By Nick Piecoro
The Rockies finished a distant third in the National League West last season, but the standings don’t tell the story of how encouraging their year was.
They not only enjoyed encouraging debuts from two of their top position player prospects, they also began to cobble together the makings of decent rotation, which, as history at altitude shows, is all that’s necessary to turn the Rockies into a contender.
Right-handers Tyler Chatwood, Chad Bettis and Jon Gray and lefty Tyler Anderson managed to stay mostly healthy, and in doing so showed that they can often do enough to give the Rockies’ high-powered offense a chance to win.
Their bullpen, however, remains a big question mark, though they did try to address it by adding a pair of free-agents: lefty Mike Dunn (three year, $19 million) and right-hander Greg Holland (one year, $7 million).
Though versatile newcomer Ian Desmond was a big-ticket acquisition, given a five-year, $70 million deal, there’s no comparison for the team’s most valued player – third baseman Nolan Arenado.
Last year, Arenado won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove – one for every season of his career – while making the All-Star team and collecting MVP votes for the second consecutive season.
Arenado, who is in the conversation for the league’s best all-around player, is fun to watch not only because he’s so good, but also because of how much fun he seems to have playing the game.
Shortstop Trevor Story and outfielder David Dahl reached the big leagues and immediately excelled, putting up the sort of numbers that suggest they could become stalwarts in the Rockies’ loaded lineup.
This year, they’ll be hoping to get the same sort of contributions from right-hander Jeff Hoffman, a starter who was the key return in the Troy Tulowitzki trade in 2015.
Hoffman debuted last season but struggled, walking 17 batters and giving up seven homers in 31 1/3 innings.
With Nick Hundley departing as a free agent, signing with the rival Giants, the Rockies are left with a pair of youngsters to battle it out behind the plate.
In Tony Wolters, the Rockies have a light hitter who showed well defensively as a rookie last season, throwing out 31 percent of base stealers and grading out well in framing metrics.
He’ll likely be competing with Tom Murphy, who appears to be the more dangerous hitter of the two. Murphy spent most of last season in Triple-A, hitting .327 with 19 homers, then mashed five more long balls in 44 at-bats as a September call-up.
Manager: Bud Black.
Last season’s record: 75-87.
Big changes: Added: IF/OF Ian Desmond, LHP Mike Dunn, IF Alexi Amarista, RHP Greg Holland. Subtracted: C Nick Hundley, 1B Mark Reynolds, LHP Jorge De La Rosa, LHP Boone Logan, IF Daniel Descalso.