The Rockies learned quickly last season that no game was over until the final out, meaning no lead was safe when your bullpen had a knack for blowing it or making every game a nail biter. Even with analysts and fans laying a heavy amount of blame on the bullpen, no major moves have been made this offseason. The Rockies lost a fair amount of relievers to free agency following the season's close and have added a few unproven arms in deals over the last few months, but so far there have been no blockbusters. Below is what I expect to see the Rockies do with their bullpen in 2015, if no other changes were to be made.
Even if the season was a wash, the Rockies did something in 2014 that I'm all the way on board with. Moving Franklin Morales to the bullpen began a trend of starters being halfway converted to relievers for the sake of long-inning relief. Obviously, that in itself is not rocket science, but the Rockies did it a lot last year. Getting six to seven innings out of the rotation hasn't been easy, so I like the idea of having two starter-type pitchers being ready for every game. One from the dugout and the other from the ‘pen, just in case. Colorado has the potential to piggy-back guys like Yohan Flande, Christian Friedrich, and Chad Bettis when a starter comes up short.
The Rockies can get a lot of testing done with their seventh-inning relievers this season. Among others, I see Rex Brothers coming on here if he doesn't have a jaw-dropping spring training. Even through the first few months of the season just to make sure he doesn't derail. Everyone is a little gun-shy at this point: us of Rex, Rex of himself.
It's also a good audition spot to see what Jorge Rondon and Jairo Diaz can give since neither have much big league experience, but both will still likely see time in Albuquerque before being given too much responsibility.
A role held primarily by Adam Ottavino over the past few years, I wouldn't be surprised to see Tommy Kahnle or Brooks Brown given a fair number of shots at the job following solid rookie seasons from both. With Brown making his debut at 29 years old, and Kahnle a surprising Rule 5 draft pick, the two were the unlikely heroes of the bullpen in 2014. Lost and forgotten in the smoke of the flames that the team was going down in. It's dramatic, but it sets up for a good story in 2015. I'm (cautiously) super excited.
Obviously this is what Boone Logan gets paid the big bucks to do, so I'm leaving his name here. Logan's three-year, $16.5 million contract was a huge move last year for the Rockies. Unfortunately, an injury plagued first season in Colorado fell way beneath expectations. But 2014 was an uncharacteristic year for Boone, who hadn't posted an ERA over 3.74 since 2009. If he returns this season as the kind of pitcher he was in New York, the Rockies will have just the kind of player they've been looking for.
With a total of 1,000 major league appearances under his belt, LaTroy Hawkins will wear the title going into the 21st and final season of his career. The fluctuation of his statistics make it difficult to predict what LaTroy will contribute in 2015, but after highlighting the late innings last year for the Rockies, he's one of the more stable pieces going into Spring Training.
However, at 42, Hawkins likely won't carry a workhorse load. Instead, I see Adam Ottavino transitioning this season from setup man to a closer role. He's a proven late inning performer, with an arsenal conducive to pitching at altitude. If the Rockies can develop Ottavino into a sound closer, they'll have control of his electric speed and nasty slider through at least a few years of possible contention.
So maybe it's not the total overhaul some parties are calling for, but the Rockies bullpen of the future has forward moving momentum. Losing guys like Matt Belisle, Nick Masset and Franklin Morales may mean hanging a lot of games on a young group of unproven relievers, but it makes room for the next wave of prospects. And that's good news for the Rockies, right? Though I'm hopeful, there's too much uncertainty at this point to say for sure the bullpen will perform better this season, but on the bright side, it'll be hard to do much worse!