There are incredibly high expectations for the 2018 Rockies, and a repeat postseason appearance is the ultimate goal. The Rockies are looking at the 2017 season as a year for learning and developing, with this year potentially being the resulting payoff. Ronnie Kohrt at Mile High Sports outlines three reasons why the Rockies could be right. First is their beyond impressive bullpen. They hope to find success by shortening the games with powerful pitchers. Next, they are hoping to see strong performances in their young pitchers. Last year wore on for these guys, with relievers having to come in earlier in the game. If they can maintain endurance, the Rockies starting rotation could be dominant. Finally, we need to be able to rely on our stars, Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu, etc., to strike early. The earlier we can force the opposing team to use their bullpen, the better.
Kohrt also points out that there might be some things holding the Rockies back. We find ourselves in a very difficult division. The Dodgers are a worthy foe, and we’ll likely be up against their record all season. Then there is the unavoidable fear of the sophomore slump. With so many young players on the team, this is a valid concern. Finally, there were some little things that the Rockies struggled with last year that they have to watch out for in 2018. We’ve got to work on getting to base on balls, stealing bases, and power hitting. These little things could add up to hurt or help us this season. We’re finally at the time where speculation ends and reality begins: it’s time to see what this team can do.
The Rockies took a bit of a chance when they signed Pat Valaika 259th in the 2013 Amateur Draft. Things have certainly worked out in their favor, as Valaika has stepped up and provided the Rockies with some impressive versatility off the bench. His pinch hitting is top notch. Much like the gentleman at third base, Valaika has a knack for hitting well in close games. The Rockies are hoping that Valaika can play a similar role this year as he did last year: filling in holes that might develop. PIcking him up has turned out to be a smart move, and hopefully he can have some success again in 2018.
After plenty of speculation about what move he would make, Greg Holland has finally signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. It is a one year deal for $14 million, which is markedly less appealing than the deal that Wade Davis got with the Rockies, a deal supposedly offered to Holland first. Holland had a fantastic year with the Rockies in 2017, leading the league in saves and games finished. Yes, August did not treat him well, but if we conveniently overlook that month, he was absolutely phenomenal. As Holland has been staying in shape this offseason, we can probably expect to see him pitching for the Cardinals in just a couple of weeks. It’s interesting to consider what differences we might have seen if Holland agreed to a deal with the Rockies, but I think we can hope for some great things from Wade Davis.
The Rockies are starting out their season mostly on the road this year. Given that the team has historically struggled on the road (41-40 last season), this is a concern that deserves at least a little attention. Bud Black, however, does not have many qualms about the tough start his team will have. He has all the faith in this team, regardless of where they’re playing. The talent he’s working with just might prove him right. There are plenty of young players and proven abilities, and they have a good chance of improving their road record.
The Rockies very deliberately focused their spending this past offseason. They went big on the bullpen, spending far more here than on anything else, including starting rotation. They’re not alone in this shift of focus: six other major league teams spent more on bullpen than starting rotation. While the starters do a good brunt of the work, teams are starting to value relief pitchers more. Jeff Bridich now says that this is something that has been in the works for a while. They feel they’re at a good spot with the players they already had, so they were ready to take the plunge to spend big on what they thought they needed. They’ve made some good choices, leading to a super stacked bullpen. Given that the starting rotation is made up largely of young players, this bullpen could ease the pressure and add a veteran component. Fingers crossed we get some good return to match the investment.
Everything is falling into place for the Rockies as the season begins, but there are still some questions about Ian Desmond. He was an expensive addition to the team, but injuries have thus far prevented him from contributing much. With all the potential that the Rockies have, it is hard to say exactly where Desmond will find his spot. He’s currently set at first base, but there is so much up in the air, things could definitely change. Desmond is willing to be flexible, moving around to where the Rockies might need him, but he does hope for some consistency in at least one aspect of the game, whether it be position, batting order, or whatever else might give him that. Wherever he ends up, I hope that the Rockies see some great stuff from him in 2018.