Colorado Rockies 2024 Season Preview

The word “rebuild” is frowned upon by Rockies fans, so let’s just say it will be another year of transition. Let's preview their 2024 season.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA - MARCH 11: Kyle Freeland #21 of the Colorado Rockies fist bumps teammates prior to a start against the White Sox at Camelback Ranch on March 11, 2024 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kyle Cooper/Colorado Rockies/Getty Images)

For a franchise that has participated in the fewest postseason games in baseball history — 11 of those 24 contests came in the same month — it may come as a surprise that the Colorado Rockies had never lost 100 games until last season.

There had certainly been other low-points since joining the league in 1993, though.

Spending $172 million during the 2000-01 offseason on left-handed starters Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle failed badly. Dumping Hampton’s contract two seasons into the eight-year deal required including fan favorite Juan Pierre in the trade only to watch him immediately win a World Series with the Marlins. Colorado got out of Neagle’s contract by citing a morale clause following a particularly embarrassing incident, but saved only $3 million in the process.

Then came a period in the early 2010s when the Rockies suffered through their second-longest postseason drought. The Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros suffered during this time as well, but it was for a cause. Realizing the strategic advantages of tanking, they each won a World Series (three ring, in total). Colorado, for all their best intentions to put together a Wild Card contender, lost 377 games from 2012-15, only one less than the Cubs in their four-year tank of 2011-14.

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The most recent back-breaking move came when perennial All-Star and homegrown hero Nolan Arenado was traded away following a feud with general manager Jeff Bridich. Including $51 million added insult to injury for Rockies fans, who recalled a similar pain when Troy Tulowitzki was dealt in surprising fashion in 2015. A few months after Arenado’s departure when Bridich and the club mutually agreed to part ways, Colorado was without both its superstar and surgeon behind the 2017-18 playoff rosters.

The Rockies sold over 2.6 million tickets in 2023, 13th-most in MLB, despite many sports enthusiasts in Denver feeling apathetic towards the club following the 103-loss campaign. Some signs indicate better days ahead; however, it’s hard to get worse after finishing dead-last in the National League and reaching the statistical nadir for your franchise.

And yet, things don’t feel quite as bleak as that win-loss record suggested. A trio of rookies emerged last year to lead the team in highlights and put fans in higher spirits. Nolan Jones reached 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in just 106 games. Ezequiel Tovar and Brenton Doyle provided elite defense up the middle. (Doyle won the Gold Glove Award as a center fielder, becoming the first rookie outfielder in the NL to secure the honor since its advent in 1957.)

There’s also a burgeoning farm system that could begin to impact the roster in the second half and years to come. Owning the third overall pick in the 2024 MLB Draft will further help in expediting this transition period to end the postseason irrelevance that began almost immediately after losing in the 2018 NL Division Series.

Now, for the first time since they entered the league, Colorado is being projected to be in the basement of the Senior Circuit. Bottom line: there’s no place but up.

Rockies Projected Lineups

1. Charlie Blackmon – DH 1. Charlie Blackmon – DH 
2. Kris Bryant – RF2. Kris Bryant – 1B
3. Nolan Jones – LF3. Nolan Jones – LF
4. Brendan Rodgers – 2B4. Brendan Rodgers – 2B
5. Ryan McMahon – 3B5. Ryan McMahon – 3B
6. Elias Díaz – C6. Elias Díaz – C
7. Ezequiel Tovar – SS7. Ezequiel Tovar – SS
8. Elehuris Montero – 1B8. Michael Toglia – RF
9. Brenton Doyle – CF9. Brenton Doyle – CF

Colorado’s defensive lineup is the one that will make the biggest impression and provide the most highlights in 2024. 

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Brenton Doyle is a reigning Gold Glove Award winner and Brendan Rodgers was one during his last full-season in 2022 before a shoulder injury last spring sidelined him until July 31. Ryan McMahon and Ezequiel Tovar were each finalists at their respective positions for the defensive honor.

Include a franchise-record 19 outfield assists from Nolan Jones — who did not meet the innings qualification in order to be amongst the top three defenders in left field — and a 2021 Gold Glove Award for backup catcher Jacob Stallings and it’s an even more impressive group.

That’s not to say they’ll be bad offensively. Colorado should score more runs after finishing 18th last season. Having Jones for more than four months will improve that. Doyle, who had only 57 plate appearances above Double-A before making his big league debut, made offseason adjustment to ensure he’ll outperform a .203 batting average.

Elehuris Montero remains an enticing unknown with his .817 OPS after the All-Star break when he was given regular playing time. Tovar, who signed a seven-year extension worth $63.5 million to stay in purple through his age-28 season, will look to build on a solid rookie campaign at the plate.

The biggest variable as to whether or not Colorado’s offense makes noise will be Kris Bryant. The 32-year-old has appeared in only 122 games with the club since signing a seven-year, $182 million pact ahead of the 2022 season. Though his numbers have plummeted in the past two years with the Rockies, his presence alone has paid dividends on the team’s winning percentage.

