Baseball’s back. Two words that baseball fans have been waiting for here since the last out of last year’s historic World Series. Unless you’re a Cubs or Indians fan, your team’s run at a championship ended long ago. This is the case for the Colorado Rockies, who put together a decent season, but finished third in the National League West, well short of a playoff spot. However, their 75-87 record and third place finish was their best since 2010.
The Rockies had their fare share of excitement in 2016. Rookie sensation Trevor Story put together a historic run to start the season. Third baseman Nolan Arenado was an MVP candidate, and one of the top power bats in baseball. Young arms Chad Bettis, Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood, and Tyler Anderson showed promise on the mound. These are just a few stories from 2016 that have Rockies fans looking forward to 2017.
Players have reported and spring training is in full swing, but players are eager to get their first taste of game action. The Rockies take on the Diamondbacks on Saturday, February 25th, and here are three guys you should keep an eye on as Opening Day gets closer.
- Trevor Story – Story won the starting shortstop job out of spring training. He made his major league debut on Opening Day, and recorded his first career hit, a three-run homer off of Zack Greinke. While hitting a homer in your first major league at-bat is impressive, it’s been done before. What Story went on to do however, has not. He homered in his second major league at-bat. And again the next day. And the next day. Two more the next day. The kid was hitting out of his mind, and became the first player to hit a homer in each of his first four games, the first player to hit six homers in the team’s first four games, and tied the MLB record for home runs in April with ten. The 24-year-old’s historic rookie season ended prematurely after injuring his thumb and undergoing surgery. Story still finished his rookie season slashing .272/.341/.567 with 27 homers and 72 RBI. He’ll have to reduce his strikeout rate if he wants to establish himself as one of the league’s top hitters, 31.3 percent, but his power will undoubtedly be something to watch this spring.
- Ian Desmond – Desmond had a huge bounceback season in 2016. He hit .285 with 22 homers and 21 steals with the Rangers, and proved he could successfully transition to a new position. Well the 31-year-old will be expected to move once more, this time to first base. The Rockies signed Desmond to a five-year, $70 million contract, with hopes that he can provide a nice combination of power and speed from the first base position. As was the case with Hanley Ramirez a year ago, an outfielder transitioning to first is a sight to see, and all eyes will be on the newest member of the Rockies as spring training progresses.
- Jon Gray – Despite pitching in the hitter’s paradise that is Coors field, Gray showed moments of brilliance in 2016. The once top prospect struck out an impressive 185 batters in just 168 innings and kept his HR/9 at just 1.0. His 4.61 ERA and 1.26 WHIP were lackluster, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement for Gray. With his powerful fastball and newly improved curveball already leaving hitters guessing at the plate, Gray has his focus set on his changeup this spring. He’s testing out a new grip for his offspeed pitch, which has been his best secondary pitch in the past. If Gray can master his changeup this spring, he could enter the season with three plus-pitches, and can establish himself as the clear ace of the Rockies.
I’m saying it right now. I believe the Colorado Rockies will make a push for a playoff spot in 2017. They have one of the most dynamic offenses in the game, and their young pitching staff could make huge strides as Opening Day gets closer. Look out for the Rockies this season, and make sure to keep an eye on these guys when spring training heats up on Saturday.