Status: Chasing LA
The Rockies dramatically won the wildcard game last season, but they were thoroughly outplayed by the Brewers in the Division Series. With Nolan Arenado extended, a young rotation and some exciting prospects, Colorado should be close to the Dodgers this season.
Away from Arenado’s bumper deal, Daniel Murphy’s arrival on a two-year deal with an option for a third season was the highlight. Murphy will take over from Ian Desmond at first base, allowing second to be shared between some of Colorado’s younger players.
Defence has been a concern for the former Washington infielder, and it gave his bWAR a real hit in 2018. He’s still a top hitter, however, and could have a massive year in Denver.
The Rockies made a trade with the Yankees, but it wasn’t anything that will catch attention this offseason. Minor league reliever Jefry Valdez, who struck guys out for fun in 2018, arrived from The Big Apple with fellow reliever Jordan Foley going the other way.
Journeyman slugger and former Colorado first baseman Mark Reynolds was handed a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite.
Arenado’s new pact changed the situation for Colorado. It’s less win-now than it was when Arenado was heading for free agency, making this quiet winter more understandable.
Departures, though, do leave several question marks around the roster. Adam Ottavino and DJ LeMahieu are Yankees now. Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzalez left too, though their absences are more opportunity than loss.
What to watch
Aside from Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies’ line-up was pretty uninspiring in 2018, as mismanagement hit them hard. There are several reasons it could improve, and Murphy is one of the key components. He’s always been a good contact hitter with solid power. With the Coors Field benefit, we could see an eye-popping line from Murphy. He’s a batting title contender.
The rotation was stellar last season. Kyle Freeland is likely to drop off to something less-Cy-Young-ish. German Marquez is the darling of the projections in 2019 and could be set for an ace-like campaign. Colorado have constructed and developed this rotation superbly, and they reaped the rewards in 2018. The upside is there, and there’s a suspicion this could be really good, but the difficult second album will tell us a lot.
Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson and Raimel Tapia are still waiting for consistent Major League time. The talent is there, but each season wasted sees their ceilings drop. It’s hard to know what to expect from the trio. Colorado need something from them, and the whole evaluation of their line-up changes if they get a major breakout.
A favourable division aids Colorado’s wildcard cause. There’s uncertainty on the roster, and it would have been nice to see a couple more moves this winter, but this is still a very competitive roster.
An expensive bullpen should be better than it was last season, and it’s reasonable to expect contributions from the younger players. There’s enough upside for the Rockies to pip the Dodgers to the division.