The Rockies are coming off their first winning season since 2010 and focused on adding to the bullpen this winter. They signed RPs Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw, and offensively they signed free-agent C Chris Iannetta in addition to re-signing OF Carlos Gonzalez to a one-year deal. The offense will again be led by OF Charlie Blackmon and 3B Nolan Arenado, but they are without a true ace in their rotation. They lost a few free agents who helped the team make the playoffs last season, including 1B Mark Reynolds, SP Tyler Chatwood and RP Greg Holland.
The Rockies’ .273 average led the National League and was second behind only the Astros in Major League Baseball, but they were in the bottom half of the majors with 192 home runs. Their .781 OPS ranked fifth in MLB. Blackmon had the best numbers of his career, hitting .331 with 37 home runs and 104 RBI. His 1.000 OPS was third-best in the NL. He has a 6.5 WAR, which was second in the NL, and he finished fifth in NL MVP voting. Arenado hit .309 with 37 home runs and 130 RBI, which was the second-highest total in the NL. SS Trevor Story had a bit of a sophomore slump, hitting 24 homers with a .239 average — more than 30 points lower than the .272 he hit in his rookie year. 2B DJ LeMahieu hit .310 with 8 home runs, and OF Gerardo Parra added 10 home runs on a .309 average in 115 games. Gonzalez hit .262 with 14 homers in 136 games. Iannetta hit .254 with 17 home runs in 89 games with the Diamondbacks.
The Rockies’ 4.51 ERA placed them in the bottom half of the league, as did their 1,270 strikeouts. They recorded 47 saves, which was fourth in the majors. SP Jon Gray posted a 3.67 ERA in 20 starts, recording 112 strikeouts in 110.1 innings. SP Kyle Freeland recorded a 4.10 ERA in 33 games, including 28 starts, and struck out 107 in 156 innings. SP German Marquez had a 4.39 ERA with 147 strikeouts in 162 innings over 29 starts, and SP Chad Bettis put up a 5.05 ERA, striking out 30 batters in 46.1 innings over just 9 starts. Davis recorded a career-high 32 saves with the Cubs, posting a 2.30 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 58.2 innings over 59 appearances, and Shaw put up a career-worst 3.52 ERA in 79 appearances with 73 strikeouts over 76.2 innings with the Indians.
Blackmon had a career year in 2017 and he will likely lead the offense again this season, along with Nolan Arenado. That’s not the part of the team that the Rockies should be worried about, though. It’s the pitching staff that has the most question marks. It’s a young rotation without a true ace. Gray is the closest pitcher the team has to a No. 1, but he needs significant improvement to be the true leader of the starting staff. The rest of the rotation is filled with pitchers who have either been inconsistent in their careers or have health questions, including Jeff Hoffman, who is unlikely to be ready to begin the season and will probably pitch out of the bullpen when he is healthy to make his regular season debut. With the team not re-signing last year’s closer Greg Holland, Wade Davis will get the first shot at taking over the closer’s role and he has experience pitching in the ninth inning so he should have success pitching at the end of games. But there the team should have concern about how many leads will end up in his hands with the inconsistent starting pitching.
The Rockies barely made the playoffs last season, but I don’t think they’ll make it this year. Their pitching isn’t good enough to match up with some of the league’s best teams and other contenders — like the Giants, Brewers and Cardinals — got better and may have passed the Rockies in talent. The offense will have to carry the team, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to get back to the postseason.