On Sunday, the Colorado Rockies released the Club Player Pool for the 2020 season. The Club Player Pool is a list of up to 60 players, composed of the 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. Right before the release of the Rockies’ Player Pool, we made our predictions of who would be on the list. There are some significant differences between our prediction and some notable surprises as well.
Club Player Pool List
Room for flexibility
The biggest surprise is that the Club Player Pool only lists 52 of the available 60 spots. The Rockies weren’t the only club to utilize this approach, as the Orioles, Red Sox, Royals, Athletics, Mets, Phillies, Cardinals, and Dodgers all filled less than 55 of the available slots with their initial lists. Our prediction made use of all 60 spots initially, and it’s mainly the spots that we expected to be filled by top prospects (Michael Toglia, Terrin Vavra, Colton Welker, etc.) that we missed on. It’s exciting to see Ryan Rolison’s name on the list as he is one of the Rockies’ young promising pitchers not currently on the 40-man roster.
So, why did the Rockies do this? The transaction rules for the Club Player Pool are pretty much the same they apply to the 40-man roster. If a team wants to remove a player, that player needs to be either waived, designated for assignment, released, traded, or put on the Injured List (IL). The 2020 season carries the caveat of a COVID-19 related injury list for players who have either tested positive for COVID-19, exhibited symptoms and have pending test results, or have recently been in contact with someone who has contracted the virus. Rather than commit to all 60 players right away, by keeping some spots vacant the team is free to acquire new players to the team and add them or spend more time debating use of the additional slots without having to go through the pain of removing a player from the list.
Notable hits and misses
There was a lot of anticipation about whether or not Ubaldo Jiménez would make the list after having been invited to Spring Training for a comeback to the big leagues. This really tugged at the heartstrings of Rockies’ fans as Jiménez is the best starting pitcher in franchise history and having him back in purple would be a dream. We correctly predicted he would not make the list and Jeff Bridich confirmed this in a press conference on Monday.
Following up on decision not to invite Ubaldo Jimenez back, #Rockies Jeff Bridich said it was the team's decision. Essentially, Jimenez age, being out of baseball for so long, other talent on team, forced a "tough decision."— Patrick Saunders (@psaundersdp) June 29, 2020
No idea if Jimenez will retire.
Contrary to the notion that MLB teams would use some of the spots of the Club Player Pool for development purposes, the Rockies decided against bringing aboard many of their top prospects, most notably Colton Welker. Welker had a solid, but not great, 2019 season in Double-A Hartford where he hit for an OPS of 0.721 and smacked ten homers against competition that was, on average, three years his senior. He also had the sixth-most plate appearances in Spring Training among Rockies infielders and hit for an OPS of 1.128. He gives the team a right-handed DH option while also playing both corner infield positions. There’s still a possibility that Welker gets the call with eight spots still available.
Alexander Guillen is a right-handed minor league reliever who we had left off our list, but made the cut and is currently in the Club Player Pool. Guillen is an exciting piece for the Rockies to have, and his performances in 2019 for Double-A Hartford (76 ⅔ IP, 1.53 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 10.7 K/9) and in the Arizona Fall League (10 IP, 0.90 ERA, 0.70 WHIP, 11.7 K/9) were exceptional. He could be a key contributor in the bullpen if he gets the call to the active roster.
Chris Rabago was selected as the fifth catcher, rather than Brian Serven. Rabago was showing well at Spring Training before it was shut down. He split time between Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque in 2019. Expect to see Rabago on the active roster only if there are multiple injuries at the catcher position and the Rockies have no other options.
Players opting out due to the pandemic
In such an unusual season and in such unusual times, every player has the option to voluntarily not participate in the 2020 season due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Some players have already begun to announce their decision to opt out. Yesterday, Ian Desmond released a statement on Instagram stating he will not be playing in 2020, as reported by Purple Row’s Ben Kouchnerkavich. The Rockies will miss his veteran presence in the dugout and on the field. as well as his contributions in the outfield and occasionally at first base. His Instagram post is heartfelt and directly addresses his feelings towards race issues in baseball and is absolutely worth reading in full.
What to take away
The Rockies are approaching the season with the intention to contend for the division and make the playoffs. Prior to the originally scheduled Opening Day, Dick Monfort said he believes the Rockies are capable of winning 94 games. While there are certainly more transactions to come, this roster is centered around winning now.