Sunday, April 2, 2017

2017 Pre-Season Profile: Colorado Rockies


The Colorado Rockies quietly have been improving over the last few seasons.  Will 2017 bring about more growth and maybe even a playoff birth?

My 2016 Predictions
4th in NL West
Carlos Gonzalez will be part of a blockbuster trade at the Trade Deadline.

2016 Results
75-87, 3rd in NL West
The Rockies played slightly better than expected in 2016.  They even had an outside shot at a playoff birth in September.  The struggle in Colorado has always been pitching, however a good group of young arms have made this a bright spot.  Over the last few seasons, Carlos Gonzalez has been on the trading block.  I thought last year would be the year he was finally dealt, but the Rockies decided to hold on to him and try to make a run in 2017 with him.

Additions / Subtractions
One of the surprises of the 2017 offseason was the Rockies signing Ian Desmond, who was a shortstop in 2015, a centerfielder in 2016, and is slated to be a first baseman in 2017 in Colorado.  They also bolstered their bullpen by signing closer Greg Holland and lefty Mike Dunn.  Possibly the biggest change this offseason was the firing of manager Walt Weiss and the hiring of former Padres' manager Bud Black.

Most Important Hitter
Trevor Story
When the Rockies traded Troy Tulowitzki in 2015, many were confused as to why.  When Trevor Story burst on the scene in 2016, everyone understood.  Story ended the year with 27 home runs in only 97 games before going down with an injury.  Now he is entering his sophomore season and won't be sneaking up on anybody.  He has several things to prove in 2017.  First, he needs to prove that 2016 wasn't a fluke.  Second, he needs to prove that he can adjust as big league pitchers adjust to him.  Third, he needs to prove that he won't have the same issues his predecessor, Tulowizki, had in being injury proned.  If he is able to prove all these things, he will help make the Rockies one of the most dangerous lineups in all of baseball.

Most Important Pitcher
Greg Holland
The Rockies have taken on a philosophy of building a rotation through their farm system while building a bullpen through trades and free agency.  Greg Holland is a perfect example of this.  Once the closer for the Royals, Holland missed much of the last two seasons with an injury.  He appears to be back to full health, and the Rockies are counting on it as they have made him their closer.  With him anchoring the ninth inning, the Rockies' bullpen sets up pretty well against just about everyone.  If Holland can't cut it, the whole bullpen has to adjust and might not be the strength it looks to be.  All this rides on how Greg Holland is able to pitch this season.

Player to Watch
Jeff Hoffman
The Rockies have one of the youngest rotations in all of baseball, with no starter over the age of 27.  Even with the loss of Chad Bettis to cancer treatments, the starting rotation is also a very deep position going into 2017 with several top prospects waiting in the wings to join the rotation if anything happens.  The best of these starters-in-waiting is Jeff Hoffman, one of the highly-touted prospects the Rockies received in the Troy Tulowitzki trade.  This 24 year old right-hander started 6 games for the Rockies last season, getting a taste of the big leagues.  Now he is ready to make a big impact when they need him.

2017 Prediction
2nd in NL West, WILD CARD, lose in Wild Card Game
I love the way the Rockies look this season.  They have always sported a strong lineup, highlighted by batting champ DJ LeMahieu and the most underrated superstar in the league in Nolan Arenado.  Now their lineup was been upgraded by the signing of Ian Desmond.  Their pitching staff has grown up in Colorado and knows how to pitch there.  Their bullpen is strong with Greg Holland, Jake McGee, Mike Dunn, and Adam Ottovino.  They also have a new manager in Bud Black that is a former pitcher.  Everything going on is pointing to the Rockies being the surprise team of the season.  I have them taking a Wild Card spot, but not quite at a point that they can advance past the one game Wild Card Game.  If the Rockies make the playoffs though, this will be considered an extremely successful season in Colorado.

Fearless Prediction
A Colorado Rockies player will finish in the top three of the NL MVP voting.
Nolan Arenado is one of the best players in the game.  Ian Desmond has the potential to break out into a superstar at the plate.  One of these two, if not both, will finish in the top three of the NL MVP voting.  If the Rockies are to reach the heights I see them reaching this year, this is something that will have to happen.  Either way, the Rockies should be one of the big topics of conversation of the 2017 season.

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