SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If the Rockies make the dramatic climb to playoff contention after six straight losing seasons, it's possible that star third baseman Nolan Arenado could have yet another wall to scale.Arenado would join Larry Walker, Todd Helton and Matthew Holliday -- star Rockies who put up numbers worthy
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If the Rockies make the dramatic climb to playoff contention after six straight losing seasons, it's possible that star third baseman Nolan Arenado could have yet another wall to scale.
Arenado would join Larry Walker, Todd Helton and Matthew Holliday -- star Rockies who put up numbers worthy of regular-season awards but had to battle the misunderstanding and mistrust of offensive numbers for someone playing nearly half of his games at Coors Field.
All 30 MLB.com beat writers are projecting major award candidates from the team they cover. In Colorado's case, the competition includes its own park, where hitting stats are difficult to measure or understand. As much as Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon or DJ LeMahieu could find themselves under consideration if healthy, it's possible that a pitcher has the best chance to take home major hardware at season's end.
Walker broke through in 1997 with the Baseball Writers' Association of America National League Most Valuable Player Award. Helton finished fifth in the NL MVP Award voting in 2000, and The Associated Press named him its Player of the Year. In 2007, when the Rox were in the World Series, Holliday finished second in the NL MVP Award voting behind the Phillies' James Rollins.
Arenado has already dealt with this issue. In 2015, he and the Nationals' Bryce Harper belted an NL-best 42 homers. Interestingly, 22 of Arenado's dingers came on the road, yet he finished eighth in the NL MVP Award voting. Last year, when he tied for the homers lead again with 41, Arenado finished fifth.
Arenado's OPS splits of .960 at home and .835 on the road in 2015 and 1.030 at Coors Field and .832 while away last year are held against him.
Blackmon could push himself into contention with another career year, after having his best year in every statistical category last season, as he had OPSs of .939 home and .926 on the road. LeMahieu is coming off his first NL batting title, and he hit .391 at home and a respectable .301 on the road. Gonzalez has 65 home runs and 197 RBIs over the past two seasons, but with Colorado's typical home-road splits.
But the biggest award candidate just might be a pitcher.
Closer Greg Holland missed last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery in October 2015. Before that, he earned 125 saves over three seasons with the Royals, who made it to Game 7 of the 2014 World Series and won it in '15.
Holland has bet on himself to return. His one-year contract with the Rockies is worth $7 million, but clauses based on appearances and games finished could allow him to double his salary this year and activate an option for next year. There is also a $100,000 bonus for the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award.
In the odd way that Coors Field is judged, the pain of surgery and missing a year can put a player closer to major honors than consistent production.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and** like his Facebook page**.