There are any number of predictions one could make about the Colorado Rockies, and most are probably negative. No pitching, too many party decks, product and experience bad, etc., etc., so on and so forth. Considering the Rockies may still be a major trade away from finishing their offseason, too, it's a little bit early to assume too much about the team and season in general (news flash: they're going to lose 90+ games, anyways).
Instead, I figured since New Year's week is typically a little slow, it'd be the perfect time to drop some very specific player predictions on you. Read, enjoy, debate in the comments, tell me I'm an idiot, but most importantly, share your own!
I'd love to hear your way-too-early take on the 2016 Rockies.
Christian Friedrich won't make it to Opening Day
Friedrich, 28, struggled through a full season in the Major Leagues in 2015 — the only Rockies pitcher to remain on the active roster all 162 games — because he was out of Minor League options and would've been exposed to waivers had the Rox demoted him. The same roster rule holds for the lefty entering 2016, and considering he logged a 5.25 ERA, 1.714 WHIP, 11.6 H/9 and 3.9 BB/9 last summer, I'm not optimistic he'll make the team out of Spring Training.
When he doesn't, he'll have to be exposed to the league rather than outrighted to Triple-A, and thus, the former first round draft pick has likely played his final days in a Rockies' uniform. (Granted, there's still a chance he'd clear waivers, anyways.) For what it's worth, FanGraphs lists Steamer projections as being bullish on Friedrich, but not for a full season in the 'pen. The projection system believes the lefty will toss 30 innings across 30 games in 2016, striking out 26 against just 11 walks with a 4.23 ERA.
2016 will be tough on Adam Ottavino
This isn't that much of a stretch prediction considering his injury — and the fact that he'll miss nearly half the season rehabbing, anyways — but I think it needs to be said considering his recent contract extension and the (very) fond memories of his limited 2015 season that pop up so strongly. Command seems to be the last thing to return after elbow reconstruction surgery, and players typically struggle in their first season after returning from the operation. It happened to Jorge de la Rosa, and to Jason Motte, and it will probably happen to Adam Ottavino.
That's not an awful thing, because he'll almost certainly be back to his old self in 2017, but he's not going to close many games for the Rockies this summer when he returns. Let's hope Motte, Chad Qualls, Jairo Diaz, and maybe even Carlos Estevez are up to the task in Ottavino's stead.
Kyle Parker: not freed
The Rockies currently have a bit of a logjam in their outfield between Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon, and Carlos Gonzalez starting with Brandon Barnes, Ben Paulsen, and Mark Reynolds likely to see time off the bench to give respite to the three stars. Of course, rumors have swirled all winter that one (or multiple) of Dickerson, Blackmon, and/or Cargo may be traded soon. Then, right on the heels of that comes news of the Rockies' "serious" interest in free agent outfielder Gerardo Parra.
What does that all mean? For Kyle Parker, barring some drastic rash of trades, it means there's just not going to be a significant opportunity to play an outfield spot and improve on his career .182/.217/.295 slash line over the last two summers. The former first-round pick can still end up a fourth/fifth outfielder for somebody, somewhere — he's only 26, so it's not like he's pushing the limits of age — but don't expect "Kyle Parker: Rockies Breakout Star 2016" to be a phrase you read ten months from now.
Jon Gray will spend some time in Triple-A
The idea that Jon Gray is going to take the reins as the Rockies' ace after getting his feet wet last summer is, of course, unfair to him. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if he spends a little time in Triple-A, if that's what is called for in his development plan. Don't get me wrong; if Gray is solid in Spring Training this time around, and pitches well to start the year, there's no reason not to keep him in Denver all summer.
But I'm betting baseball won't come quite that easy for Gray this summer, and it has nothing to do with the man himself, but rather the difficult and unfair game that is Major League Baseball. Gray's not going to win 20 games this summer, he's not going to be the ace of the Rockies' staff, and he might spend a little more time in Albuquerque adding to his repertoire. All of that is just fine! The Rockies don't need him to be an ace right now; they'll need it in 2017, when Gray has to be in Denver to stay.
Chad Bettis will regress
Everybody is generally positive about Chad Bettis, and deservedly so with him coming off a great year in 2015; after several very poor big league seasons, the Texas Tech product finally figured things out across 20 starts last summer. That's all great, but I'm bullish on Bettis coming back to earth a little bit next summer. Maybe that's just the pessimist in me, expecting Rockies' rotation members to generally log far worse than the 3.85 FIP Bettis recorded in 2015, but I think it's regression time for the Rockies' second-best starting pitcher.
Interestingly, Steamer doesn't think Bettis will regress like I do. The projection system calls for the righty to make 26 starts, going 9-10 with a 4.46 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, and a 4.24 FIP over 151 innings pitched in 2016. That's a slight regression, but really would represent a strong season for Bettis. We'll see soon enough!
Shane Carle will start a game for the Rockies
I like Shane Carle and I thought it was a very shrewd move for the Rockies to acquire him from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Rob Scahill back in November of 2014. Last summer, Carle was an Eastern League All-Star for the New Britain Rock Cats when he started 27 games, going 14-8 with a 3.68 ERA, three complete games, two shutouts, a 1.25 WHIP, and just 13 home runs and 32 walks allowed in 166 innings.
He ought to be a key member of the rotation for the Triple-A Isotopes in 2016, and knowing how the Rockies so often run through pitching over the course of a season, it's not too much of a stretch to imagine him being called up to Denver at some point, too. At just 24 and entering Triple-A for the first time, Carle's future is bright as a future potential back-end rotation cog, too.
Eddie Butler to the bullpen
This is wishful thinking on my part more than anything else, but after two partial years with heavy struggles as a starter — and some uninspiring Triple-A work in the Topes' rotation in 2015, too — I'd love to see the Rockies turn Butler loose in the bullpen and see what he looks like in short stints. The Radford University product has never lacked in arm strength, and it'd be interesting to see if he plays out of the 'pen, as an experiment when the Rockies don't need him to be a rotation member, anyways.
The club has obviously shown the proclivity to do this in the recent past, as best exemplified by Bettis' move to the 'pen several seasons ago before returning to the rotation, as well as Friedrich's role change at the end of 2014. It's tough to compare Butler straight up to either of those two (and granted, Bettis ended up returning as a starter, anyways), but a few more bad starts in 2016 and maybe the Rox ought to think about a role change for the sinker ball pitcher.
Nelson Gonzalez will have a breakout year
I'm going to start evangelizing this guy in the same way I've done Yohan Flande, but more seriously for Gonzalez to be a legitimate member of the Rockies' bullpen in 2016. All the righty has done is put up numbers in the minor leagues, and he has an Arizona Fall League pedigree befitting the exact kind of well-regarded arm the Rockies ought to be cultivating in their minor league system.
In 2015, Gonzalez split time between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Albuquerque, and logged 69 innings pitched over 42 games, going 5-4 with a 3.00 ERA, with a 1.16 WHIP, .240 opponents' batting average, 62 strikeouts and just 20 walks allowed. The 25-year-old will probably start in Albuquerque in 2016, but he ought to be on the Rockies' short list of call-ups depending on injury and/or ineffectiveness in April and May.