DENVER -- The Spring Training competition for the Rockies' Opening Day roster is just part of the yet-to-be-written story of the 2018 season. In this first of several installments predicting the season-opening roster between now and Opening Day, keep in mind that it's likely every name mentioned here will be
DENVER -- The Spring Training competition for the Rockies' Opening Day roster is just part of the yet-to-be-written story of the 2018 season. In this first of several installments predicting the season-opening roster between now and Opening Day, keep in mind that it's likely every name mentioned here will be a factor -- possibly a deciding one -- when the games begin for real.
All you have to do is look at 2017. Infielder Pat Valaika didn't make the Opening Day roster, but by year's end he had 16 pinch-hit RBIs -- most in Major League history for a rookie since the MLB rookie rule was established in 1958. Pitcher Jeff Hoffman, like Valaika, began the year at Albuquerque, but filled in when needed, and had three key wins in May and June to help keep a strong team start going. The roster for the 11-8 National League Wild Card Game loss to the D-backs included outfielders Raimel Tapia and Mike Tauchman, who were also midseason callups.
So, let's take an early peek at how the Rockies may look on March 29, when the regular season opens at Arizona. Don't worry if your favorite doesn't make this cut; this is the cyberspace equivalent of writing lightly in pencil, with an eraser tracing behind.
Catcher:Chris Iannetta, Tony Wolters
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Iannetta figures to catch about 100 games. Wolters, who started much of last season, offers a left-handed hitting complement and has made a mark defensively. Another option is right-handed hitting Tom Murphy, who has top-shelf power and can truly compete if his defense and leadership advance. Also, if there is an injury -- especially to Iannetta -- expect the Rockies to sign a veteran, the way they did last year when they brought in Ryan Hanigan.
First base:Ian Desmond, Ryan McMahon
Desmond was signed for the position ahead of the 2017 season, but never fully learned it because of a broken hand last spring and two bouts with right calf strains. McMahon is coming off a standout Minor League season, and can be eased into the job. Desmond also can start in the outfield. If McMahon struggles in his big opportunity, lefty-hitting Jordan Patterson -- a contributor in 2016 who spent 2017 at Albuquerque -- could make his mark.
Second base:DJ LeMahieu
Third base:Nolan Arenado
Outfield:Charlie Blackmon, Gerardo Parra, David Dahl, Desmond, Tapia
Last year's MLB batting leader, Blackmon, will reprise his role as the Rockies' primary centerfielder.
If the Rockies don't re-sign Carlos Gonzalez, they have plenty of options to compete for left-field playing time if Desmond should get time in left when McMahon is at first base, and Parra should get time in left when Desmond is at first. Dahl, Desmond, Tapia and Mike Tauchman also will compete for roster spots and playing time.
On days when he isn't in left, Parra will be the primary right fielder, with Dahl, Tapia and Tauchman competing for time there as well.
All of the Rockies' outfielders have experience in center, so any could spell Blackmon if necessary.
Utility: Pat Valaika
Starting rotation:Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, Chad Bettis, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland
This combination of starters make for good left-right balance. That said, a pair of righties, Hoffman and Antonio Senzatela, had their moments last season, and will have something to say about the makeup of the rotation.
Bullpen:Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Adam Ottavino, Mike Dunn, Chris Rusin, Carlos Estevez, Scott Oberg
The Rockies spent a total of $133 million on three-year contracts for Davis, Shaw and McGee, with Davis projected to serve as closer. Ottavino and McGee have had success in setup roles, and Rusin has starred in a multi-use role and may be the pitcher the Rockies would have the hardest time replacing.
Estevez and Oberg developed late last season and were trusted enough to use in the Wild Card Game. They could push into later roles. However, they will be challenged by lefty Zachary Rosscup, whom left-handed batters went 0-for-15 against last season, and righty Jairo Diaz, who pitched in four games last year in his comeback following (right) Tommy John surgery in 2016.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.