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Who will be on Colorado's Opening Day roster?

@harding_at_mlb
January 6, 2020

DENVER -- Six days into a new year, let’s take a look at how the Rockies’ roster could look when the 2020 season begins. The vision isn't quite clear. Because of a payroll hamstrung by some large contracts that haven't worked out, adding talent has been difficult. All that and

DENVER -- Six days into a new year, let’s take a look at how the Rockies’ roster could look when the 2020 season begins.

The vision isn't quite clear. Because of a payroll hamstrung by some large contracts that haven't worked out, adding talent has been difficult.

All that and we haven’t mentioned persistent rumors involving star third baseman Nolan Arenado, who despite all the reports is unlikely to be moved if the Rockies are to be taken at face value that they intend to contend in 2020.

At any rate, here is a glimpse at how the roster could look:

Catcher
Locks: Tony Wolters
Possibilities: Dom Nuñez, Drew Butera, Elias Díaz

Wolters had a solid defensive performance and contributed at the bottom of the order, although a late-season drop-off on the road affected his final numbers. A lack of payroll has hurt the club (20/20 hindsight reveals the error of the 2019 decision to abandon Tom Murphy, who found his form with the Mariners) in its search for a partner for Wolters. So far the Rockies have been creative by obtaining Butera and Díaz on Minor League contracts.

Nuñez joined the Major League roster in August (.179 in 16 games). The Rockies seek an experienced catcher to give Nuñez development time.

First base
Locks: Daniel Murphy, Ryan McMahon
Possibilities: Josh Fuentes, Roberto Ramos, Colton Welker, Tyler Nevin

A left index finger fracture days into the season led to a disjointed season for Murphy. While fans soured on him and his defense raised questions, the Rockies still believe in his bat.

McMahon, the regular second baseman, has performed well in limited duty at first the last two years. That’s important because manager Bud Black plans to give more rest to some of his veterans this season -- including Murphy, who will turn 35 on April 1.

Fuentes’ September (.270/.289 /.541, three homers) could be a springboard to a challenge for a roster spot as well.

Second base
Lock: Ryan McMahon
Possibilities: Garrett Hampson, Brendan Rodgers, Chris Owings, Eric Stamets

Meeting the standards of multiple-time Gold Glove winner DJ LeMahieu (Yankees) was asking a lot of McMahon, but his defensive metrics were comparable to the better defenders in the NL. And offensively, McMahon showed power (24 home runs) and increasing patience (56 walks). Hampson’s right-handed bat and versatility -- he plays everywhere but first base and catcher -- help the second-base picture.

Rodgers joined the club as a ballyhooed prospect, but right labrum surgery prevented him from gaining needed experience. If the Rockies aim to make a major trade, teams likely will insist Rodgers be included. The 26-man roster could help the Rockies carry Hampson and Rodgers.

Competition has entered the picture with the signing of Owings, formerly with the D-backs, Royals and Red Sox, to a Minor League contract. Stamets, also a non-roster invitee, debuted in the Majors with the Indians last year.

Shortstop
Lock: Trevor Story
Possibilities: Garrett Hampson, Brendan Rodgers, Chris Owings, Eric Stamets

Two straight All-Star Game appearances, four seasons of consistent power and defense that improves yearly have placed Story in the top level at the position. Expect the Rockies to revisit the experiment with Story in the leadoff spot. Hampson and Rodgers were drafted at the position and would have to step in should an injury occur.

Third base
Locks: Nolan Arenado, Ryan McMahon
Possibilities: Garrett Hampson, Brendan Rodgers, Josh Fuentes, Colton Welker, Tyler Nevin

Arenado started slowly but had a career year offensively in 2019, to go with seven years of all-time great defense. Arenado will continue as a force in the middle of the lineup. McMahon can spell Arenado, but don’t expect many days off.

Welker, the Rockies’ No. 3 MLB Pipeline prospect, and Nevin, ranked 11th and on the 40-man Major League roster, have played multiple positions in case the Rockies need their bats at some point.

Utility
Possibilities: Garrett Hampson, Brendan Rodgers, Chris Owings, Eric Stamets

Hampson has the advantage of being able to play at a starter’s level in center. But the baseball world is waiting for Rodgers to stay healthy and force himself into the lineup by hitting the way he has throughout his Minor League career. Owings has significant experience.

Outfield
Locks: Raimel Tapia, David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon, Ian Desmond
Possibilities: Garrett Hampson, Sam Hilliard, Yonathan Daza, Tyler Nevin, Mike Gerber

All-Stars Dahl, projected in the No. 2 spot, and Blackmon, who late in the season dropped from leadoff to cleanup to solid reviews, provide power and production as lefty hitters. The left-handed-hitting Tapia made enough forward strides in 2019 that the Rockies see him in at least a platoon role with Desmond, who would get starts against lefty pitchers. But if Hilliard backs up his eye-opening performance in August and September (seven homers in 27 games) with production and patience, he could vault into a starting role -- or at least a roster spot.

Hampson’s ability to play all three spots, including center, even though he’s an infielder by trade, opens some possibilities. Daza, potentially elite with the glove and arm, will have to improve dramatically offensively. Only Blackmon, who moved to right last season, and Desmond, who has settled in left, are tethered to one of the positions.

Nevin added outfield to his list of positions during offseason workouts, and Gerber, a non-roster invitee, hit 26 homers in Triple-A last season.

Starting pitchers
Locks: German Márquez, Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland
Possibilities: Antonio Senzatela, Jeff Hoffman, Chi Chi González, Tim Melville, Peter Lambert, Ryan Castellani, Ashton Goudeau, José Mujica

Márquez and Gray are coming off solid 2019 seasons, while Freeland has to rebound from a rough and injury-addled performance after two solid years. The three at the front of the rotation are the biggest keys to a return to being a contender. They’re the key reason the Rockies think they can contend, and the main reason those outside think they can’t.

Senzatela, Hoffman and González made positive strides at season’s end. All are out of Minor League options, so even if they don’t earn rotation spots they’ll have to show they can handle a role. Lambert showed some promise last season although his inexperience limited his accomplishments, and Rockies pitching coaches and front-office members believe Castellani (a second-round high school pick in 2014) could be ready for a breakthrough. Goudeau and Mujica are finds from other organizations who can make Rockies scouting and player development look smart.

Relievers
Locks: Wade Davis, Scott Oberg, Jairo Díaz, Carlos Estévez, Yency Almonte
Possibilities: Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, James Pazos, Wes Parsons, Joe Harvey, Phillip Diehl, Tyler Kinley, Antonio Senzatela, Jeff Hoffman, Chi Chi González

This unit -- one that screams for one or more experienced, economical additions -- will be much stronger if Davis can rebound from a down 2019. Oberg, Diaz and Estévez are useful as late-game hard-throwers. Almonte, who had some solid performances and some not, is out of Minor League options. With rotation candidates Senzatela, Hoffman and González out of options, one or more may have to go to the bullpen.

Shaw and McGee have large contracts but are in the “possibilities” category because the Rockies will seek trade interest. The Rockies collected Pazos, Parsons, Harvey, Diehl and Kinley -- all with options, and all but Diehl with Major League experience before 2019 -- to build depth and competition. Should some of the younger performers become trusted late-game arms, it will be a huge bragging point for the front office.

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.