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Projecting the Rockies’ 2018 Opening Day roster

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A lot of it looks settled, but there will be a few Spring Training roster battles

At this moment, January 3, 2018, we are closer to Opening Day 2018 than we are to the final out of the World Series in 2017. The offseason is over half over. There will even be games played by the end of February. While many are still clamoring for the Rockies to make one more big move and add an additional offensive punch to the club, there’s a very real chance that the Rockies big offseason acquisitions are over, and outside of minor league deals and arbitration hearings, the Rockies are ready to start Spring Training.

Let’s take a look at what the Colorado Rockies 25-man roster could be on Opening Day. For the sake of today’s exercise, we are assuming that the Rockies are done making major-league deals this offseason and that everyone will be healthy when the season opens. I’ll only be looking at players currently on the Rockies’ 40-man roster. While there will be plenty of players in Spring Training camp not on the roster, there are no obvious candidates to make the active roster are among them. Unless there is a big surprise, even all of the prospects that are expected to contribute to the major league team out of camp are already on the 40-man roster.

Starting Pitchers (5)

Jon Gray
Tyler Anderson
Chad Bettis
German Marquez
Kyle Freeland

Of all the positions this is the one that could have the most roster spots decided during Spring Training. The two obvious names left off are Jeff Hoffman and Antonio Senzatela, both of whom could easily claim one of the spots in the rotation with a strong spring. While the Rockies have broken camp with only four starting pitchers before, with only one off day in the first 21 days it’s unlikely they’ll take that approach this year.

If the Rockies decide not to move one of the young starters to the pen as a long man, they’ll have quite the depth of starting pitchers in Triple-A this season, as they should be able to call upon Yency Almonte, Sam Howard, and Zach Jemiola.

Relief Pitchers (8)

Wade Davis
Jake McGee
Bryan Shaw
Chris Rusin
Mike Dunn
Adam Ottavino
Scott Oberg
Carlos Estevez

Unless something crazy happens in spring training the first six guys on this list are pretty solid predictions. The Rockies have spent a lot of money on the back-end of their bullpen the past two offseasons ,and those six will account for over $45 million dollars on the Rockies payroll. Scott Oberg appeared to have earned Bud Black’s trust over last season and should be a lock for that seventh spot. The eighth spot is where it could get interesting.

While it’s easy to look at the quality of pitchers in the bullpen and think that the Rockies should be able to get away with carrying seven, the Rockies desire to carry eight relievers will have little to do with that. Pitching at Coors Field is physically taxing, and giving Black an additional arm to keep the big guns healthy and fresh proved advantageous in 2017.

If the Rockies decide to go with eight, who that eighth pitcher is will decide as much on what role the Rockies are trying to fill as anything. If the Rockies decide they want an additional long-man to pair with Rusin, one of the young starters who didn’t make the rotation, like Senzatela, could be in the pen. Zac Rosscup doesn’t have options, which might seem to give him a leg up, but being a lefty specialist in a pen with three other lefties hurts more. For now, Estevez is the best reliever, so he gets the last spot in the ‘pen.

Catchers (2)

Chris Iannetta
Tony Wolters

The recently signed Iannetta easily takes a slot, and for now Wolters wins the second spot because of his ability to left-right platoon with Iannetta. Tom Murphy’s bat would provide considerably more punch to the lineup on days he starts, but he has a lot to prove in Spring Training to get that spot.

Infielders (5)

Nolan Arenado
DJ LeMahieu
Ryan McMahon
Trevor Story
Pat Valaika

This is the easiest of the groups to figure out. Unless the Rockies acquire another first baseman before the season, the five infielders currently on the 40-man roster will also be the five on the active roster. Pat Valiaka’s ability to back up every position allows the Rockies to carry the eighth reliever and the face that a couple of the Rockies outfielders can play first helps as well.

Outfielders (5)

Charlie Blackmon
Ian Desmond
David Dahl
Gerardo Parra
Mike Tauchman

This is probably the hardest group to figure out due to a couple of tough players. If it was a matter of just picking the most talented outfielder of the bunch it would be a lot easier because Raimel Tapia would be on the roster; however, it’s also about development, contracts, and playing time.

With Blackmon locked into one spot and Parra and Desmond on the roster, it really only leaves one starting outfield spot. Only one of Dahl or Tapia is going to make the roster with the other one in Triple-A getting playing time. Because I’m working under the assumption of everyone’s healthy, that goes to Dahl. Tapia could benefit from some additional time in Triple-A to work on his defense, which is a better option than having him on the active roster but not playing.

Let us know what your projected 25-man roster is in the comments below. Next, we’ll attempt to predict the Opening Day lineup.