The 2017 preseason kicks off this week with the Colorado Rockies pitchers and catchers reporting to Salt Rivers Field.
This is one of the most anticipated seasons in the history of the Rockies. Like every team this time of year, the Rockies feel they have a shot at winning the division, but at the very least punching a ticket into the postseason. The team’s new voice, Bud Black, will bring detailed attention to the pitching staff.
The pitching depth is deeper than in seasons past. The uniqueness of this group stems from being a young core with even more youth on the cusp of the big club. The Rockies have been searching for an ace and may have found it in Jon Gray and help is on the way from the minor league system. Kyle Freeland is due to make his major league debut in 2017, following in the footsteps of the 2016 seasons respectively for Jeff Hoffman, Tyler Anderson and German Marquez.
Along with having a special group of talent, the staff has a group of unique health concerns. The entire health of the staff seems to be great entering the season. Chad Bettis, who had been battling testicular cancer, has been deemed healthy by doctors. Bettis will be able to focus on the mound and contributing as a veteran to a young staff. Jake McGee is returning to form and looks hopeful to be back to his dominant self from years ago. The bullpen will be counting on the health of McGee and Adam Ottavino, who is another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Tyler Anderson is healthy but fought through a slew of injuries last season. The arms of Scott Oberg, Jason Motte and Chad Qualls are all facing critical seasons after disappointing injuries in 2016.
New closer Greg Holland is also set to make a return from Tommy John surgery. Holland sat out the entire 2016 season but became one of the most dominant closers in the game in 2015. Although Holland’s health could be a question mark, the team has plenty of closer experience to provide a rest. Newly acquired Mike Dunn can fill in as a closer, as his contract included closer incentives.
The amount of quality arms vying for a bullpen position will surely make Spring Training interesting this year. On paper it would appear Holland will have the ninth inning, leaving the eighth inning for Ottavino. After those assignments, the seventh inning will certainly be up for grabs. Black will have the luxury of playing the hot hand at any point in the season and it seems like that either Motte or Qualls will be pushed out of a job fairly early. Jordan Lyles may be better off being moved to be a back of the rotation starter elsewhere.
The position players will be set for the season, but the pitchers will keep us all busy in Arizona.
Glenn Brewer is the Colorado Rockies writer for Outside Pitch MLB. You can follow him on twitter at @gbrew34