The Colorado Rockies took a step back in 2019, their third season under manager Bud Black. Colorado won 91 games in 2018. A year later, they went 71-91.
Competing with the deep-pocket Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West is never easy, even in a 60-game sprint of a season. The Rockies have little in terms of expectations at sportsbooks this season with the BetUS over/under wins line at 27.5 and their World Series odds at +15000.
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Colorado Rockies 2019 Results
The Rockies got off to a good start with winning records in May and June. That put their record at 44-40 heading into July. From there, it was all downhill. Colorado went 6-19 in July and 9-19 in August before a 12-13 September left them at 71-91 overall.
That record put Black’s team 35 games behind the Dodgers and in fourth place in the division, one game ahead of San Diego.
The Rockies had four All-Stars in 2019, and all four are projected to be the top of their 2020 lineup. Outfielders David Dahl and Charlie Blackmon were joined by infielders Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado as All-Star selections.
The Rockies went 43-38 at Coors Field last season but struggled on the road with a 28-53 record. They were 32-44 inside the division with a rough 4-15 mark against the 106-win Dodgers.
Colorado Rockies Key Additions
General manager Jeff Bridich made few moves outside of the organization, so the 2020 Rockies are virtually the same as the 2019 Rockies.
Arenado was allegedly on the trade block all winter, and rumors abounded of the superstar third baseman heading to multiple teams. But through the Winter Meetings, the GM Meetings and the Hot Stove League, Arenado is still at the hot corner in Denver.
Colorado added Jose Mujica and Tyler Kinley as free-agent pitchers. Mujica, a long-time Rays minor leaguer, has never pitched in the Majors and did not make the Rockies’ Opening Day roster.
Kinley pitched 52 times for Miami, going 3-1 with a 3.65 ERA In 49 innings, he struck out 46 but walked 36.
Colorado also signed Daniel Bard to a minor-league contract. Bard made the roster as he attempted a comeback to the Majors for the first time since 2013 when he suffered the yips with the Boston Red Sox.
The 35-year-old was one of the best relievers in the game from 2009-11, covering 192 games for Boston and never posting an ERA over 3.65.
At the end of June, Colorado signed 14-year MLB veteran Matt Kemp, who was limited to 20 games in Cincinnati. Kemp played a full season in 2018 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, batting .290/.338/481 and hitting 21 homers.
For his career, the 35-year-old outfielder has 281 home runs and a .285 average, and the Rockies will be his fifth stop.
Colorado Rockies Big Losses
The biggest loss for Colorado is the opting out of outfielder Ian Desmond. The 34-year-old started 74 games in center field last season and 44 in left while batting .255/.310/.479 with 20 homers, 31 doubles, and 65 RBI. He was slated to make $15 million in 2020 and is still under contract for 2021 with a 2022 team option.
An 11-year MLB veteran, Desmond is a two-time All-Star with a career .263 average. Desmond announced on social media that with four young children and a pregnant wife, he wasn’t comfortable risking his health and future during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rockies lost free agents, Chad Bettis and Yonder Alonso. Bettis went 1-6 with a 6.08 ERA in 39 games last season and signed with the New York Yankees but has already been let go.
Alonso played in 54 games and hit .260/.357/.479 with three homers, seven doubles, and 10 RBI. The catcher/first baseman signed with the Atlanta Braves.
After summer camp opened in July, the Rockies released pitchers, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee. Shaw went 3-2 with a 5.38 ERA in 70 games while earning one save. He stuck out 58 and walked 29 in 72 innings of work and signed with the Mariners after being released.
McGee, a former top prospect of the Rays, was 0-2 with a 4.35 ERA in 45 games. The lefty, who had 15 saves in 2016, has already been picked up by the Dodgers.
Colorado Rockies Pitching
The top four in the Rockies’ rotation is set, just like it was last year when they accounted for 100 of the 162 stars.
Right-hander German Marquez became the ace going 12-5 with a 4.76 ERA in 28 starts. The 25-year-old struck out 175 batters in 174 innings and walked just 35 but allowed 29 home runs.
Jon Gray also earned double-digits in wins as the righty went 11-8 with a 3.84 ERA in 25 starts. The 28-year-old struck out 150 in 150 innings.
Another righty, Antonio Senzatela, also won 11 games. He went 11-11 in 25 starts but had a 6.71 ERA and a 1.75 WHIP with 57 walks in 124 2/3 innings.
Lefty Kyle Freeland was the fourth starter to throw more than 100 innings. The 27-year-old struggled with a 3-11 record and a 6.73 ERA while striking out 79 and allowing 25 home runs in 104 1/3 innings.
The fifth starter spot will either go to Jeff Hoffman or Chi Chi Gonzalez. Hoffman made 15 starts last season, going 2-6 with a 6.56 ERA. Gonzalez, also a righty, went 2-6 with a 5.29 ERA in 12 starts and a 1.46 WHIP.
Veteran Wade Davis returns as the Rockies closer after a down season in 2019. He went 1-6 with an 8.65 ERA in 50 games while recording 15 saves in 32 games finished. Davis struck out 42 but walked 29 over 42 2/3 innings for a 1.88 WHIP.
