Just a few years ago, the Rockies’ starting rotation was one of the strongest position groups the team had. But going into the 2023 campaign, the rotation have a few question marks.
Injuries and poor performance are the main causes given that Antonio Senzatela is still recovering from a torn ACL while Austin Gomber is coming off a poor 2022 performance.
The starting rotation will need to perform better if the Rockies want to improve this season, with the rotation settling with a 5.23 ERA and surrendering 122 home runs. With the goal of improvement, let’s take a look at the pitchers vying for a spot in the rotation when Opening Day comes around.
There are three locks at the top of the rotation: Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, and José Ureña.
Germán Márquez has been the Rockies’ ace since his breakout 2018 season and will be the Rockies top starter once again in 2023. Márquez will look to get back to his 2021 All-Star level again for this upcoming season.
Next, Kyle Freeland, the Rockies’ 2022 Opening Day starter, will be in the rotation again this season barring any injury. The lefty had put up consistent numbers as the previous three seasons again last year. He will again look to get back the dominance he had during the 2018 season, but since then, the Denver native has not found that form.
The last rotation lock is José Ureña. Ureña pitched 89 2⁄3 innings in 17 games in purple pinstripes last season after the Rockies picked him up off waivers from the Brewers. His 5.14 ERA and 1.567 WHIP may not look impressive, but Ureña had some solid outings last year with a few bad starts that spoiled his stats. His performance to end the season earned another contract from the Rockies for this season.
The final two spots in the rotation are up for grabs in the final few weeks of spring training. Austin Gomber, Connor Seabold, and Ryan Feltner are the top candidates to break camp with the team.
Ryan Feltner was in the rotation to end last season and will look to stay in the mix this year. Last season was Feltner’s first long stay in the big leagues, with 97 1⁄3 innings in 20 appearances for the Rockies. Feltner had some solid starts, but ultimately struggled to a 5.83 ERA.
The other 2022 holdover up for the final position is Austin Gomber, a key return piece in the Arenado deal. Gomber struggled early on in the rotation, earning a demotion to the bullpen to finish the season and only starting 17 of his 33 appearances. He finished the season with a 5.53 ERA and surrendered 20 home runs in 124 2⁄3 innings.
Lastly, newcomer Connor Seabold was acquired for a player to be named later from the Boston Red Sox during the offseason. Seabold only has six MLB appearances in which he has yet to find his stride, but has put up solid numbers at the Triple-A level. In 86 1/3 innings, Seabold posted a 3.32 ERA, 24.7% strikeout rate, and 5.3% walk rate.
The three pitchers will compete for the final two spots in the rotation to start the season.
The MLB season is a 162 game marathon, and many starters after the original five or six will likely need to be used.
After the six pitchers in the rotation and fighting for the final spots, prospects Ryan Rollison and Riley Pint (PuRP no. 34) will also look to get some starts in Denver this year.
Pint got his first experience in the big league camp this spring, but was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque last weekend. Pint has had a rocky journey in the minors, even to the point where he retired temporarily in 2021. He is back on the mound and pitched in 41 games between Double-A and Triple-A. If Pint can find his confidence again and the big league club is struck with injuries, a stint in Denver could be in Pint’s future this season.
Likewise, another young prospect, former first round pick Ryan Rollison (PuRP no. 18), could see some starts with the Rockies this season. Rolison worked his way up to Triple-A Albuquerque in 2021 and was able to make ten starts for the Isotopes, but a shoulder strain sidelined the 22nd-overall pick for the entire 2022 season. Rolison can get some big league experience at some point this season if he can regain his pre-injury form.
Injured, but returning
Last but not least, Antonio Senzatela will be a part of the starting rotation once he returns from injury. Senzatela has been a solid piece in the Rockies’ lineup until an unfortunate ACL tear last August. The righty has no definitive timeline yet, but early expectations are for him to return in May. With Senzatela’s return to pitching and recovery from the ACL, he will inevitably return to his spot in the rotation.
While the Rockies have their three main starters, the back end of the rotation has two spots up for grabs as spring training starts to wind down in a few weeks. Gomber, Feltner, and Seabold will all have chances to get one of the last two spots to start the season. Prospects Rolison and Pint will be hopeful to get their first stint in the majors, while Antonio Senzatela will rejoin the team once he is fully recovered from his knee injury.
Overall, the starting rotation is not the strong spot on the team as it once was and will need to improve on last season if the team wants to take a step forward this year.
Who are you most excited to see in the starting rotation this year? Let us know in the comments!
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