Colorado has fared 100-points better when Bryant starts (55-66, .455) than when he’s missing from the starting lineup (72-131, .355). By playing more first base this season than in his previous nine seasons as a big leaguer, the hope is the plantar fasciitis and back issues that have plagued him will be less impactful and keep him much healthier. 

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In a year that saw hitters across the league strike out 22.7% of the time in 2023, the Rockies roster struck out 25.5%, highest in club history. By putting the ball in play and allowing the expansive outfield at Coors Field to be of benefit, the offense can make notable strides in 2024.

Decreasing the strikeouts is one thing while increasing the stolen bases is another. With only three more steals (76) than league-leader Ronald Acuña Jr. (73), Colorado had only three players with more than five. Only one team, the Giants, had less players. Manager Bud Black mentioned a more aggressive approach this season and if spring training is any indicator — tied for third-most attempts – they might even approach 100 stolen bases for the first time since 2013.

Projected Bench

Jake Cave, Jacob Stallings, Michael Toglia and Alan Trejo

Other than Michael Toglia starting for certain stretches of the season when he’s the hot hand, Colorado’s bench doesn’t figure to get much playing time.

In the final week of spring training, Colorado made a pair of surprising additions: OF Jake Cave and IF/OF Greg Jones. Left-handed starting pitching prospect Joe Rock was sent to Tampa Bay for Jones who will begin his season in Triple-A. As such, Alan Trejo will begin the season as the utility infielder. Even when Jones arrives in Denver, his usage will be limited to giving a day off here and there to Doyle in center and Rodgers at second base.

Hunter Goodman and Sean Bouchard will be back in Denver after receiving regular at-bats with Triple-A Albuquerque. They’ve both shown spurts of success at the plate, but are ultimately unknown quantities. One of the two may end up spending more time in the outfield beside Doyle than either Opening Day options.

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Projected Rotation

1. LHP Kyle FreelandRHP Peter Lambert
2. RHP Cal QuantrillRHP Noah Davis
3. LHP Austin GomberRHP Germán Márquez*
4. RHP Dakota HudsonRHP Ty Blach
5. RHP Ryan FeltnerLHP Carson Palmquist

The starting rotation was the undoing of everything that led to 103 losses. Half of that gets chalked up to a pair of rotation stalwarts in Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela going down with UCL strains in addition to a nasty comebacker that sidelined Ryan Feltner with a fractured skull for four months. 

The other half dealt with a lack of pitching depth that was never replenished at the 2021 or 2022 trade deadline when the team was far from contention. It’s why a trio of starters who were either waived, released or designated for assignment during the year combined to make 42 starts. Colorado even resorted to using an opener in six games, albeit begrudgingly.

Acquiring Cal Quantrill was a shrewd pickup by GM Bill Schmidt from his former club. Cleveland chose to designate the 29-year-old for assignment following a down year that would have seen his salary increase in 2024 to approximately $6.6 million, third-highest behind only José Ramírez and Shane Bieber. The Guardians’ loss was the Rockies’ gain.

“With his upside and what he’s done in his career, there’s a chance that we get a middle of the rotation starter for less money than we would have to pay on the open market,” director of scouting Sterling Monfort said of the trade that sent C Kody Huff to Cleveland.

Colorado believes the Quantrill who’s shoulder felt better during the final month of the year (2.76 ERA in five starts) is the same one that led the Guardians to a pair of postseason appearances from 2020-2022 (3.08 ERA in 368.0 innings).

Another hurler looking to get back to previous heights is Opening Day starter Kyle Freeland. The Denver native has been consistent over the last three campaigns, posting an earned run average between 4.33 and 4.53 from 2020-22 before a 5.03 ERA in 2023.

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One of the factors for the poor showing was a dip in velocity. Freeland entered the league in 2017 with a 92.2 mph four-seam fastball, on average. Last year, it dropped to 88.8 mph. The numbers out of Salt River Fields this spring show both an improvement of nearly five miles-per-hour and an increase of swing-and-misses closer to what he flashed during his fourth-place finish in the 2018 Cy Young Award voting.

Toss in a new changeup grip he picked up during last year’s World Baseball Classic from teammate Adam Wainwright, and there’s belief amongst the Rockies’ staff that Freeland can have an outstanding season. 

Austin Gomber is hoping that a new foot placement on the rubber will reduce torque on his body. He closed out two of the last three seasons on the injured list due to a pars defect, or stress reaction to the lower back. When healthy, Gomber is capable of going month-long stretches with great success. 

Hudson and Feltner bring up the back of the rotation and will be given every opportunity to sort out any early issues they may encounter given the lack of pitching depth in the upper levels of the system. Two starts in September for Feltner allowed him to reset and have a normal offseason following the horrific line drive that jeopardized his career.

Hudson was non-tendered by St. Louis and Colorado believes his contributions during four consecutive postseason runs with the Cardinals can pay dividends to an inexperienced clubhouse that counts only Blackmon, McMahon and Freeland as those players still active from the Rockies last playoff appearance in 2018.

Márquez and Senzatela, also from that October roster six years ago, won’t be relied upon to contribute much on their road to recovery in 2024; only Márquez can be expected to reach double-digit starts.

