The Colorado Rockies had become a favorite of the baseball community to be a surprise team in 2017. With the number of injuries they’re dealing with in spring training, they’ll now have a real chance to surprise.
We still have a couple weeks until regular season games will be played, but the Colorado Rockies are likely going to start the 2017 season without two key contributors on offense, and one member of their rotation that has been a regular for the past two seasons.
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The most worrisome health risk is obviously the cancer that has returned to Chad Bettis that will keep him out indefinitely. At this point, getting rid of the cancer and living a long healthy life is much more important that getting back on a baseball field, and the Rox will just have to make do with this news. Everyone around baseball has Bettis and his family in their thoughts and hopes for nothing but the best.
The other two injuries are less serious in the grand scheme of things, but in a baseball sense, the hand injury that Ian Desmond suffered over the weekend will likely keep him out of action longer to start the season. David Dahl‘s back injury is one that could see him back in the lineup around the time that the regular season commences, but also has a chance to linger around the entire season. Back injuries don’t tend to be deemed “all better” terribly often. Just ask (former?) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
In addition to these three big league regulars, Colorado Rockies number seven prospect (BA Prospect Handbook) catcher Tom Murphy has a hairline fracture in his right forearm. While Murphy wasn’t expected to start the season with the big league club, he did provide some insurance for Tony Wolters.
While the injuries keep piling up, there is one shred of silver lining that could be in existence, and that is that it’s still just spring training. That means that some of the recovery timetable will be eaten up before games count officially, and while players like Bettis, Desmond and potentially Dahl are out in Colorado, some of the team’s depth now has a chance to step up and provide production for the club.
At first base, depth charts has the backup as Gerardo Parra, but he’ll likely be manning left field if Dahl is out, as he is the veteran option to fill the void. Behind him is Jordan Patterson, who had a brief stint is Colorado last season and went 8-for-18 (.444) with just one strikeout. He may not be a big slugging first baseman, but he did steal ten bags in Triple-A last season and could be a solid option to fill in for Desmond.
They could also turn to Mark Reynolds, who handled the majority of the team’s first base responsibilities in 2016 and held a 99 wRC+. Desmond is considered an upgrade at the position both offensively and in the field, but for a month or two Reynolds and/or Patterson could at least tread water. The offense has plenty of options for RBI in the lineup already, so not being an easy out could go a long way.
In left field, Parra likely gets the first crack at handling the majority of the playing time, but if he plays like he did in 2016, look for Raimel Tapia to take over and provide a boost. Tapia held a 33 wRC+ in the first 41 plate appearances of his career last season while Parra had a 56 as an eight-year veteran playing in Colorado. Tapia has the higher upside and also plays better in the field, so the leash should be short for Parra to prove his worth.
As far as Bettis goes, his timetable is completely up in the air, but one would have to guess that he could be out for the entire season. If that’s the case, the rotation will be a little younger unless they wanted to bring in free agents Doug Fister or Colby Lewis as a stopgap solution. The Rox likely have the arms in the minors to get some production out of the fifth spot in their rotation, but it will be up to the development of their young guns like Jon Gray and the performance of their new bullpen that features Greg Holland to provide the results they were brought in for.
The Rockies have been dealt a crappy hand but still have the depth that if they can hover around .500 for the first couple of months and then get reinforcements, they could certainly still be the surprise team that everyone was predicting this offseason.