With just four days until the commencement of the 2021 Cactus League, we will soon see the 26-man roster unfold before our eyes. The Rockies have a relatively established starting rotation, but following a tough 2020 campaign for the collective bullpen, several arms will soon prove their candidacies for Opening Day and beyond.
While the Rockies’ rotation may be set with Márquez/Freeland/Senzatela/Gray/Gomber, there is a case Rodríguez could eventually earn his way into the mix. He’s pitched three seasons with the Giants, his best year coming in 2018 where he posted a 2.81 ERA in 21 games (19 starts). His ERA, FIP and WHIP have all increased drastically since then, and he was DFA’d by the Giants in late August. Rodríguez spent time at the Detroit Tigers’ alternate site to finish 2020, but would later enter free agency. He inked a minor league deal with the Rockies in November.
Rodríguez used his four-seam fastball and curveball much more in 2020 than any year prior. He also cut his changeup and sinker out of his arsenal before last season, according to Savant. It will be interesting to see how all of his pitches go to work at altitude; his career 1.88 ERA at Coors Field (14 1⁄3 innings) has previously handled it well.
2021 will be Mujica’s ninth year in professional baseball, with 453 1⁄3 innings of minor league work to his name. He has just 4 1⁄3 innings at the big league level, coming after his 2019 Tommy John surgery and a 2020 shutdown that did little favors in building his momentum.
Mujica has yet to pitch for a Rockies affiliate, if we don’t count his time at the 2020 alternate site. He’s been used to a standard minor league schedule since he was 17. With a full Triple-A slate coming soon, it suggests Mujica will be in better shape to rebound following a 2020 season unlike any other.
It’s safe to reason he won’t be thrown to the wolves quite like he was last year. Mujica posted a 2.70 ERA for Triple-A Durham in 2018.
It may not be a ‘silent’ arrival for Rolison, but there are still plenty of unknowns for how he will adapt back to a standard season. He was limited to the alternate site in 2020, but the Cactus League in 2021 will give him a chance to adapt back to normal.
Our last glimpse of Rolison in the minors was in 2019 where he recorded 116 1⁄3 innings for High-A Lancaster. He posted a 4.87 ERA with them but it also came with home games in the launching pad that is Lancaster’s home park. We’ll see if the confines in Albuquerque and eventually Denver will play more favorable than the now-defunct High-A affiliate. His big league ETA has been set by various outlets for either 2021 or 2022.
Sheffield was taken by the Rockies in the Rule 5 draft this winter. The Dodgers were unable to protect him due to an abundance of pitching depth, and the right-hander now joins the Rockies with 211 1⁄3 minor league innings to his name. He holds a career 3.58 ERA in Double-A and has yet to pitch above that.
After pitching for both Vanderbilt University and the Dodgers organization, Sheffield has seen access to what we can only perceive to be cutting-edge training. It will be interesting to see how Sheffield responds to newfound Rockies pitching development, particularly after the departure of pitching coordinator Steve Merriman.
If Austin Gomber is indeed placed in the starting rotation, it may be Ben Bowden that the Rockies look to immediately address their left-handed reliever needs with. Bowden spent all of 2020 at the alternate training site.
The left-hander has the opportunity to link back up with Sheffield, his Vanderbilt teammate. Perhaps this connection will fuel Bowden in a strong direction moving forward. Both could begin the season in (presumably) Triple-A, but without knowing the progress both of them made as alternate-site arms, it is tough to reliably predict how soon they will see the big league roster. Bowden carved through Double-A competition in 2019 (25 2⁄3 IP, 1.05 ERA), but his work in Triple-A that year took a different tune in about as many innings (26 IP, 5.88 ERA).
Chi Chi González
2021 could be it for the veteran right-hander. He was non-tendered by the Rockies after posting tough figures in 2020, and returned to Colorado by way of a minor league contract in December. If we call the abbreviated 2020 unfair in evaluating players, at least González will receive another chance to keep his big league career alive through his showings in the Cactus League. We’ll have a front seat in the coming weeks—and perhaps bear witness to a... career resurgence?
Peter Lambert underwent Tommy John surgery in late July of 2020, so he won’t be available until late summer at least. This may be reason to keep González around, even if it just be for an occasional spot start from somebody with experience (a la Tim Melville). Such a move would ensure top pitching prospects would have to fight for a big league spot, rather than roll into one by default.
Some prospects may need a little extra time after the 2020 minor league season was canceled; if so, this could be a prime opportunity for González to work his way back into a big role. Perhaps we’ll even see him transition to the bullpen, which he did on occasion in 2020.
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It remains unclear how much revenue the Rockies will see from regular season ticket sales, but for the allotment available in spring training, their home games at Salt River Fields sold out quickly. Around 2,200 tickets have been sold for all of their 14 home games in Scottsdale; the same goes for the Diamondbacks, whom they share the facility with.
“It’s time for the full rebuild in Colorado. It remains unclear if Blackmon and Story will see the other side of this rebuild, but fans should prepare themselves for a few long seasons of below-average baseball.”
Adam Taylor McKillop is pretty direct on this one. The Rockies are placed in what he considers the ‘third tier’ of free agent spending, after the first tier of Dodger/Padre/Yankee spending and the second tier of some financially-limited franchises.
This article serves as a general overview for Colorado’s free agent action in recent history. Daniel Murphy remains the last major free agent the Rockies have signed, dating back to December 2018.
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