Just a few hours before the first pitch of the 2021 season, the Rockies finally made their 26-man roster public. There are few surprises here: Germán Márquez will be the Opening Day starter and rotation front-man. The position groups are pretty much as expected during spring training. Oh, and the reason the roster was so late to come out is because the Rockies were working to finalize a major league contract with Jhoulys Chacín.
Chacín, who last pitched for the Rockies in 2014, has returned after being released by the Yankees following the conclusion of their spring training camp. He was seen throwing a session for the Rockies’ pitching coaches during Wednesday’s workout, and announced his return on his personal Twitter shortly thereafter.
We don’t yet know if Chacín will pitch out of the bullpen or in the rotation, but outside little details, the Rockies’ 2021 Opening Day roster is finally complete.
The Rotation: RHP Germán Márquez, RHP Antonio Senzatela, RHP Jon Gray, LHP Austin Gomber, RHP Jhoulys Chacín/RHP Chi Chi González
Staff ace Germán Márquez will be the Opening Day starter for the second straight year. Behind him will be 2020’s surprise breakout pitcher in Antonio Senzatela, who impressed with an MLB top-five and team-best 2.8 bWAR. Jon Gray will look to rebound from an injury-marred career-worst season, and new lefty Austin Gomber will look to prove his worth with a mean curveball. The fifth spot is currently uncertain; Kyle Freeland will be starting the season on the 10-day injured list (shoulder strain) and it was originally expected that Chi Chi González would fill that spot. However, the signing of Chacín throws a bit of a wrench into that.
The Bullpen: RHP’s Yency Almonte, Daniel Bard, Carlos Estevez, Mychal Givens, Tyler Kinley, Jordan Sheffield, Robert Stephenson, Jhoulys Chacín/Chi Chi González. LHP’s Ben Bowden
Jairo Díaz has been designated for assignment as part of the Chacín signing and Scott Oberg’s career is potentially over, but Almonte, Bard, Estévez, Givens, and Kinley all return from last year. Bard enters the season as the de-facto closer, with Almonte as his potential setup man. New faces to the bunch are Rule 5 pick Jordan Sheffield making the jump from Double-A to the big leagues and making his first Opening Day roster. Robert Stephenson has also joined up as part of the return for the Jeff Hoffman trade during the offseason. The lone lefty in the bullpen is Vanderbilt big man Ben Bowden, who will make his big league debut after an impressive spring training.
The Catchers: Elias Díaz, Dom Nuñez
New faces behind the place help cement 2021 as a year of transition. Tony Wolters has signed with the Cubs. Chris Iannetta has retired. The new starting catcher is Elias Díaz, who had a solid 2020 season and looks to build on it. The backup is Dom Nuñez, making his first Opening Day roster and looking to prove he can be a part of the Rockies’ future. The name of the game here is increased offensive production, as both Díaz and Nuñez are strong hitters with good pop in their bats.
The Infielders: C.J. Cron, Ryan McMahon, Trevor Story, Josh Fuentes
A big factor in the infield makeup is Brendan Rodgers starting the season on the 10-day IL. This broke up the first base battle and contributed to the current makeup of the Rockies’ infield. Power-hitting C.J. Cron will take first base, while Josh Fuentes will man the hot corner. Both were electric during spring training and will spend the season trying to establish themselves at their respective corners long-term. Ryan McMahon will move back to second base to start the season after initially being planned to start at third. Trevor Story is Trevor Story.
The Outfielders: Charlie Blackmon, Raimel Tapia, Yonathan Daza, Sam Hilliard
Mr. Charles Cobb Blackmon, a.k.a. “Chuck Nazty,” will be the starting right fielder yet again to the delight of Rockies faithful. Raimel Tapia will bring mucho swagger back to left field and the leadoff spot in the batting order as he looks to build on a stellar 2020 campaign. Chuck won a batting title in 2017, and Tapia wants to win one in 2021. Who comes out on top? Yonathan Daza makes his first Opening Day roster as a backup outfielder due to a combination of stellar spring play and the absence of any more options. Joining him on the bench is Sam Hilliard, who has great potential and power in his bat, but desperately needs to cut down on strikeouts to make a difference on the team.
The Utilitymen: Garrett Hampson, Chris Owings
The speedy Garrett Hampson will be the starting center fielder to begin the season after the Rockies experimented with him in the outfield last year. He has the speed to roam Coors Field’s cavernous outfield, which also makes him a threat on base. Veteran Chris Owings will take up the mantle of super utilityman, being able to play basically every position. In his eight-year MLB career, Owings has played everywhere but first base and catcher, even pitching for the Royals in 2019. Both of the Rockies’ utility players are most familiar with the middle infield, and Owings will likely be the primary backup second baseman until Brendan Rodgers returns.
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The 40-man roster is full. The 26-man is set. The Opening Day lineup card has been submitted. The 2021 Colorado Rockies are a young and unknown team hoping they can prove their doubters wrong and contend, despite bleak projections to the contrary from baseball media. There are a lot of ways this season can go, but the most important thing is that baseball is back, there are fans in the stands, and as Thin Lizzy famously said: “the boys are back in town.”
Let’s play ball!