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Rockies to lean on surprising young rotation

Stiff competition for spots expected in Spring Training
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- Not only was the Rockies' young rotation a surprise last year, but it was a strength. And it figures to be a source of tight competition this spring.

The Rockies made the postseason last year having dealt with injuries to all four experienced pitchers -- Chad Bettis, who battled testicular cancer before returning for nine late-season starts; No. 1 starter Jon Gray, who had a stress fracture in his left foot; Tyler Anderson, who missed the middle of the season with arthroscopic surgery on his left knee; and Tyler Chatwood (now with the Cubs), who dealt with a right calf issue.

DENVER -- Not only was the Rockies' young rotation a surprise last year, but it was a strength. And it figures to be a source of tight competition this spring.

The Rockies made the postseason last year having dealt with injuries to all four experienced pitchers -- Chad Bettis, who battled testicular cancer before returning for nine late-season starts; No. 1 starter Jon Gray, who had a stress fracture in his left foot; Tyler Anderson, who missed the middle of the season with arthroscopic surgery on his left knee; and Tyler Chatwood (now with the Cubs), who dealt with a right calf issue.

German Marquez, Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland and Jeff Hoffman all had chances to perform under pressure, and had their moments. The Rockies were confident enough in the talented crew that they barely entertained seeking more experience.

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected starting rotation of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's the Rockies':

ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

Jon Gray, RHP
Tyler Anderson, LHP
German Marquez, RHP
Chad Bettis, RHP
Kyle Freeland, LHP

Video: 2017 MLB Awards: Best Moment - Bettis' great return

STRENGTH

All of the starters pitch with power and can rack up strikeouts. Also they are fearless at Coors Field -- always a plus.

QUESTION MARK

To begin with, this projection is in pencil. Senzatela and Hoffman are not to be dismissed. Beyond that, a couple of injuries in Spring Training could leave this crew woefully thin. That's why the performances of righties Yency Almonte and Zach Jemiola, and lefties Sam Howard and Harrison Musgrave will be important. None of these prospects has appeared in the Majors, but all have pitched their way onto the Major League radar.

Video: Rockies prospect Yency Almonte on pitching in bullpen

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

With the belief manager Bud Black, the coaching staff and general manager Jeff Bridich have in the talent of this group, it's doubtful the Rockies get nervous and sign a veteran to compete for a job. So any change would be a surprise.

If you're looking for new faces, how about more prospects -- specifically righties Riley Pint, 20, the team's No. 2 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline; Peter Lambert, 20, ranked No 5; Ryan Castellani, 21, rated sixth and likely to be in the big league camp for the second straight year; and Jesus Tinoco, 22, a piece in the Troy Tulowitzki trade with the Blue Jays in 2015.

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.

Colorado Rockies