MLB team report: Colorado Rockies infield full of sluggers

MLB team report: Colorado Rockies infield full of sluggers

Rockies

MLB team report: Colorado Rockies infield full of sluggers

New manager Bud Black inherits a talented team that was .500 on Aug. 6 before coming undone. Colorado signed Ian Desmond and has a surplus of outfielders. Pitching is a question mark. USA TODAY Sports’ Jesse Yomtov takes an in-depth look at the team. (*Denotes prospect)

Catcher

With 25-year-old Tom Murphy and 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the mix, the Rockies could platoon behind the plate in 2017. Right-handed Murphy batted .327 in Class AAA last season, while left-handed Wolters had 205 at-bats in the majors, posting a .757 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) against righties. Depth chart: Wolters, Murphy, Dustin Garneau, *Dom Nunez

First base 

Colorado’s new first baseman, Desmond, has never played first base in the major leagues. A career shortstop who moved to center field last season, Desmond has the speed and versatility to pair well with Charlie Blackmon at the top of the order. Gerardo Parra saw time at first base in 2016, and prospect Jordan Patterson could also spend time in the majors in 2017. Depth chart: Desmond, Parra, *Patterson, *Ryan McMahon, *Brian Mundell

Second base

DJ LeMahieu led the majors with a .348 batting average, but — more important for the Rockies — he developed into a more complete hitter. His 51 extra-base hits (11 home runs) shattered his career high of 32, set in 2015. Cristhian Adames is a valuable asset off the bench in the middle of the infield, while top prospect Brendan Rodgers is on the way. Depth chart: LeMahieu, Adames, *Rodgers, *Forrest Wall

Third base

Starting your career with four consecutive Gold Gloves is impressive enough, but Nolan Arenado has mashed more than 40 homers with 130-plus RBI in each of the last two seasons. The 25-year-old is one of the game’s best. Depth chart: Arenado, Pat Valaika, Adames, *McMahon, *Tyler Nevin

Shortstop

Trevor Story burst onto the scene early in 2016 and continued to hit until his season was ended by a thumb injury at the beginning of August. If he can stay healthy, the 24-year-old is poised to assume the power-hitting shortstop mantle left by Troy Tulowitzki and looks like a safe bet for 30 home runs every season. With Story and LeMahieu holding down the middle of the infield, top prospect Rodgers could become a trading chip. Depth chart: Story, Adames, *Rodgers

Left field

This spot is up for grabs in Colorado, with Parra and David Dahl each looking to grab the majority of playing time. Parra — a two-time Gold Glove winner — is entering the second year of a three-year deal, while Dahl impressed as a rookie in 2016. Parra is coming off arguably the worst offensive season of his career, and Black might view him as a better option off the bench. Speedy Raimel Tapia hit .328 in the minors last season and can play all three outfield positions. Depth chart: Dahl, Parra, Tapia, *Sam Hilliard

Center field

Blackmon is one of the game’s most underrated players, and his name has been floated around this offseason as a potential trading chip. Colorado’s asking price is understandably high, and Blackmon is under team control through 2018. Desmond could flex into the outfield occasionally. Depth chart: Blackmon, Desmond, Tapia
Right field

Carlos Gonzalez is entering the final season of his contract, and — with a crowded outfield — this could be the right time for the Rockies to move their longest-tenured player. The 31-year-old has been able to stay healthy over the last two seasons, playing in 150 or more games for the first times in his career. Depth chart: Gonzalez, Dahl, Parra, Jordan Patterson, Tapia
Starting pitchers

With a handful of promising young starters, the Rockies think they will be able to contend in the near future. After missing the 2015 season while recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, Tyler Chatwood posted a 3.87 ERA in 27 starts, but his home-road splits were cause for concern. He had a 6.12 ERA at Coors Field, compared with a 1.69 mark away from home. Chad Bettis was diagnosed with testicular cancer during the offseason, had surgery and hopes to be back in time for the start of the season. Jon Gray showed flashes last season and struck out 185 hitters in 168 innings. He finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Yearvoting. Depth chart: RHP Chatwood, RHP Bettis, RHP Gray, LHP Tyler Anderson, RHP Jeff Hoffman, RHP German Marquez, *LHP Kyle Freeland, *RHP Antonio Senzatela, *RHP Riley Pint
Bullpen

Colorado’s bullpen finished with a major league-worst 5.13 ERA in 2016, but the club is hopeful that its relievers will perform better with the signing of left-hander Mike Dunn and the healthy returns of right-handers Jason Motte, Chad Qualls and Jairo Diaz. Dunn will challenge for the closer job, but he is up against experienced candidates, including Adam Ottavino, Jake McGee and Carlos Estevez. Don’t be surprised if Hoffman or Marquez — two candidates for a spot in the rotation — start the season in the bullpen. Depth chart: RHP Ottavino (closer), LHP Dunn, LHP McGee, RHP Motte, RHP Estevez, LHP Chris Rusin, RHP Marquez, RHP Hoffman

Offseason outlook

The Rockies have a new manager and plugged their hole at first base and strengthened the bullpen, but it’s up to the crop of young starters to display consistency in 2017.

Top five Rockies prospects

Excerpted from BaseballHQ.com’s 2017 Minor League Baseball Analyst. To order: Baseballhq.com/mlba2017:

1. Brendan Rodgers, SS: He features above-average raw power, good bat speed and a solid understanding of the strike zone. Rodgers, 20, is starting to add muscle and blasted 31 doubles and 19 home runs at Class A in 2016. An above-average runner with good range, soft hands and a strong arm, the star in the making will start 2017 in high Class A.

2. Jeff Hoffman, RHP: His pitches are electric: a dominant 91- to 96-mph fastball, a hard curveball and an improved changeup. Hoffman, 23, needs more consistent mechanics but has a clean delivery. He should be in Colorado’s rotation in 2017.

3. Raimel Tapia, OF: The 22-year-old forced his way into the majors by hitting .328 between Classes AA and AAA in 2016. With good hand-eye coordination, bat speed and ability to make hard contact, Tapia should continue to have a high batting average. He should stick in center field.

4. Riley Pint, RHP: The 2016 fourth overall pick, Pint has a 95- to 99-mph fastball, a low-80s power curve and a seldom-used changeup. He has below-average command and injury issues. But the upside is huge for the 19-year-old, who likely will start in Class A.

5. Ryan McMahon, 3B: McMahon took a step back in 2016. He has good bat speed and raw power (12 home runs) but has significant contact issues (161 strikeouts). The 22-year-old split time between third base and first base and has soft hands, good range and a strong arm. McMahon will try to bounce back at Class AAA.

Rob Gordon

The Latest

More Rockies
Home