There are plenty of reasons to be less than excited about the Rockies 2023 season. The biggest improvement for a team that went 68-94 last season is in building up the farm system, which is ranked No. 14 in MLB Pipeline’s preseason rankings (improved from No. 24 last preseason). This is not likely to manifest into more than 68 wins this season, but it does provide hope for the future.
In the meantime, there are still things to look forward to this season. With Opening Day less than a week away on Thursday, March 30, here are five reasons to be excited about the upcoming Colorado Rockies season.
Faster, more exciting games
The average time of an MLB game in 2022 was three hours and three minutes. In the Minor Leagues in 2022, where the pitch clock was in place, games averaged two hours and 38 minutes. With the pitch clock and other new rules, games this season will be on average 25 minutes shorter, feature more stolen bases, and be more fast-moving with fewer pickoffs and timeouts that can make an at-bat feel like a 30-minute duel of who can make the most body and uniform adjustments. With the defensive shift limited, there should be more hits. This isn’t just for the Rockies, obviously, but for all of baseball in 2023. As Bryan Cranston said in a new line of MLB commercials to hype the season (which are delightful and worth watching) and the new rules, “It’s the best game in the world. Now, it’s even better.”
K-Free riding high after WBC
In two appearances in the World Baseball Classic for Team U.S.A., Kyle Freeland gave up two runs on three hits in six innings of work with five strikeouts, including making a statue out of Shohei Ohtani on a slider for a called third strike.
Freeland looked good. He got to pitch in high-stakes games. Hopefully, he can bring that energy back to the Rockies and have his best season since his electric 2018 when he posted a 2.85 ERA and a 17-7 record. Bud Black said Freeland could get his first Spring Training start since rejoining the club on Sunday against the White Sox.
If Spring Training is any indication, things are looking up for Germán Márquez. After struggling in 2022, Márquez has pitched 11 scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts, eight hits, and two walks over three appearances. This after starting Spring Training with a hamstring injury. Hopefully, Márquez will be back in his 2021 All-Star form and give Rockies fans the chance of seeing a complete game (or maybe something even better) this season. With 20 strikeouts, he will become the Rockies all-time leader in strikeouts. He currently has 966, just behind Jorge De La Rosa’s 985. Márquez is currently fourth in team history in wins at 63. With two he’ll pass Jeff Francis’s 64 and with 10 wins, he’ll pass Aaron Cook. De La Rosa’s 86 could go down next year with Márquez’s average of 13 wins per season.
Montero’s momentum and Tovar's time
Even though Elehuris Montero played in 53 games last season after debuting on May 1, he didn’t get regular playing time until August. The inconsistency hurt his numbers as he hit .233/.270/.432 with six homers, 20 RBI, and 15 doubles, but only eight walks compared to 60 strikeouts in 176 at-bats. Through 19 games in Spring Training this year, he’s hitting .314/.375/.518 with five walks and 11 strikeouts in 51 at-bats, in addition to leading the team with four homers. Here’s one of them:
He could bring some power to a lineup that needs it if he can get regular playing time at third base this season. Shortstop Ezequiel Tovar is the top prospect in the system and will be exciting to watch with his glovework and ability to hit for average more power to come.
The left side of the infield could be the start of the new foundation of promising prospects for the Rockies.
Return to “normalcy”
For the first time since entering the 2019 season, the MLB season will start in “usual” fashion without devastating news for Rockies fans. It all started when the COVID-19 pandemic postponed and shortened the 2020 season. In 2021, Rockies fans learned on Feb. 1 that Nolan Arenado was headed to St. Louis and it made it challenging to feel good about the Rockies in 2021. Last season, a lockout put the season in jeopardy before the dispute was resolved, delaying Spring Training and pushing back Opening Day one week. This offseason, there might not have been the big signing Rockies fans were hoping for, but there wasn’t a global pandemic or lockout. We have baseball. That’s a beautiful thing.
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MLB.com writer Jonathan Mayo got some good information from Rockies farm director Chris Forbes, including the fact that the Rockies brought in 110 pitchers to camp to increase competition and build depth. This is a good one to read to get to know some of the standout prospects and looking forward to the talent to come.
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