NL West preview: Rockies slide back down the NL West mountian

Everything went right for the Colorado Rockies last season.

They had their lowest team ERA (4.51) in four years to go with their standard league-leading offense, and were able to land the National League’s second Wild Card spot. This marked their first postseason appearance since claiming the Wild Card in 2009, when there was still one Wild Card team per league.

The playoff appearance was brief, however, as Colorado (87-75 last season) lost to the divisional foe Arizona Diamondbacks in the Wild Card game.

This year, they will look to compete for the postseason once again in an NL West that is even more loaded with talent than last year, when it produced three playoff teams. The two teams that did not qualify for October baseball, the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres, each made major moves to improve their hopes.

The Rockies have made moves as well, though. Signing relievers Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw figure to bolster the bullpen significantly.

Davis will likely see the lion’s share of save opportunities after recording a career high 32 saves for the Chicago Cubs last season — last year’s closer Greg Holland was not retained. Davis has recorded 79 saves in his career and was a key setup man for the lockdown Kansas City Royals‘ bullpen when they made their 2014 and 2015 postseason runs, so he has some experience in the role.

The lineup will once again be anchored by perennial All-Star Nolan Arenado, who finished fourth in the NL MVP voting last season. And, as per usual, the production won’t end there. Veterans Charlie Blackmon, who finished fifth in MVP voting in 2017, and Carlos González are powerful bats around Arenado, as will Trevor Story. Reacquired former Rockies’ catcher Chris Iannetta (a D’Back last season) will attempt to fill the Jonathan Lucroy-sized hole, of last season’s second-half playoff run.

A major question mark regarding the Rockies this season is the pitching staff — as will be the case as long as they play 81 games per year at Coors Field.

Colorado’s is an overall young, inexperienced group of hurlers. The rotation’s ERA (4.59) last year was good enough for ninth in the NL — even that is an anomaly for a starting staff in the bottom-five every other year since 2010 and dead-last all but two of those seasons. Outside of Jon Gray‘s 3.67 ERA, all other projected starters had an ERA north of four. Gray is an ace, and will continue to surprise the baseball nation with impressive numbers inside of Coors — unlike Ubaldo Jiménez — but the staff ERA will slip back to its rightful place.

The loss of Tyler Chatwood may hurt as well, though his ERA was up to 4.69, and it showed in his 8-15 record.

The rotation’s success, or lack thereof, figures to be the biggest factor in whether or not Colorado will return to postseason play this season. The bullpen is where the Rockies pitchers made some inroad last year, when it posted a 4.40 ERA, the lowest for a Colorado relief crops since 2013 — though that group still finished last in the Senior Circuit.

It should be improved, or at least remain steady. The offense can certainly be relied upon to continue putting up runs. The Rockies will have their work cut out for them if they want to get back to the playoffs in 2018, and the pitching rotation will be that deciding factor.

Key Additions: RP Davis, RP Shaw, C Iannetta

Key Losses: C Lucroy, RP Pat Neshek, RP Holland

Projected Lineup

  1. CF Blackmon
  2. 2B DJ LeMahieu
  3. RF González
  4. 3B Arenado
  5. SS Story
  6. 1B Ian Desmond
  7. LF Gerardo Parra
  8. C Iannetta

Projected Rotation

  1. Gray
  2. Tyler Anderson
  3. Chad Bettis
  4. Kyle Freeland
  5. German Márquez

Projected Record: 83-79