2016 Record - 75-87
Third Place, NL West
Team ERA: 4.91 (27th)
Team OPS: .794 (2nd)
What Went Right
The offense was ferocious, producing the second-most runs, the second-best batting average, and the second-highest team OPS in Major League Baseball. Some of that is owed to the Coors Field effect, but most of it stemmed from the fact that the Rockies have a bunch of really good hitters. Nolan Arenado led the charge with 41 home runs, most in the National League, and 133 RBI, most in the majors. He’ll get some votes in the National League MVP balloting. DJ LeMahieu won the National League batting title with a .348 average, part of a sensational .348/.416/.495 overall slash line. Charlie Blackmon gave the club an ideal presence at leadoff, slashing .324/.381/.552 with 29 homers, 17 stolen bases, and 111 runs scored in 143 games. Trevor Story was one of the best stories of the first half and might have beat out Corey Seager for National League Rookie of the Year honors had he not ruptured the UCL in his left thumb in late July. Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, and German Marquez hinting at future rotation reliability was probably as important as any of this stuff.
What Went Wrong
Colorado entered the 2016 season severely undermanned in both the bullpen and rotation, and it continually stunted the club’s efforts to contend. There was a point where a Wild Card run looked like a possibility, but it became a pipe dream by late May. Veteran starter Jorge De La Rosa battled groin issues and ineffectiveness, finishing with a 5.51 ERA in 134 innings. He’ll be allowed to walk this winter as a 35-year-old free agent. Jordan Lyles was demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque before the end of April after registering a 7.64 ERA over his first four starts. He finished the year in a long relief role and will be a non-tender candidate this offseason. Chad Bettis stayed healthy but pitched horribly, producing a 4.79 ERA over 32 starts. The relief staff logged a combined 5.13 ERA, worst in the majors, and blew a total of 28 saves. Fourth-year manager Walt Weiss had a falling out with the front office -- namely GM Jeff Bridich -- and resigned from his post after the Rockies’ final regular-season game. His record in four years as Colorado’s skipper was 283-365. Ownership deserves much of the blame here for failing to bolster an impressive offensive core with the necessary shutdown arms. Though, to be fair, it is difficult to attract shutdown arms to Denver’s thin air.
** Nolan Arenado was a consensus top-10 pick before the season and met the hype as a four-category fantasy stud. He played in 160 games and delivered career highs in RBI, OPS, batting average, on-base percentage, and runs scored. The star third baseman gets to take half his at-bats at Coors Field, where he’s slashed .308/.355/.581 with 66 home runs and 238 RBI in 280 games for his career. Arenado doesn’t turn 26 years old until next April. He’ll be somewhere near the top five of fantasy drafts leading into 2017, and rightly so.
** There is some internal hope for the Rockies rotation. Jon Gray had a 2.61 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 82 2/3 innings between May 26 and August 2 before hitting a wall that can likely be chalked up to fatigue. The 24-year-old right-hander did strike out 16 batters over nine scoreless innings on September 17 against the Padres, celebrating the first shutout of his career. Drafted third overall in 2013 out of the University of Oklahoma, Gray will be asked to take on the role of staff ace next season. And he’s probably going to be worth grabbing late in fantasy drafts on the semi-decent chance he rises to the occasion. Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, and 2014 first-rounder Jeff Hoffman will try to follow Gray on the path to a much-needed Colorado pitching revolution.
** Young shortstop Trevor Story was batting .272/.341/.567 with 27 home runs and 72 RBI in 97 games when he tore the UCL in his left thumb while sliding into second base on July 30 against the Mets. He underwent season-ending surgery a few days later, and the Rockies finished out the 2016 campaign with Cristhian Adames and Daniel Descalso sharing time at short. Story should be 100 percent for the beginning of spring training next February -- his procedure came with only eight weeks of prescribed rest and rehab -- and the 23-year-old is sure to shatter his 186.5 average draft position (ADP) from 2016. Story has legitimate power that only gets amplified by Coors Field and he stole 96 bases over parts of five seasons in the minor leagues. This can be a five-category guy at a premium position.
** The other young bat to monitor in Colorado is David Dahl, who arrived in the majors on July 25 and slashed .315/.359/.500 with seven home runs, 24 RBI, five stolen bases, and 42 runs scored in 63 games. Dahl is locked in as the Rockies’ starting left fielder for 2017, with Carlos Gonzalez manning right (barring a trade) and Charlie Blackmon in center (also barring a trade). If the Rockies keep the pieces together, they’re going to score runs in bunches again next season. Dahl, the 10th overall pick in 2012, could bat fifth in the 2017 starting lineup behind Blackmon, LeMahieu, CarGo, and Arenado. That’s a spot where a guy with Dahl’s ability can do serious damage, and he figures to be available in the middle rounds of fantasy drafts next spring.
** There isn’t a great answer for the Rockies’ bullpen woes, other than to go out and spend significant, borderline-irresponsible money this winter (see: Kenley Jansen, Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon). Assuming that doesn’t happen -- a pretty safe assumption given owner Dick Monfort’s recent payroll patterns -- the closer job will belong to Adam Ottavino. The right-hander returned from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery to post a 2.67 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 35/7 K/BB ratio across 27 innings in 2016. Ottavino tallied five saves in September (and two in August) after snatching the ninth-inning job away from Carlos Estevez.
Team Needs: Established starting pitchers and relievers, most of all. A starting catcher might help too.