Writing about the best and worst case for the Rockies is something I have done before. The opportunity to break it out again is too good not to participate. I know all of us are still in the early swing of optimism and who can blame us? Two series wins. One of them because we beat Clayton Kershaw to open the series! The Bullpen seemingly lights out and even without our main bats producing we are producing runs! This is a good time for optimism!
It's the Best of Times
Considering the best case scenario has to start with the injury bug ending as soon as our missing pieces return. Once Desmond and Dahl are back full time then the National League West can appreciate the power of this fully operational Rockies Lineup! If that stays true for the rest of the season that alone is a huge start.
With consistent health our lineup is dominate night in and night out. Ian Desmond gives us the depth at so many positions that with him we can simply rotate others in and out. I would actually love to see the Rockies employing the "Desmond Super Sub" approach. Keep Reynolds at 1B primarily and let Desmond give everyone at all these positions he can play well rotating days off. The Rockies then get Desmond's bat in the lineup often AND give everyone else downtime to help us throughout the season. This becomes a massive win-win for the team and prevents players like Alexi Amarista from acquiring more than about 200 ABs through the season.
In addition to health and utilizing the awesome power of Ian Desmond to be able to play so many places on the field the next thing that could totally happen is that we see all our young pitchers take another step forward. John Gray becomes a dominate starter backed up by Anderson, Chatwood, Senzatela, and Freeland all pitching so well we see them start every game throughout the season. They all just make it so that we have the same starting 5 as long as possible. Then late in the season when Freeland and Senzatela are at the point of their inning caps we call up Hoffman and German to fill in to close out the season and they just keep us rolling.
The bullpen keeps rolling. Seeing Holland and Dunn coming off injuries and pitching so well is already huge! With the talent in the bullpen if they keep performing at a high level we effectively have 3 closer quality players who have experience closing successfully in Holland, Ottavino, and McGee. This is potentially an embarrassment of riches that if it keeps going puts the Rockies in the perfect place for this season.
Bud Black proves to be as effective as we all hope and dream he will be. It's unlikely he can be less effective than Weiss' was at times making decisions that truly were strange, but Black is supposed to be able to get the most out of his pitchers. Lets say he does and gives them just that bit of support and coaching to really maximize their potential! He further goes forward with the amazingness of Ian Desmond as a super sub causing him to be effectively a 4 WAR player off the bench. Sorta as he would get a lot of starts in that scenario spelling the "starter" at different positions.
If this all happens we win the NL West and are in the conversation for teams that can dominate for a few years because of the youth/talent combination. With the players working their way up through the system we even could see stories about how we can continue our dominance with just a few breaks going our way!
It's the Worst of TImes
Lets start with the obvious. Injuries. If we suddenly start losing players or Desmond/Dahl take longer to return our depth will be tested and we will start to see extended articles about how Drag Factor is impacting our team's ability to compete. If Gray/Chatwood/Anderson go down for any extended period of time it's going to be all about 2018 at that point with the hope that everyone who we lose comes back healthy and capable.
Add to that Story/Arenado/Blackmon going down with an injury for any extended period and again, we are likely replacing them with a much less capable player.
The young pitching also is a potential challenge. So far so good, but what happens in a month once a book is out on our young starters and they have to make adjustments. It seems more likely than not that they will have a string of starts that we all talk about growing pains and how we have to be patient with young pitchers. It is further likely they spend time in AAA refining what they learn from being in the majors and we have to hope that Hoffman, German, and others are able to keep things afloat, which seems unlikely.
And the bullpen. Great so far! But we are putting our hopes on three pitchers coming off injuries that effectively kept them out of the league for most of a season. It's nice that they look healthy, but are they really? (probably yes, but still it's early). Add in the recently ineffective (McGee) and the "Well, they did better as long men" in Rusin and Lyles and you actually have a recipe that feels a lot more likely to lead to failure than success. It's entirely possible that they all go back to the ineffectiveness and struggles that coming off injuries and being the shadow of their former selves lead to causing another summer of patching together the bullpen and hoping.
Finally, will Bud Black be effective. We have seen some strange decisions on base-running already, looking at you Charlie Blackmon, but what if the offense is short a superstar and Bud thinks we need to "create" offense with lots of hit and runs or attempted steals? And while his bullpen management is better than Weiss' so far, it's early. He may suddenly have the front office "encouraging" him to put McGee in as our closer for who knows what reason.
If all this happens, it's going to be a long season and some of us will be checking out as soon as Football Camp kicks off.
I think it is likely we see the middle ground. We likely have our depth tested, but we see effectiveness and health from some players while other struggle. I am hopeful and honestly optimistic about the likely outcomes. I think we have a situation where the Rockies have depth and can work through the inevitable injuries that come from the season grind. We have to love the first week though because 2 series wins with the offense still trying to get rolling is wonderful!