While Davis struggled, getting to him was also an issue. Of those who pitched more than 20 times, only Scott Oberg and Carlo Estevez had an ERA under 4.00.
Oberg went 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA in 49 games while recording five saves. He struck out 58 and walked 23 over 56 innings. He suffered some back tightness and may not be ready for the start of the season.
Estevez went 2-2 with a 3.75 ERA in 71 games while striking out a bullpen-high 81 in 72 innings of work.
With McGee released, the only lefties with any experience in the pen are 29-year-old James Pazos and 25-year-old Phillip Diehl. In 12 game, Pazos posted a 1.74 ERA over 10 innings while striking out 10. Meanwhile, Diehl posted a 7.36 ERA in 10 outings while covering 7 1/3 innings.
Bard and Kinley are bullpen options as well, and right-hander Jairo Diaz is back after going 6-4 with a 4.53 ERA and five saves in 56 games.
Colorado Rockies Offense
Black has some options with the lineup, and it definitely helps to have the luxury of an All-Star in each of the top four positions. A typical Rockies lineup should look like this: CF David Dahl, SS Trevor Story, RF Charlie Blackmon, 3B Nolan Arenado, DH David Murphy, 1B Ryan McMahon, 2B Garrett Hampson, LF Sam Hilliard, C Tony Wolters.
Dahl made his first All-Star team, batting .302/.353/.524 with 15 homers, 28 doubles, 61 RBI and 67 runs scored in 100 games. Injuries kept him down somewhat with an injured list stint in April, and he missed the rest of the season after an Aug. 2 ankle injury.
Story was a 2019 All-Star and won a Silver Slugger Award, finishing 12th in the NL MVP voting. In 145 games, he hit .294/.363/.554 with 35 homers, 85 RBI, 38 doubles and 111 runs scored.
Blackmon hit .314/.364/.576 with 32 homers, 42 doubles, 112 runs scored and 86 RBI.
Murphy, a former second baseman, mostly plays at first base and designated hitter for the Rockies in 2020. As a 34-year-old, he hit .279/.328/.452 with 13 homers, 35 doubles, 78 RBI and 56 runs scored.
McMahon will also play first base and second base after a .250/.329/.450 season. The left-handed hitter had 24 homers, 22 doubles, 83 RBI and 70 runs scored.
Second base will likely be split between McMahon, Hampson and Brendan Rodgers. Hampson played 105 games batting .247/.302/.385 with eight homers, nine doubles, 27 RBI, and 15 steals.
Rodgers, a top prospect and former first-round pick, was limited by a shoulder injury to 25 games, batting .224/.272/.250 with seven RBI.
With Desmond out, Black has options in the outfield with Hilliard, Raimel Tapia, and Kemp. Hilliard bats from the left side and hit .273/.356/.649 in 27 games with seven home runs.
Tapia also bats from the left side and filled in for Dahl last year with a .275/.309/.415 line that included nine homers, 23 doubles, and 44 RBI.
The Rockies have catchers to split the playing time in Wolters and Drew Butera. Wolters played 121 games batting .262/.337/.329 and hitting one homer with 17 doubles and 42 RBI. Butera struggled in 16 games batting .163/.229/.233 with three doubles and three RBI.
Colorado Rockies Three Key Players
In the leadoff spot, the Rockies need a healthy two months from Dahl. He played 63 MLB games as a rookie in 2016, missed all of 2017, and played 77 games in 2018. Before his August injury, he was having a breakout season with career-highs in every category except for home runs, as he needed one more to catch his 2018 tally.
The ERA and home runs allowed are never going to be pretty for a Rockies pitcher playing half its games in Coors Field’s altitude. Colorado needs 10 to 12 strong starts from Marquez, who saw his record improve from 14-11 to 12-5 from 2018 to 2019, but his ERA went from 3.77 to 4.76.
Three straight double-digit win seasons show he is the leader of the rotation, and the Rockies need him to put it all together.
Someone in the bullpen needs to step up, and it may as well be Davis. He will likely be on a short leash as the closer with an 8.65 ERA and six losses.
A return to his form with the Royals and Cubs could be the difference between another lost season for the Rockies and a run at a Wild-Card spot.
Colorado Rockies Schedule Breakdown
The Rockies will face their NL West rivals 40 times this season and will face the tough AL West for the other 20 games.
Colorado started the season with interleague games as they played three at the Texas Rangers and two at the Oakland A’s. They won’t face the Dodgers until Aug. 21, but the NL West schedule is not kind with a combined 13 road games in Arizona and Los Angeles.
The Rockies’ BetUs over/under for MLB regular-season wins odds is 27.5, which translates to a 74-88 normal season. That would be a modest three-win increase for the Rockies over 2019.
If Colorado is still in the race late, they need to be road warriors, with the final seven games of the year on the road at San Francisco and Arizona. The BetUS World Series odds have Colorado as a massive long shot at +15000, tied for the lowest odds in the NL West.