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Predicting the 2020 Rockies Roster

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...and ‘Taxi Squad’

Earlier, in what we thought was the 2020 MLB preseason, Purple Row predicted the Rockies 26-man roster coming out of spring training. Now that the season is finally beginning to take shape, it’s time to revisit the Rockies’ roster and project what it will look like on Opening Day.

Roster Rules

For the 2020 season, everything is different, including rules regarding the roster. Teams are required to submit a list of 60 players, making up the Club Player Pool, composed of a 40-man roster and a “taxi squad” of 20 players. On Opening Day, teams are allowed an active roster of 30 players, reduced to 28 players after two weeks, and finally reduced to 26 players after an additional two weeks. In addition, there will be a DH in the NL this season, which will dictate roster decisions to some degree.

Without further adieu, we’ll attempt to break down the current 40-man roster and then project what additional players will make up the “taxi squad” and round out the Rockies’ Club Player Pool in 2020.

Infielders (7)

The Rockies return all four of their incumbent starting infielders from last year in Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Ryan McMahon, and Daniel Murphy. Garrett Hampson proved himself as a capable middle infielder as well as a fill-in at center field. With Brendan Rodgers healthy, we expect to see his name on the 30-man as a bench infielder with potential to DH as well. To round out the infielders, Josh Fuentes should fill in as a corner infield backup.

Rockies 40-man Roster - Infielders

Primary Position Player Projected Role 2019 bWAR
Primary Position Player Projected Role 2019 bWAR
3B Nolan Arenado Starter 6.7
3B Josh Fuentes Bench -0.1
2B Garrett Hampson Utility 0.3
2B Ryan McMahon Starter 1.2
1B Daniel Murphy Starter 0.3
1B Tyler Nevin Taxi Squad N/A
SS Brendan Rodgers Bench -0.6
SS Trevor Story Starter 6.1

Outfielders (5)

Right field is pretty well set with Charlie Blackmon. David Dahl will be a regular starter splitting time between both left and center field. Ian Desmond, Sam Hilliard, and Raimel Tapia will all be in the mix as well. If Hilliard can replicate his small sample performance from 2019, he’ll probably be starting most games with Desmond as the fourth outfielder. Yonathan Daza presents an interesting bench option as he grades out as the best fielder of the group, would be an additional right-handed batter, and has raked in Triple-A. He’s on the fringe of making the roster and we see him as just being on the outside of the 30-man.

Rockies 40-man Roster - Outfielders

Primary Position Player Projected Role 2019 bWAR
Primary Position Player Projected Role 2019 bWAR
RF Charlie Blackmon Starter 2.1
CF David Dahl Starter 0.4
CF Yonathan Daza Taxi Squad -0.8
LF Ian Desmond Starter -1.8
LF Sam Hilliard Bench 0.6
LF Raimel Tapia Bench -0.8

Catchers (3)

Tony Wolters is cemented as the incumbent starter with Drew Butera and Elias Diaz battling for the bench spot and Dom Nuñez on the outside looking in. There’s a good chance that the Rockies carry three catchers during the 30-man roster period and phase out either Diaz or Butera by the time rosters are cut down to 26. It should be noted that both Butera and Diaz are spring training non-roster invitees and are currently not on the 40-man roster.

Rockies 40-man Roster - Catchers

Primary Position Player Projected Role 2019 bWAR
Primary Position Player Projected Role 2019 bWAR
C Drew Butera Bench -0.4
C Elias Diaz Bench -1
C Dom Nuñez Taxi Squad -0.2
C Tony Wolters Starter 1.5

Starting Pitchers (6)

The top four spots in the rotation are locked in with Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland, Germán Márquez, and Antonio Senzatela. There’s been talk of the Rockies utilizing a six-man rotation to start things off. The rotation should likely be rounded out with Jeff Hoffman and Chi Chi Gonzalez with the expectation that either gets moved to the bullpen or “taxi squad” once the active roster is cut down to 26.

Rockies 40-man Roster - Starting Pitchers

Player Projected Role 2019 bWAR
Player Projected Role 2019 bWAR
Ryan Castellani Taxi Squad N/A
Kyle Freeland SP3 -0.9
Chi Chi González SP6 0.4
Ashton Goudeau Taxi Squad N/A
Jon Gray SP2 3.6
Jeff Hoffman SP5 0.2
Peter Lambert Taxi Squad -0.1
German Márquez SP1 3.6
Antonio Senzatela SP4 -0.9

Relief Pitchers (9)

Bud Black has expressed concern with pitchers’ ability to be ready for the season without the benefit of a full spring training, so the Rockies will likely lean towards a pitcher heavy 30-man roster. The closer and set up roles are held by Wade Davis and Scott Oberg. Carlos Estévez and Jairo Díaz will handle the late-inning relief work. Yency Almonte, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw will also have middle relief roles in the bullpen. With the performance that Tyler Kinley was putting on before spring training was shut down, it would be a surprise if he didn’t land on the 30-man as well. Look for James Pazos to add a left-handed relief option as the final piece of a bullpen that goes nine pitchers deep.

Rockies 40-man Roster - Relief Pitchers

Player Projected Role 2019 bWAR
Player Projected Role 2019 bWAR
Yency Almonte Long Relief 0.1
Ben Bowden Taxi Squad N/A
Wade Davis Closer -1.4
Jairo Díaz Middle Relief 0.5
Phillip Diehl Taxi Squad -0.1
Carlos Estévez Middle Relief 1.5
Tyler Kinley Middle Relief 0.8
Jake McGee Middle Relief 0.3
José Mujica Taxi Squad N/A
Scott Oberg Setup 2.4
James Pazos Middle Relief 0.5
Antonio Santos Taxi Squad N/A
Bryan Shaw Middle Relief 0.5
Jesus Tinoco Taxi Squad 0.1

Taxi Squad

If you’re counting so far, the 30-man roster is now accounted for and 41 players total which covers the Colorado Rockies current 40-man roster (as of 6/29/20 there are 39 players on the 40-man) and Butera and Elias Diaz who are spring training non-roster invitees (NRI). The Rockies are reported to be leaning towards Albuquerque as the satellite location for the “taxi squad” but have also considered Metropolitan State University in Denver per Nick Groke of The Athletic.

Since there is no minor league season planned for 2020, the approach that many teams are rumored to be taking is to assign their most valuable prospects to the “taxi squad” to ensure that they can continue to develop. This would suggest that outside of the 40-man roster, the available spots in the Club Player Pool will not necessarily go to players who are expected to play in MLB games in 2020, but rather players who are prioritized by the organization to receive the benefit of training at the satellite facility. With that in mind, there is an expectation that the Rockies top farm talent will be assigned to the “taxi squad”, headlined by Ryan Rolison, Ryan Vilade, Michael Toglia, and Terrin Vavra. It’s unclear how many of the NRI players from spring training will get contracts for the shortened season, but certainly a few will and these players have been included in the projected taxi squad list below as well.

Non-Roster Taxi Squad Players

Primary Position Player
Primary Position Player
P Daniel Bard
OF Bret Boswell
P Tim Collins
P Tommy Doyle
OF Mike Gerber
P Joe Harvey
1B Grant Lavigne
1B Brian Mundell
SS Chris Owings
P Riley Pint
SP Ryan Rolison
3B Aaron Schunk
C Brian Serven
SS Eric Stamets
1B Michael Toglia
SS Alan Trejo
2B Terrin Vavra
3B Ryan Vilade
3B Colton Welker