In 2022, the Rockies turned in yet another lackluster season, going 68-94 and dead last in the NL West. The starting pitching, which was supposed to be the backbone of this team, went kaput where All-Star German Márquez had an uncharacteristically off year, Antonio Senzatela went down with a torn ACL mid-season, Austin Gomber had to be moved to the bullpen, José Ureña had to come in and a fill a spot mid-season (which he did admirably, so much so that he was re-signed) and the fifth spot had to be largely carried by rookie Ryan Feltner who came with a lot of growing pains. The only one who was decent was Kyle Freeland, who filled the number 1 spot. On top of all that, the road woes continued, as the 2022 team turned in a road record of 27-54. And it didn’t help when prized addition Kris Bryant had to sit out most of the year due to injuries.
Like most seasons, it wasn’t all bad. The Rockies kept their franchise-long streak of never having 100 losses in a season intact. They were able to see some of the young talents on display as well like Elehuris Montero (the other acquisition in the Nolan Arenado trade), the number 15 overall prospect Michael Toglia, and number 2 overall prospect Ezequiel Tovar, all of which have shown their own fair share of promise and look like they have what it takes to be a big leaguer. The Rockies also managed to have a winning home record of 41-40, which is great for the fans (who were also top 10 in attendance in 2022).
Anyway, we have now turned the page to 2023 and there is some cause for hope for this upcoming season, so here are the things that might keep the Rockies at least entertaining in 2023.
A Healthy Kris Bryant
Kris Bryant recently told The Denver Post that he is 100% healthy and is ready for the 2023 season and, if true, that is huge. One thing the Rockies lacked last season is an on-the-field leader. Some guys would step up, such as C.J. Cron and Brendan Rodgers, but it would only be for a game here and there, nothing consistent. The former NL MVP and Rookie of the Year has the potential to put a team on his back and be a difference-maker every game. While guys like Cron and Blackmon certainly deserve their flowers as leaders in the clubhouse, they do not possess the on-field talent that Bryant possesses.
Take advantage of the league changes
This season, the MLB announced that shifting will be prohibited. The Rockies’ beloved home of Coors Field currently has the largest outfield in the MLB, so if the offense is able to spray the ball all over the yard more, that means LOTS of runs. Another sneaky rule is the pitch timer, which means pitchers will have to get the ball out faster, and when pitching at an altitude that can cause the opposing pitchers who are not acclimated to rush their pitches and be off on some of their throws.
Letting the kids play
The Rockies have managed to now have a top 10 farm system in the league, headed up by top prospect Zac Veen, who is expected to get his major league call-up in 2023. The young players were productive in the sample sizes that were shown last season, and the Rockies plan on starting Ezequiel Tovar at shortstop this season. Michael Toglia will work on either giving C.J. Cron a break at first base, or Charlie Blackmon one in right field in an effort to supplant one of them, but he is one I would not be shocked to see start in AAA for the Albuquerque Isotopes. Montero provided, and will provide, some much-needed power. I can see him working out of the designated hitter spot due to his big bat, though he can play some corner defense that will otherwise be occupied by Cron and McMahon. The Rockies have much more on the way prospect-wise that can be delved into independently, but those are the major ones at play right now.
Those are just some of the things that I think can be a launching pad for this team. I did not even touch on pitching, but at this point, it is more of a given as it is what this team lives and dies by. Owner Dick Monfort and General Manager Bill Schmidt did not do a whole lot in free agency (their biggest signing was local product Pierce Johnson on a 1-year deal), perhaps in an effort to let the budding farm system come up and get acclimated, which makes sense. What it also tells Rockies fans is that the team is still at least a couple of years away from contending again, but if Schmidt does this correctly, he could be building a team that is built to last with homegrown talent.