Maybe it should not come as a huge surprise, but the lack of faith from those outside the Mountain Time Zone for the skill sets within the Colorado Rockies rotation have already begun (or should we say continued over from last season).
There is a lot to unpack in a pair of recent articles from MLB.com on the Colorado Rockies rotation so let’s dive into it. First, our friend Thomas Harding recently predicted Colorado’s rotation for 2020. In order, Harding said Colorado would put Jon Gray, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Jeff Hoffman on the mound during Colorado’s five first games of the season. By the way, those five games are National League West matchups on the road (four in San Diego and a series opener in Los Angeles against the Dodgers).
Can Gray recapture the Opening Day nod that he earned in 2017 and 2018? That’s one of the things to watch during spring training. However, Freeland (the 2019 Opening Day starter) and Marquez are just as likely to end up taking the mound on March 26 in San Diego. The competition should be fierce for the Opening Day honor.
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Colorado’s top three slots in the rotation are seemingly set while Senzatela, Hoffman and Chi Chi Gonzalez are all out of minor league options. Barring a complete surprise, the latter trio are locks for the Opening Day roster, whether they’re in the bullpen or rotation.
So if Gray (coming off an injury-shortened 11-8 season with a 3.84 ERA, 4.06 FIP and 135 ERA+) gets the Opening Day start, it is then presumed that he is Colorado’s top starter heading into the season. If he’s the best of the best in terms of Colorado pitching, where does that put the Rockies’ top dog in relation to other Opening Day starters? According to this MLB.com article, not very high.
Gray is ranked 27th out of 30 potential Opening Day starters, with only San Francisco’s Johnny Cueto, Pittsburgh’s Joe Musgrove and Kansas City’s Brad Keller ranked lower. Steamer predicts Gray to post 3.5 WAR in 2020 (which would be lower than the 4.0 he posted last season). Marquez, however, is predicted to have 3.8 WAR in 2020, the leading projected number for any Rockies pitcher.
On the surface, the individual ranking seems surprisingly low, considering Gray was Colorado’s most consistent starter last season. However, it might not be an indictment on Gray as much as it is Colorado’s rotation overall, which faces plenty of questions heading into the season. Those questions include new delivery mechanics from Freeland as well as if the rotation as a whole can improve over last season’s MLB-worst 5.87 ERA.
After a very quiet offseason, Rockies GM Jeff Bridich is counting on a rebound from not only the rotation, but also the bullpen and the lineup in order for Rocktober to return in 2020. It’s possible, but there is a large hill for Colorado’s pitching to climb to reach respectability as a unit. The latest MLB.com articles are further proof of that.