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2019 National League West Preview: Colorado Rockies

The Rockies battled the Dodgers for 163 games last season, will the 2019 version have a chance to win the franchise’s first NL West title?

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MLB: Spring Training-Oakland Athletics at Colorado Rockies
Nolan Arenado 
Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 Colorado Rockies are projected to finish second in the Baseball Prospectus (PECOTA) projection with a 85-77 record. PECOTA projects the Rockies scoring 760 runs and giving up 721 runs.

Bud Black, who is entering his third season as manager, has guided the team to their first back-to-back postseason appearances in franchise history.

Overall, it was their fifth appearance in the playoffs but it was still as a wild-card participant. The Rockies have yet to win a division title as they enter their 27th season.

Review of 2018 season

Despite once trailing by eight games, the Rockies rebounded to almost win the division. A 17-6 record in July put them just one half game behind with two months to go.

Going into September, it was a three-team race for the NL West. The Rockies took first place on Sept. 3 and held it for two weeks.

After the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep on Sept. 20 and took their largest lead, 2½ games, over the Rockies, it looked like the NL West was decided.

The Rockies would go on to their longest winning streak of the season. They won eight straight games, taking three against the Arizona Diamondbacks, followed by a four-game sweep over the Philadelphia Phillies, and then winning a game against the Washington Nationals.

They gained 3½ games over the Dodgers during that streak to take a one-game lead with two games to go. A loss on Saturday meant a tie for first and both the Dodgers and the Rockies won on Sunday to force a one-game playoff.

Walker Buehler and the Dodgers won that game, sending the Rockies to face the Cubs in the NL Wild Card game. A win in that game sent them to their third city that week as they played the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Divisional Series.

The Brewers swept the series and ended the Rockies’ season.

Key additions and subtractions

The Rockies signed infielder Daniel Murphy to a two-year $24M contract with an option for the 2021 season. Murphy, who will be 34 on April 1, looks to be their first baseman which means Ian Desmond was moved to the outfield.

While not a free-agent signing, the Rockies did take care of their franchise player, Nolan Arenado with an eight-year $260M extension which removes Arenado as a potential free agent after this season.

Several familiar faces will not be with the Rockies in 2019.

Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, who had been with Colorado since 2009, signed a minor-league contract with the Cleveland Indians with an April opt-out.

Second baseman DJ LeMahieu signed a two-year contract with the New York Yankees last January. LeMahieu had been in the Rockies lineup since 2012.

Outfielder Gerardo Parra signed a minor-league contract with the San Francisco Giants. Parra finished a three-year contract with the Rockies after playing a 142 games for them in 2018.

Right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino signed a three-year contract with the Yankees. Ottavino was one of the best pitchers in their bullpen last season, in 77⅔ innings pitched, he had a 13 stikeouts per nine innings pitched and had a 0.991 WHIP.

Pitching preview

The Rockies have done a good job in developing a starting rotation that can compete both home and away for them.

At the top of their rotation are right-hander German Márquez and left-hander Kyle Freeland. Marquez pitched 196 innings last year and lowered his 2017 FIP by one run, 4.40 to 3.40, last season. He had 230 strikeouts against 57 walks.

Freeland, who will be 26 in May, finished fourth in the 2018 Cy Young Award voting with his 202⅓ innings pitched season. Freeland held left-handed batters to a .519 OPS and gave up just two home runs to left-handed batters last year.

Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray and Chad Bettis fill out the rest of their projected starting rotation.

As promising as their starting rotation looks, especially Márquez and Freeland, there is more hoping for return to past form when it comes to their bullpen.

As noted above, the Rockies lost one of their best relievers, (Ottavino) and they did not add another reliever of note.

Instead, the Rockies will pin their hopes on Wade Davis and especially Bryan Shaw returning to the form they displayed for prior teams. If they do, they could cover the loss of Ottavino, if not, a repeat of a bullpen with 51 saves but also a 4.62 ERA could be in the works.

Position player preview

With Daniel Murphy projected at first base, the Rockies will have a new look on the right side of the infield. With left-handed batter Ryan McMahon platooning with Garrett Hampson at second base, the Rockies will have a combination of Murphy, McMahon and Hampson out there at first and second base.

Trevor Story had 85 extra-base hits and with 27 stolen bases, gives the Rockies speed and power at shortstop. Along with Arenado, they form potentially one of the best left-side duos in baseball.

The outfield is projected to have Charlie Blackmon in right, Ian Desmond in center and David Dahl in left. Desmond is playing center field because that is where the Rockies could play him after signing Murphy.

Chris Iannetta and Tony Wolters will start the season as the catching duo for the Rockies. Neither project to be real threats at the plate, Wolters is among the better catchers at framing according to Baseball Prospectus while Iannetta grades poor at that skill.

2019 Rockies Lineup

Rockies Probable Lineup
Rockies Probable Lineup
Blackmon RF
Murphy 1B
Arenado 3B
Story SS
Dahl LF
Desmond CF
McMahon 2B
Iannetta C

Top prospects

Hampson and infielder Brendan Rodgers are the top two prospects in the Rockies system. Rodgers has been the Rockies No. 1 prospect for the past several seasons.

Rodgers had 1.069 OPS in 51 games in the California League in 2017 and then last season he had an .835 OPS in the Eastern League. His primary position has been shortstop but it is likely he could settle in second base with the Rockies.

Hampson made his MLB debut in 2018 and did not seem overwhelmed with a .275/.396/.400 line in 24 games and also being on their postseason roster. Hampson can also play multiple positions which makes him a likely candidate as utility player.

Projected finish

I agree with the projections that have the Rockies winning somewhere between 84-87 games this season. Their offense, especially from the infield, should again produce runs but the quality of their rotation after the top two pitchers and bullpen questions appear to be too much to overcome for a chance to win the division.

Schedule against the Dodgers

At Dodger Stadium: June 21-23, Sept. 2-4, Sept. 20-22

At Coors Field: Apr. 5-7, June 27-30, July 29-31

You can get tickets to attend the games here.