The Colorado Rockies open their 2018 regular season tonight against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They carry the expectations of a playoff run in 2017 and the pressure to succeed while they have their core of players under contract. They will have to navigate the difficult National League West once again.
It looks like a tall order for the Rockies. As season previews kick around and we all try to figure out what success looks like for this team, many of us put on our analyst hats and try to consider the team rationally. That might lead us to focus on flaws: did they do enough to fix the offense? Are they too dependent on declining veteran position players? Can the young pitching really hold up again for the long season?
That’s valuable, but it’s not always fun. So let’s take a break from analysis and talk about fun stuff.
Carlos González is back
Ignore the reasons it might go sideways. Pause your concerns about blocking playing time for young outfielders. Is there anything more fun than the idea of CarGo leading the Rockies to glory? We got a glimpse of the fun when González got hot down the stretch last season. It won’t be fun if he struggles as he did for most of 2017, of course, but I’m sure excited about the possibility that he’ll play well for another playoff contender.
How could this not make you happy?
The starting rotation is deep and talented
It wasn’t that long ago that we could only dream of a top-tier, talented starting rotation. “Rockies pitching” was a big funny joke to most people and not much else. We are wise to remind ourselves constantly just how impressive the Rockies’s rotation was in 2017. It’s no guarantee that any pitching prospect will actually make it, and yet there you had German Márquez, Kyle Freeland, and Antonio Senzatela all breaking through last season and joining Jon Gray and eventually Tyler Anderson. Add in veteran Chad Bettis and youngsters Jeff Hoffman and Yency Almonte, and you see what actual depth looks like. This is rare for most big league teams, and even more so for the Rockies. We should enjoy it!
Jon Gray is a stud
There are certain things that make a pitcher especially fun to watch. They’re the adjectives that you might hear analysts gushing about and they might border on the cliche: he’s tough, fearless, doesn’t back down from anybody, he’s a bulldog, and so on. Cliché or not, these descriptions apply to Gray. I look forward to pumping my fist at those high-90s fastballs in big moments throughout the season. And the hair. Always the hair.
The bullpen looks stacked
Anyone who knows me knows I’m scared of bullpens, so I’m not going to say much here. We should at least throw the depth word around again, because in addition to their big signings this winter, the Rockies have a number of quality options to help shorten games. It sure is fun to watch a lights-out bullpen, so if that’s what the Rockies have built it will lend a certain swagger to the team that comes through to those of us watching.
The young hitters seem ready
Ryan McMahon is on the opening day roster and looks like he might get regular playing time at first base. David Dahl and Raimel Tapia will start in Triple-A, which is a touchy subject, but the fact that they seem overqualified for the minors means they’ll be ready if an opportunity arises. We read the names of top prospects for years before many of us even see them, and it’s often a couple years after that before they’re in the big leagues. This topic is complicated, but it’s exciting to think that all three of these guys might be in the same lineup at some point this year.
Trevor Story’s defense
A lot is being made of Story’s importance to the offense, and rightfully so. Through all his ups and downs at the plate, Story has established himself as a stellar defensive shortstop. That’s no small thing for a contending team, and combined with a certain third baseman (more on him in a minute), the Rockies make some awfully slick defensive plays on that side of the infield.
Chuck Nazty, DJ, CarGo and Nolan
We might not have realized it in the years that led up to 2017, but we’ve arguably been in the midst of a Rockies era, one that we’ll remember as the one that was built around these four players. With CarGo back, we’re guaranteed one more run with them. It’s hard not to have one eye on the future, especially when the future includes Brendan Rodgers, but if we’re talking about fun, it’s great that these four get another shot at it.
He’s great on defense and offense. He’s passionate. He’s on track to be the greatest player in franchise history. We’re lucky to watch him, and let’s hope that we have another season of watching him in a playoff race. He has already shown he’s built for big moments, and watching him succeed in those moments is about as fun as it gets.
Baseball is fun, but it’s no guarantee that your team will be fun. These Rockies have a lot of reasons to watch, and this is hardly a complete list.
What are the fun things that you’re looking forward to this season?