With Purple Row's ongoing "State of the Position" series, as well as this (Insider only) article from ESPN assessing the long term prospects of all 30 MLB teams, now seems like the time to take a broader look at where the Rockies might stack up a few years down the road.
In their Future Power Rankings, which do not say exactly how far into the future they are looking, ESPN's team of Buster Olney, Jim Bowden and Keith Law ranked the Rockies 25th, ahead of only the White Sox, Phillies, Mariners, Brewers and Marlins. Both Olney and Bowden opined that much of the Rockies' future prospects rely on Jon Gray and Eddie Butler, while Law noted that 2014 could be a make-or-break season for David Dahl.
Instead of attempting to assess the team's "future" with no specific target date, let's narrow it to a certain time frame, say 2016 or 2017. What might the Rockies' roster look like at that point? Let's take a look at what we can reasonably assume:
SP Jon Gray
SP Eddie Butler
CL Rex Brothers
Sure DJ LeMahieu or Josh Rutledge (or even Rosell Herrera) might be at second, Michael Cuddyer could still be hanging around, Kyle Parker could slide into the open spot at first or in right and Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood could take a spot or two in the rotation, but outside of those eight players, is there anyone else we can reasonably assume will be a contributor for the Rockies two or three years down the road? Not really.
That isn't to say that core of eight players, you could build a serious contender around them, but there's no getting around the fact that there are some big questions that the Rockies will have to answer, and soon.
On top of the team's to do list should be (and likely is) finding a long-term answer at first. In the franchise's first 21 seasons of play, it has had just two regular first basemen, Andres Galarraga and Todd Helton, so this isn't really an issue the team has had to deal with before, and I don't think that answer at first is currently in the organization, I'm not on the Parker bandwagon and I don't think anyone really thinks the likes of Ben Paulsen has the bat to play first in the majors.
As for the three rotation spots behind Gray and Butler, the Rockies do have some solid candidates. Chacin, Chatwood and even Brett Anderson have had success at the MLB level and none are older than 26, so any or all of them could still be Rockies in three years. There is also the possibility of 23-year-old Jordan Lyles developing into a useful rotation piece or one of the team's left-handed Tylers, Anderson or Matzek (no, I haven't given up on him yet), taking a spot.
The biggest reason for optimism both now and a few years down the road is the left side of the infield. If he maintains his Gold Glove-level defense and his much-touted bat comes around, Arenado could very well be the best third baseman in baseball in 2017, especially if Manny Machado makes his anticipated move to shortstop, and Tulowitzki will only be in his early thirties and should still be a productive player.
Looking at the Rockies as a whole, I'm not quite ready to be singing Timbuk 3's 1986 hit, "The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades", but I am certainly more positive about the team's future than the ESPN crew. With some good moves and a little bit of luck, they could emerge as a contender to the Dodgers in the NL West.