The Rockies are mostly maintaining their roster from their whirlwind 2017 postseason appearance. However, with the opening of Spring Training, there are still some roster questions left.
Who’s on first?
The first major hole that needs to be filled is at first base with the loss of Mark Reynolds to free agency at the end of the 2017 season. They really haven’t had a consistent first baseman since Todd Helton retired in 2013 - Justin Morneau played in 2014 and 2015, and Reynolds played in 2016 and 2017. In 2017, Ian Desmond was signed to a five-year contract to be a first baseman. However, due to an injury in spring training and the resurgence of Reynolds, he ended up being shuffled back to left field where he primarily played with the Texas Rangers in 2016.
With Reynolds being a free agent, it seems as though the battle will be between Ryan McMahon and Ian Desmond. As of right now, it seems as though McMahon has the upper hand. Other options could include re-signing Mark Reynolds or even using Pat Valaika to make a platoon, both of which would be a nice right handed power bat to complement McMahon’s left handed bat. However, Valaika is more likely to play a middle infield utility bench role since he’s more of a natural there. Jordan Patterson could be a dark horse option, but he’s more likely to play in the outfield. Brian Mundell is also a non-roster invitee this spring.
Who will fill the corner outfield spots?
With Charlie Blackmon patrolling center field for at least another year, the question remains of who will fill the corner outfield spots. Right now the Rockies can start Ian Desmond in left field and Gerardo Parra in right field, barring any complications from his hand injury. Some other options include Raimel Tapia, Mike Tauchman, and David Dahl if he is able to bounce back from the injury that forced him out of the 2017 lineup. Jordan Patterson and Noel Cuevas are also currently on the 40-man roster, although Patterson is listed as an infielder. The Rockies also extended a spring training invitation to outfield prospects Sam Hilliard and Jordan Patterson. At this point, it seems to be Tapia, Tauchman, and Dahl battling for two open roster spots.
How will the pitching depth hold up?
Second-year manager Bud Black is looking for eight quality pitchers to have in his rotation this season - five guys to start and three guys who can either be designated to a long-reliever role in the bullpen or to start the year in AAA, ready to be called up for a spot start here and there if necessary. The question then becomes: who are those eight guys? Based on last year’s roster, you could probably count in Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson, German Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, and Jeff Hoffman to be competing for a spot on the starting five. Last year, Freeland, Hoffman, and Senzatela were pushed to the bullpen later in the season due to the fatigue of a longer season, so it wouldn’t be unheard of for one of these guys to be used in that role.
Currently, it looks as though Gray, Bettis, Anderson, Márquez, Hoffman, and Freeland will be competing to be the starting five. Gray is the clear ace, and then it’s a matter of everyone else falling in behind. Senzatela will most likely be a reliever like he was for most of last year, and that will leave Yency Almonte, Zach Jemiola, and Sam Howard to compete for Bud Black’s “final spot.” All three will most likely start in AAA and be called up if necessary to make spot starts throughout the year, but could also be dark horses to make a back end rotation spot. Look especially for Almonte to maybe make a push in camp.
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As mentioned earlier, the Rockies’ roster has a very similar construction to last year’s playoff team. If they can fill the void at first, solidify their outfield, and keep their pitchers healthy and developing, they should be able to have another solid and hopefully playoff-bound season!