Colorado Rockies: The impending roster dilemma with the lineup, bench

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 25: Sam Hilliard #22 of the Colorado Rockies bats against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 25, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Rockies 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 25: Sam Hilliard #22 of the Colorado Rockies bats against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on August 25, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Rockies 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

It was announced on Tuesday that, to start the season, MLB rosters will be expanding to 28 players. It will happen for the first month of the season due to the MLB lockout and the truncated Spring Training and truncated slate of Spring Training games.

Unlike when the rosters are at 26 players, though, there will not be a limit on the number of pitchers that a team can have. As a result, the Colorado Rockies could look to carry 14 or even 15 pitchers on their roster for the first month of the season rather than the 13 pitcher limit.

But with carrying 15 pitchers and the universal DH, the Rockies would only carry three bench players, which would create a dilemma for their lineup and bench.

The Colorado Rockies could have a roster dilemma

If the Colorado Rockies carry 15 pitchers and have a three-man bench, they will have some tough decisions to make. Regardless of how many pitchers they carry, they will have a tough time deciding which relievers they want but with a 15-man pitching staff, the Rockies would have to make some difficult decisions with their lineup and bench.

These would come with their outfielders.

Charlie Blackmon and Kris Bryant are cemented in the outfield and/or at DH so they are the only certainties there.

On the bench, the Rockies will have to carry a backup catcher (Dom Nuñez) and an infielder (Garrett Hampson, who can also play the outfield). After that, they’d four players for three spots (either two outfield spots or one outfield spot and the DH, and the bench spot)

The four players would be Connor Joe, Sam Hilliard, Yonathan Daza, and Raimel Tapia.

Joe played the least of the four in the majors in 2021 but he was the best of the four. His 117 OPS+ was second-highest on the team overall in 2021. He gets on base the most of the quartet and he’s also the only player of the quartet that can also play the infield (first base).

These two things alone should get him on the roster. Really, unless more trades or free agent signings are made, it should get him an Opening Day start … but don’t hold your breath for that. He also has two minor league options, which makes for easier logistics than a couple of the others.

Hilliard is their best offensive option for center field. He has the potential to hit for the most power of the quartet but he has shown the lowest ability to get on base. He also has two minor league options so he could be sent down.

Yonathan Daza had a great start to the season for Colorado in 2021 at the plate but it went down hill after that due to injury and his luck running out. Through June 6 (50 games), he was hitting .331 but had a .409 BABIP (showing his great luck). After that, he hit .241/.297/.315 in 57 games with a BABIP of .292. He had a little bit of bad luck (.300 is the league average BABIP) but that’s much more realistic than the former numbers).

Defensively, Colorado believes he is their best outfielder. Metrics suggest that too … but in the corner outfield spots, not in center, where he has and would play the most. He also does not have any minor league options, though, so don’t be surprised if he makes the team.

Among the quartet, Raimel Tapia played the most for the team in 2021. He has the most time playing in the majors and has hit the best of the four with contact. However, his power decreased drastically in 2021, partially due to his skyhigh groundball rate of 67.4 percent, or 12 percent higher than anyone with at least 500 plate appearances.

His best defensive position is left field as he has nearly played left exclusively since 2019 (245 games in left field, 16 games in center, 13 games in right). But with Kris Bryant cemented there, he will only play left when Bryant plays another position, DHs, or gets a day off, which will happen occasionally but not all that often. Tapia also doesn’t have any minor league options.

On top of all of this, the Rockies will have to decide who is their everyday center field, who will get the most starts between right field and/or DH with Charlie Blackmon, and who will primarily be on the bench.

Next. Projecting Colorado's 2022 Opening Day lineup. dark

So the Rockies will have to decide whether or not they go for 14 pitchers or 15 pitchers and if they go with the latter, they will have to decide which of the four players is the odd man out. If they decide to keep all of them, though, they will have to decide on which reliever they don’t want to carry on the team and if their starters will be able to go long enough to just have 14 pitchers on the roster for the first month.