Football season is finally over with the San Francisco 49ers falling to the Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Sunday evening. That means it’s finally baseball season as camps across Arizona and Florida open for all 30 MLB squads.
The Colorado Rockies have reported to their camp at the team’s Salt River Complex, where their journey to rebound from a franchise-record 103-loss campaign will begin. While the team is not making any delusions about expecting the playoffs, there is still optimism coming from manager Bud Black to start the year:
“There’s been a year of experience for a few of our younger players — Nolan Jones, Brenton Doyle, Ezequiel Tovar,” Black said. “I think we’re going to stay healthier — you don’t know, but it’s hard not to. That gives me optimism that a year of experience for our guys, a health bounceback and an improved overall rotation. … That’s where I’m hanging my hat.”
It’s not that the Rockies or their manager will flat-out admit to expecting failure in 2024, so hearing Black preach the silver-linings is fine in a vacuum. But make no mistake about it, Colorado is set-up to be one of the worst teams in baseball in 2024.
In fact, most projections expect them to be the worst team in the league.
We’ve got projections from @cdgoldstein of @baseballpro and they are not promising for the Rockies.— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) February 6, 2024
PECOTA pegs Colorado for 104 losses and almost no chance of reaching .500 in 2024.
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The good folks at Baseball Prospectus have estimated the Rockies to finish with 104 losses in 2024, a new-low for the organization and also the worst record in the league. Fangraphs’ outlook is not much better, tabbing the Rockies for 98 losses – again, the most in the league. RotoChamp echoes that same sentiment in their projection system.
With little roster change after an abysmal season, it’s not hard to see why projections systems are so down on the Rockies heading into the new season. Are these harsh projections fair? Or are they underestimating the Rockies?
As Black mentioned in his previous quote, there was valuable experience gained by new core pieces Brenton Doyle, Nolan Jones and Ezequiel Tovar last season. Continued improvement by those three is very possible and would go a long way towards improving an offense that produced a league-worst 83 OPS+ in 2023.
But “sophomore slumps” are a thing, and the league’s adjustment to their bouts of success last year is bound to occur. Whether they have the ability to handle those adjustments – and get consistent contributions from veteran supporting cast members Charlie Blackmon, Kris Bryant, Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers – will be the true test on whether this roster will improve as management expects or if it is simply devoid of the talent necessary to compete.
Add in the starting rotation which, while featuring some positives like the Peter Lambert establishing himself last year, is hobbling into 2024 very depleted. Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela are both recovering from Tommy John surgery and will miss at least the first half of the year – again leaving the team in a position to rely too heavily on lefties Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber and new addition Cal Quantril to pitch the bulk of the innings from the rotation with the bullpen in a vulnerable position to become overtaxed carrying the load for the rest of the staff.
Freeland certainly has the capability to rebound from his tough 2023 season, Quantril could find his old form in his new home and growth from Gomber and Lambert could certainly be outcomes in 2024 that would improve the team’s fortunes.
There are a lot of “could’s” in the team’s foundation right now, though. Which ultimately is why the Rockies are sitting in the basement of the projected standings. Will the be worse than the other doldrums dwellers in the Chicago White Sox, Oakland A’s and Washington Nationals? Time will tell over 162 games. But, as we sit on the verge of Spring Training, it’s hard to argue that Colorado will be significantly better than most expect in 2024.
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Patrick Saunders catches up with Bud Black, Kyle Freeland and Ryan McMahon as they report to camp. Freeland and McMahon praise the young players on the roster while Black believes the roster will be healthier in 2024.
Thomas Harding also gives his first report from camp. Along with quotes from Black, Harding also lays out the first day of workouts, the first scheduled games and which Cactus League games will be broadcasted over the radio while we wait to hear on the team’s tv schedule.
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