first base (a position he has never played regularly in his career). Playing Desmond at first is a pretty big waste of his abilities, but one would have to think the move is only temporary as the Rockies (as they are every year) will be looking to move All Star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, potentially opening up a spot for Desmond that would be a better use of his skills. With the addition of Desmond to an already potent lineup and the promise of some young starters, there is reason for optimism in the Mile High City in 2017.
Significant Additions: 1B/OF Ian Desmond, LHP Mike Dunn, RHP Greg Holland, INF Alexi Amarista
Significant Subtractions: LHP Jorge De La Rosa, C Nick Hundley, INF Daniel Descalso, OF Ryan Raburn, RHP Eddie Butler
Projected Lineup and Breakdown:
- CF Charlie Blackmon
- 2B DJ Lemahieu
- 3B Nolan Arenado
- RF Carlos Gonzalez
- 1B Ian Desmond
- LF David Dahl
- SS Trevor Story
- C Tony Wolters
It’s hard to find a better lineup 1 through 7 in all of Major League baseball than the one Colorado will be throwing out most games in 2017. Nolan Arenado is already amazing and he’s only 25, while second year players Trevor Story and David Dahl could be potential stars in the making. Table setters Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu are also two of the more underrated players in the NL. If you like offense and have the MLB package, the Rockies are a great watch even away from Coors.
Projected Rotation, Bullpen, and Breakdown:
- RHP Jon Gray
- RHP Chad Bettis
- LHP Tyler Anderson
- RHP Tyler Chatwood
- RHP Jeff Hoffman
- RHP Adam Ottavino – Closer
- LHP Jake McGee
- RHP Jason Motte
- LHP Mike Dunn
- RHP Greg Holland
Pitching in Coors Field is a nightmare for anyone. Breaking balls do not break the way they should and fastballs tend to not have quite the same movement as in a normal park. Rockies pitchers will also tell you pitching there can affect you even on the road as it can be difficult to adapt to pitching in normal situations after long homestands. I’m not telling you anything you haven’t heard however, what I am telling you is that there is real optimism around a few of the Rockies young starters as well as the backend of their bullpen. Lefty Tyler Anderson had impressive 19 start rookie campaign posting a 3.54 ERA and a groundball rate over 50% which is quite a skill to have when pitching at Coors. Anderson started his career off by giving up more than 3 earned runs just once in his first 11 starts only 3 of which were road starts. Stability like that is huge for this team going forward. Jon Gray was the #3 overall pick in the draft in 2013 and came with huge pedigree and upside. On the surface Gray’s 4.61 ERA in 2016 doesn’t scream elite pitching talent, but the underlying numbers show the potential Gray has. Gray struck 9.91 batter per 9 innings which was the ninth best rate among starters in all of Major League baseball just ahead of All Star’s Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. Gray had a 13 start stretch in mid season where he never allowed more than four earned runs and had 6 or more strikeouts in nine of those starts. Colorado has quietly built a very nice bullpen if former closers Adam Ottavino and Greg Holland can return anywhere near the former elite pre-injury form this could be a strength of the team.
Stud: 3B Nolan Arenado 41 home runs, 131 RBI and .291 batting average. Those are the type of numbers Nolan Arenado has averaged over the last two seasons and he’s only entering his age 26 season. In 2016, Arenado lowered his strikeout rate by almost 2% and raised his walk rate by 4.7%. If that trend continues, we could see Arenado’s first .300 season sooner rather than later. Arenado is already going in the top 5 in most drafts as he should, but for me he is the best fantasy player this year not named Mike Trout. If you’re lucky enough to get Arenado at the draft table, get ready for a lot of fun and some more gaudy numbers from the Rockies third basemen.
Sleeper: SP Jon Gray I’ve already talked a lot about Gray in this preview, but I’d like to talk about him some more. To go along with an extremely high strikeout rate Gray has a 43.3% groundball rate in 38 career starts, enough of a sample size to think Gray will have that skill going forward. Investing in Colorado starters on your fantasy team is usually not a good idea, but Gray appears to be the exception to that rule. Gray actually had a slightly lower ERA at home than he did on the road in 2016 showing that he has the elite talent to overcome pitching half his games in Coors Field. Gray is currently going behind starters with little to no upside like John Lackey and Tanner Roark as well as starters with major injury concerns like Steven Matz and Raisel Iglesias. I’m taking the shot on Gray’s enormous upside over all four of these players just to name a few.
Bust: OF Ian Desmond Some busts ruin your season and others just never quite live up to the price you paid on draft day. I can see Desmond falling under that second category in 2017. Calling Desmond a bust has a lot more to do with loving a lot of his other hitting teammates and the fact that all the pitchers on Colorado can be had at a bargain. Desmond will almost definitely go 20/20 again this season and has played 150 or more games in 6 of his 7 full time seasons in the big leagues so the counting stats will certainly be there as well. I just cannot get on board with Desmond going as the 14th outfielder off the board ahead of much more consistent players like teammate Carlos Gonzalez and Yoenis Cespedes as well as someone like Gregory Polanco who will likely put up the same 20/20 as Desmond with what should be a better batting average a round later.
2017 prediction: I’m very bullish on the Rockies this season. They will score more than enough runs and their pitching staff as a whole has real upside. The Dodgers and Giants are going to be tough to get past, but I can see the Rockies being this year’s surprise team in the National League and pushing to play in the Wild Card game. 82-80, 3rd in the NL West.
Check out our other 2017 team previews here.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball reference and Fangraphs
Projected rosters are courtesy of rosterresource.com and accurate as of 2/21/17
Fantasy ADP data courtesy of STATS.com and The NFBC