The Rockies bullpen was bad last year. There's really no way around it. In an era where it's become the norm to see 100 mph fastballs and sub 2.00 ERAs in the bullpen, the Rockies looked like they were 20 years behind. The bullpen as a whole had the 8th least amount of strikeouts in baseball, and when you pair that with a 33.6 percent hard-hit ball rate, it's no surprise they had a league-worst ERA of 5.13
Luckily for the Rockies bullpen, specifically the back end, they have nowhere to go but up. This is crucial for the upcoming, and hopefully contending, season.
Ottavino has by far the most dominant arsenal and will be the guy called upon to record the final three outs of a game. His fastball/slider(s) combo is what sets him apart from the rest of bullpen, and both pitches complement each other perfectly. Despite missing almost all of 2015 and a good portion of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Ottavino looked as dominant as ever when he got back on the mound last year. In 27 innings, he struck out 35 batters and walked just seven. He did manage to blow five saves in 12 opportunities, but the most important part was he was healthy and throwing as well as he had prior to his injury.
The late-Inning Guys:
McGee had a disappointing first season with Colorado. He was acquired from Tampa Bay last offseason with the hopes that his fastball would play well in Coors. The 30-year-old lefty dealt with a nagging knee injury that likely played a large role in his dismal season. He also saw a dip in fastball velocity, 93.4 MPH, down from his career average of 95.3 mph. McGee had a career 2.77 ERA before coming to Denver, so his 4.73 ERA last year obviously stands out. McGee is pitching in the World Baseball Classic, so there's little doubt that he's back to 100 percent health. It will be interesting to see how he performs, and hopefully give optimism for a strong bounce back in 2017.
Holland was one of the most dominant relievers from 2011-2014, carrying an absurd 1.86 ERA over 256 1/3 innings. Like way too many other pitchers these days, Holland saw his career flash before his eyes as he went down with a torn UCL towards the end of a rocky 2015 season. Holland has gone through a successful Tommy John rehab and is ready to go for Spring Training. It's always a big concern trying to fall back on a guy who’s recovering from such an impactful injury, but the Rockies have a good history with former Tommy John recipients (Jorge De La Rosa, Rafael Betancourt). Holland's role will probably vary to begin the year, getting a few seventh inning appearances along with a few chances to close the ninth. Regardless, it's exciting bringing aboard a guy with a such a successful background and that alone is a reason to be optimistic.
After a disastrous three-year contract for a left-handed reliever expired last year, the Rockies decided to give it another go and signed another lefty on a three-year deal. Dunn is a risky contract, as the chances he turns into Boone Logan 2.0 seem rather high. His numbers seem rather mediocre for a $19 million contract, but it's apparently the price that you have to pay to bring a reliever of his caliber to Denver. He's put up solid numbers for a reliever in his career, a 3.54 ERA and 10 K/9, and not surprisingly has better numbers against left-handed hitters. His .638 OPS against lefties, a .109 drop from right handers, signifies his role might be as a high-leverage LOOGY, although that hasn't been his role to this point in his career, it's hard to say for sure.
The young right hander made his debut early last year, and, at moments, looked like he had the makeup of a dominant piece. It was a roller coaster of a year that saw him closing games and blowing by guys with 100 mph fastballs, but also games where he couldn't find the strike zone and giving up late leads. He blew seven of his 18 save appearances and ended up finishing the year with a 5.24 ERA. Estevez is just 23, and last year as the perfect year for him to get his feet wet. He now knows what it takes, from a mental and physical standpoint, to succeed at the major league level. 2017 will be here for him to show that he can handle it.
On The Farm:
There are a handful of guys who could see themselves pitching for the Rockies in 2016, specifically in a late inning role if things don't go as planned with the current guys. A guy I'm really high on is Rayan Gonzalez, who was recently added to the 40-man roster late last year. Just take a look at this cutter that saws a bat in half, followed by a diving curve ball. He just finished up his age 25 season in Double-A, so he's likely on the express track at this point to the major leagues. He strikes a lot of guys out (10.2 K/9) but also has some control issues (4.1 BB/9) that will need to be worked out before it's a possibility.
Miguel Castro also has a chance, but he's been somewhat of a disappointment since coming over in the Troy Tulowitzki trade. Luckily, he has age on his side as he's just 22-years-old, and will likely spend some time getting some Triple-A seasoning this year.
Scott Oberg is fully healthy after a scare with Thoracic outlet syndrome, but it's yet to be seen if he'll be able to consistently pitch at his ceiling. He'll likely spend time in Triple-A to prove himself, but I can't imagine he'll have a very long leash.
If Catastrophe Strikes
If any of these guys get hurt, the Rockies will likely push everyone up one spot, possibly bringing someone like Jason Motte or Jordan Lyles into a later-inning role. These guys aren't necessarily 'bad' options, but if guys start dropping like flies, C.C. Lee, Matt Carasiti, Sam Moll, and James Farris could be first in line for major-league promotions if need be.