Rockies 2024 Spring Training questions –

This story was excerpted from Thomas Harding’s Rockies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Ezequiel Tovar proved during Spring Training last year that he was ready to take over as the Rockies’ shortstop. Outfielders Brenton Doyle and Nolan Jones were judged not quite ready before Opening Day, but before midseason both were lineup regulars.

Again this spring, the main questions are which prospects are ready and which should be ready soon.

If this team were in a different place, as opposed to coming off a franchise-worst 59-103 season, top storylines would involve the daily lineup. Can Charlie Blackmon sip from the youthful waters he enjoyed at the end of last season? Will young, big swingers Jones, Michael Toglia and Elehuris Montero make the Rockies a power-hitting lineup? Can Kris Bryant stay healthy after two years of not doing so? Will impact defenders Ryan McMahon at third base and Brendan Rodgers at second base find that elusive consistent wire-to-wire offensive season?

But with the team still in what looks like a multiyear transition period, here are subjects to watch as camp begins Thursday at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz.

1. Are they (close to) ready?
Three of the four Rockies prospects on the MLB Pipeline Top 100 list will be in Major League camp. None of them — No. 28 Adael Amador, a switch-hitting shortstop; No. 72 Yanquiel Fernandez, a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder; and No. 81 Jordan Beck, a right-handed-hitting corner outfielder — have taken as much as a swing in Triple-A. Neither have four more of the Top 10 Prospects in the organizational rankings who are in camp — No. 5 Zac Veen, a lefty-hitting outfielder; No. 6 Sterlin Thompson, a lefty-hitting infielder/outfielder; No. 8 Benny Montgomery, a righty-hitting center fielder; and No. 10 Warming Bernabel, a righty-hitting third baseman.

Four games at Albuquerque by switch-hitting catcher and No. 9 prospect Drew Romo represent the sum total of Triple-A games played by the Rockies’ Top 10 Prospects.

Two key left-handed starting pitchers will receive a look. Joe Rock, No. 16, has appeared in one Triple-A game. Carson Palmquist, No. 21, spent last year at High-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford. The next pitch No. 30 prospect Jaden Hill — a righty being converted to relief — throws in Double-A will be his first.

But as manager Bud Black says annually, anyone in Major League camp is on the radar.

It’s doubtful any of them will break with the big club. But as the Rockies showed with Doyle, infielder/outfielder Hunter Goodman and multiple relief pitchers, they are willing to break in new players. Last year, they were loaded with vets at the start of the year — Pierce Johnson, Brad Hand, C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, Mike Moustakas. But when the younger players were deemed ready to either debut or take a bigger bite of playing time, the Rockies dealt all the vets.

So in the likely event that you see them optioned or moved to Minor League camp, the key is to examine the areas to improve to give themselves a chance against Major League competition. In the cases of Jones and Doyle, their swings were deemed not quick enough for the Major League fastball. Each went to Albuquerque and emerged not finished products, but competitive players.

In the immediate, however, two Rockies Top 30 Prospects saw Major League time last year and can either prove they are ready or learn what it takes. Goodman, No. 12, made 23 appearances after slugging 70 Minor League homers the past two years. Righty reliever Victor Vodnik, No. 25, came in a trade with the Braves, rose from Double-A to the Majors and showed a power pitch mix in six Major League games.

2. What happens at the end?
A team in better position to challenge for postseason spots likely would have pursued a closer this winter. The Rockies felt close enough in 2017 to sign Greg Holland and in 2018 to tab Wade Davis. Each led the National League in saves, and the Rockies went to the postseason each season.

Last year, veteran closer Daniel Bard struggled — from a messy performance in the World Baseball Classic to three trips to the injured list with the Rockies to rough numbers (4.56 ERA, 49 walks to 47 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings). But rather than get someone else, the Rockies will count on the new Bard being the old Bard — 60 saves and 176 strikeouts in 150 2/3 innings over the previous three seasons.

Bard will have to compete this spring with the pitchers who stepped into the ninth inning in his stead last year — Justin Lawrence and Tyler Kinley — plus any young, hard-throwing pitcher who emerges as a surprise.

The cynical view would be asking where anyone cares who the closer is on a team coming off such a poor season. But part of building a future is learning to win. For that, a strong bullpen is essential.

3. Can pitching additions Cal Quantrill and Dakota Hudson rebound from injuries in recent years and make the rotation competitive?
The Rockies’ 2023 rotation was thin to begin with. Then it lost Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela to right elbow surgeries and Ryan Feltner because of a fractured skull.

Quantrill and Hudson have had postseason-worthy seasons but spent last year building health after arm injuries. They essentially replace Márquez, who won’t be back until after the All-Star break, and Senzatela, whom the Rockies are not expecting back until 2025. So it is again a top four — the newcomers plus lefties Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber — that needs to be healthy and productive.

Those competing for the last rotation spot enter with more experience than last year, with righty Peter Lambert having pitched the most (and having finished last year strong) joining Feltner and Noah Davis as competitors for the fifth spot.

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Raven Asher

Hey there, I'm Raven Asher, a writer and blogger currently studying at McMaster University. My passion lies in arts and culture, and I love exploring and sharing my thoughts on different aspects of this field through my writing. I've been fortunate enough to have my articles featured on several blogs and news websites, which has allowed me to connect with readers from all over the world. Apart from writing, I'm also an avid traveler, and I love experiencing different cultures and learning new things. Join me on my journey as I explore the world and share my insights on everything art and culture!

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