Editor's note: This FanPost was originally published on March 23, 2018.
Last year's road to Rocktober took us some amazing (Rocky Mountain) highs, to some really crappy lows. I loved all of it. This year will likely be no different.
However, while our team looks pretty much the same, I think it's safe to expect this season to play out very differently. While the Rockies didn't do anything drastic to improve (Greg Holland and Wade Davis are very close to the same value as players), many of the contenders from last year did.
If you recall, much of the league got out to a slow start last year, which allowed the Rockies to get an early lead in the Wild Card race. This is significant because they needed every one of those games to overcome their slow finish to the season, which leads me to my first prediction:
Prediction 1: The Rockies will have to chase down other contenders for a Wild Card spot
Like I mentioned before, the Rockies benefited from a lot of teams getting a slow start. I do not expect this to happen again. In fact, I expect them and the Diamondbacks to be chasing down the Brewers and Cardinals for much of the year. Since the baseball season is like a marathon, the two teams that win the Wild Card spots will need all the depth they can get, which leads me my second prediction:
Prediction 2: Ryan McMahon, David Dahl, Raimel Tapia, Jordan Patterson, Mike Tauchman, Yency Almonte and others will make a significant impact for the Rockies
As much as I love the outfield of Cargo, Chuck Nazty, and Desi, I fully expect one or more of them to go down at various points during the season, opening up opportunities for the Rockies' plethora of MLB-quality outfielders to stand in. If Desmond goes down, or has to take on more of a full-time role in the outfield, I fully expect Ryan McMahon to get a significant amount of time at first base.
Meanwhile, our rotation is full of risks. Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson have missed a lot of time already, and we're never sure which Anderson we're going to get - the one that had an ERA in the high 4's for most of the season, or the one that finished the year with an ERA in the low 2's/high 1's. German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, and Antonio Sentezela will likely go through periods of sophomore slumps. While Chad Bettis will (hopefully) return to his consistent form of the 2015-2016 seasons, there is a reason he has the alter ego Bad Chettis. The rotation depth will definitely be tested, and a result of this guys like Yency Almonte will likely be making their major league debut in the midst of a playoff race.
Prediction 3: Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and DJ LeMahieu will remain solidly above average but will miss out on the MVP due to injuries
Knock on some wood for me, because what I'm about to say is not pretty. We have been lucky over the last several years when it comes to the health of our big three All-Star core. None of these guys have missed significant amounts of time. Last year, Nolan played in 159 games, Charlie in 159 games, and DJ in 155 games. That is remarkable health for the three best hitters in our lineup. Just because probability is not kind, it is unlikely that this will happen again this year. Expect one or more of these players to get hurt for a significant chunk of the season. Fortunately, the Rockies have depth to reduce the impact of any of these losses, but - come on - if Nolan goes down for more than 2-3 weeks, the Rockies playoff chances are going to be greatly reduced.
Prediction 4: The National Media will continue to overlook the Rockies
I can't tell you how often I read articles from national writers that talk about the Rockies' "high-powered offense" and fail to discuss their pitching at all. It drives me crazy to tune into other team's broadcasts and hear only about Charlie's beard, not about his production over the course of the season. I even saw a power rankings article in the last week that listed the Rockies outside the top 10. This is absolutely insane. Unfortunately, I think this kind of treatment will continue. I don't know if it's because the Rockies are the only team in the Rocky Mountain time zone, or its because their name isn't after something aggressive like a rattlesnake, a giant, or tiger, or some other stupid reason, but it's beyond time for this to stop. Watching the All-Star game is frustrating because the broadcast team almost never has good, non-superficial information about the Rockies' representatives. With my rant now over, I will move on to my final prediction.
Prediction 5: The Rockies will not retain any of their upcoming free-agent outfielders
At the end of this season, Charlie Blackmon, Gerardo Parra, and Carlos Gonzalez will all be free agents. As much fun as Parra is, I think he is the most likely to not be brought back. Charlie and Cargo are both fan favorites and after Cargo's bad experience in free agency this year, I think he is the most likely to come back. However, I think the Rockies will fully embrace the youth movement and allow Dahl, Tapia, Patterson, Tauchman and others take the reigns after this season. It's possible the Rockies sign another free-agent outfielder, but I find it unlikely, especially because of my bonus prediction:
Bonus Prediction: The Rockies lock up Nolan for at least another 3 years after the season
Nolan is easily one of the best players in the league and that is no secret. He is going to command a hefty payday when he becomes a free agent after the 2019 season. His current two-year contract expires at the end of this season, so the Rockies will have to prepare their budget for his salary to increase no matter what. While I find it difficult to accept that he would want to sign when his mentor and co-MVP candidate re-enter free agency, I think he'll see that the Rockies have a foundation to build on for years to come, built on good pitching. I don't know what his extension will look like, but I don't expect it to be longer than 5 years and include opt-out clauses after his age-29 season.
With the Rockies bullpen, if they can reach the post-season, all bets are off. I think the hardest part will getting to the Wild Card game. However, if they minimize injuries to their impact players, the Rockies are going to be good; they are going to be overlooked, and they are going to ride out a lot of ups and downs as they follow the Road to Rocktober.