Prior to MLB’s postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Rockies were set to open the 2020 season Thursday in San Diego. Here are five burning questions facing the club as it seeks to rebound from the 91-loss disappointment of a year ago.
1) Will Nolan Arenado be traded?
This has been the burning question since trade rumors surrounding the perennial all-star third baseman began in December. Colorado’s interest in trading Arenado this offseason, in conjunction with a public rift between the third baseman and general manager Jeff Bridich, have only fueled the intrigue. With the egg Colorado laid last year, Arenado seems a sure bet to opt out of his contract following the 2021 season. That would make the odds pretty high that Colorado trades Arenado by the July 31 deadline if the team isn’t in contention.
2) Can the pitching staff actually compete?
There’s a lot to be optimistic about with the lineup, with a new era of Blake Street Bombers in Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl. But whether the pitching staff can turn it around — Colorado posted a major league-worst 5.56 ERA last season — is another question altogether, especially within the notorious pinball confines of Coors Field. The Rockies need bounce-backs in the rotation (Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela) and from several arms in the bullpen (Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, et al). That’s asking a lot.
3) Who will be the team’s breakout star?
Though Colorado is projected by most analysts to finish in the bottom half of the National League West — Fangraphs has the Rockies pegged for fourth place and 75 wins — they have a bunch of young players who could emerge in a big way this season. Topping that list is infielder Ryan McMahon, who blasted 24 homers in his first full season last year. Second baseman Brendan Rodgers, outfielders Raimel Tapia and Sam Hilliard, and right-hander Peter Lambert also have the potential to break through this season.
4) Can David Dahl stay healthy for a full season?
Speaking of developing into a star, Dahl did just that in 2019 while slashing .302/.353/.524 with 15 homers in his first all-star season. But Dahl’s season was cut short in early August by a high ankle sprain. He has yet to play more than 100 games in each of his three seasons in the major leagues as injuries have offset his trajectory. But having Dahl as an everyday, healthy player in the lineup could be a game-changer for Colorado, especially if he gets north of 140 starts. A full season could propel Dahl into superstardom.
5) Will the Rockies inch closer to playoff contention?
Colorado had a wide playoff window entering last season. The Rockies were coming off consecutive postseason berths for the first time in franchise history and had just locked up Nolan Arenado to an eight-year contract. But now, with Arenado’s exit from Colorado seemingly imminent and major questions resurfacing with the pitching, the outlook appears bleak. Playoffs or not, where Colorado finishes in 2020 — Bottom of the division cellar? Wild card contention into September? — will say much about the overall direction of the franchise.