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Projected Bullpen

RHP Justin Lawrence – CloserRHP Daniel Bard*
RHP Tyler Kinley – 8thLHP Lucas Gilbreath*
RHP Jake Bird – 7thRHP Gavin Hollowell
LHP Jalen BeeksLHP Evan Justice
RHP Victor VodnikRHP Matt Carasiti
RHP Nick MearsRHP Matt Koch
RHP Anthony MolinaLHP Ty Blach
RHP Peter Lambert – Long Reliever

The Rockies had the worst bullpen in all of baseball last year in terms of ERA and WHIP. However, it didn’t always feel that way and probably wouldn’t have been had the starting rotation not completely collapsed.

Upside arms populate the ‘pen this season minus multiple veteran leaders to sherpa the youth through the 162-game marathon. Three were added last offseason while only one — Jalen Beeks, the club’s lone lefty on Opening Day — was brought in this offseason.

Underrated Tyler Kinley is ready for a full year following Tommy John in 2022, and fellow surgery recipient Lucas Gilbreath is expected back on the mound some time in the first half. Otherwise, it’s an inexperienced bunch until Daniel Bard returns from the IL.

Justin Lawrence will serve as the closer following some impressive stretches last season in the role. Victor Vodnik, an acquisition from Atlanta at the deadline for reliever Pierce Johnson, can touch 100 mph.

Anthony Molina is a Rule 5 pick from the Rays that has already been discussed as a future member of the rotation for 2025. Jake Bird is coming off his second impressive campaign after pitching to a 3.55 FIP in 89.1 innings in 2023. His 84.1 IP as a reliever was most in the NL.

Prospects to Keep an Eye On

2B/SS Adael AmadorLHP Carson Palmquist
OF Jordan BeckRHP Chase Dollander
C Drew RomoLHP Sean Sullivan

The 2019 All-Star Game was an exceptional display of the club’s draft-and-development model with four players earning the honors: Charlie Blackmon (2nd round, 2008), Nolan Arenado (2nd round, 2009), Trevor Story (Supplement 1st round, 2011) and David Dahl (1st round, 2012).

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Following their 2017 postseason season run, Colorado graduated many of their best prospects. Around this time, they struggled to get the same results from their farm system. Only recently has the hype surrounding the minor league affiliates actually manifested.

Adael Amador is the one true top 100 prospect that every list agrees upon. He’s blocked by Tovar at shortstop and will benefit from playing second base. The 20-year-old has tremendous bat control as evidenced by his 155 walks and 133 strikeouts during his three seasons as a professional. The switch-hitter from the Dominican Republic will begin the year at Double-A Hartford and should make his debut at some point in the second-half. 

Jordan Beck announced his presence this spring with an impressive showing that earned him the Abby Greer Award as MVP of the minor league participants. Beck first gained notoriety at the University of Tennessee, earning him the attention of the Rockies at pick No. 38 in 2022. He hit 25 homers and stole 20 bases in his first full season as a pro.

Drew Romo is a rare breed: a switch-hitting catcher who was drafted out of high school in the first round. At 22-years old, Romo hit his stride at the plate over the final three months with Hartford last season. He’s strong defensively, especially when it comes to arm strength, and will be a favorite to be included on next year’s Opening Day roster.

There’s simply no shortage of position players in this system. Yanquiel Fernández recorded 46 home runs and 201 RBI in his age-19 and 20 seasons as a corner outfielder. Benny Montgomery, selected eighth-overall in 2021, makes playing center fielder look easy and has finally begun to produce at the plate after some early struggles.

If that’s not enough, another trio of prospects with potential to make the top 100 list all appeared with the Double-A Yard Goats in 2023: Sterlin Thompson, Zac Veen and Ryan Ritter.

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The Rockies had unfortunate luck with their pitchers last year. On July 24, the club announced Tommy John surgery was needed for three of their top arms: Gabriel Hughes, Jackson Cox and Jordy Vargas.

Carson Palmquist made noise last season when he found success at two levels, particularly as it comes to missing bats. His 13.1 K/9 was tops in the organization among starters. The southpaw was not only given an invite to Major League camp after only four starts in Double-A, but he even started the Cactus League opener. There’s been speculation of a second-half debut for the 2022 third-rounder.

Chase Dollander and Sean Sullivan were the team’s top two selections and amongst 14 pitchers taken in last summer draft. Dollander was in discussion to be the first overall pick before changing his slider grip and suffering a setback that dropped him to ninth.

2024 Outlook for the Colorado Rockies

The word “rebuild” is frowned upon by the denizens of Coors Field. So let’s say it will be another year of transition in LoDo.

Members of the Rockies front office frequently offer a simple five-word phrase that disregards many of the aspects that comprise a successful organization: “We need to play better.”

If the Rockies can indeed do that, while staying healthy and getting improvements from their youth and receiving a boost from those yet to debut and generally getting a career-year from more players than not, then they will actually be better.

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Until then, the playoff drought — and relevancy drought — will continue in Denver.