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How can the Rockies return to relevance? Here’s six key mileposts on the road back to Rocktober.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Rockies’ road to relevance will be paved with good intentions but undoubtedly full of potholes.

Injuries, disappointing prospects, the rigors of competing in the National League West and the vagaries of baseball at 5,280 feet are unavoidable obstacles. That doesn’t mean the Rockies cannot start winning again, but it won’t be easy.

The Rockies must reach six key mileposts to end their five-season losing streak and return to playoff contention:

Catch a rising star

Star power has been sorely lacking in LoDo. In 2019, the Rockies sent four players to the All-Star game: third baseman Nolan Arenado, shortstop Trevor Story and outfielders Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl. Since then, the Rockies have sent just one player yearly to the Midsummer Classic.

Colorado needs dynamic, game-changing young players like Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll and Orioles shortstop Gunnar Henderson. Carroll was the unanimous 2023 National League rookie of the year, while Henderson was the unanimous ROY in the AL. Both players were instrumental in their team’s return to the playoffs after 110-loss seasons in 2021.

History illustrates how a young star can spark a team. Rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki helped lead Colorado to the World Series in 2007. In 2017-18, the only time the Rockies have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, it was Story’s turn to play the role of young wunderkind.

The 2024 Rockies have excellent young talent poised to break out, notably shortstop Ezequiel Tovar and outfielders Nolan Jones and Brenton Doyle, all of whom will start this season. Down on the farm, infielder Adael Amador and outfielders Yanquiel Fernandez and Jordan Beck show great potential, but do they have star power? If the Rockies are to escape their current malaise, they better hope so.

One-two punch

The Arizona Diamondbacks won only 84 games last season and barely snuck into the playoffs. They were huge underdogs against the Dodgers in last year’s National League Division Series. But with starters Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen on the mound, the odds didn’t matter.

Kelly and Gallen each notched a win in the NLDS, allowing a combined two runs over 11 2/3 innings in the series’ first two games. The D-backs shocked the Dodgers in three games, rallied to beat the Phillies in seven in the NLCS, and advanced to the World Series.

The moral of the story: These days, you don’t need pitching icons like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine or John Smoltz of the 1990s Braves to sneak into the playoffs and make some noise.

In 2017-18, the Rockies had a powerful one-two punch in right-hander German Marquez and lefty Kyle Freeland. But Marquez is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and Freeland, who turns 31 in May, is trying to rebound from a 2023 season in which he went 6-14 with a 5.03 ERA. As a group last season, Rockies starters posted a 5.91 ERA, the highest in the majors and the second-highest in franchise history.

So, perhaps the question is, who will anchor the Rockies’ future rotation? Could it be Chase Dollander, the right-hander out of Tennessee who was the ninth overall pick in last year’s draft? Could it be right-hander Gabriel Hughes, the 10th overall pick out of Gonzaga in 2022? He had Tommy John surgery last July, so his future remains cloudy.

General manager Bill Schmidt has made trades and used draft picks to acquire a bushel of minor league arms, hoping the Rockies can strike it rich. “Somebody is going to surprise us in that group,” he insists.

Wheel and deal

Blockbuster trades are not part of the Rockies’ DNA, but they’ll have to make a smart deal, or two, or three, to become a competitive team.

Former GM Jeff Bridich is best known by Rockies fans for his feud with Nolan Arenado, which eventually led to the infamous trade that sent the star third baseman to St. Louis. But Bridich was also the architect of one of the best trades in Rockies history. In January 2016, he acquired right-hander German Marquez (an All-Star in 2021) and lefty reliever Jake McGee from Tampa Bay for outfielder Corey Dickerson and infielder Kevin Padlo.

Bill Schmidt, Bridich’s successor, has shown that he’s willing to make deals. Before last year’s trade deadline, Schmidt dealt veterans Mike Moustakas, C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, Brad Hand and Pierce Johnson to acquire several minor-league pitchers. In a trade with the Guardians in November 2022, Schmidt acquired left fielder Nolan Jones, a potential All-Star.

But is Schmidt willing and able to pull off a bold trade? Arizona GM Mike Hazen has been. In 2016, a month after he took the job, he shipped Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis to Seattle for infielder Ketel Marte and right-hander Taijuan Walker. Marte has been Arizona’s best player over the last seven years and was named the NL Championship Series MVP last fall.

In July 2019, Hazen swapped infield prospect Jazz Chisholm Jr. to the Marlins for right-hander Zac Gallen, and then watched Gallen evolve into the D-backs’ best pitcher. In December 2022, Hazen acquired young catcher Gabriel Moreno and outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. from the Blue Jays for outfielder Daulton Varsho. Moreno and Gurriel were key players in Arizona’s run to the 2023 World Series.

Colorado has a surplus of talented position players in the minor leagues, particularly outfielders Jordan Beck, Yanquiel Fernandez, Zac Veen, Benny Montgomery and Hunter Goodman. Schmidt has indicated he’d be open to trading a prospect if the right deal materializes. History says he might have to.

Closing time

As the Diamondbacks neared last year’s trade deadline, they had one of the shakiest bullpens in the majors. It was costing them — big time. They lost 11 of 14 games to start the second half of the season and were in danger of squandering their hot start.

So they traded for veteran right-hander Paul Sewald, shipping infielder Josh Rojas, outfielder/first baseman Dominic Canzone (Arizona’s No. 19 prospect) and infielder Ryan Bliss (No. 29) to Seattle. Arizona had not had a shutdown closer since Fernando Rodney saved 39 games for the 2017 club that won the National League wild card, but Sewald saved 13 games for the D-backs in the final two months of the season and helped lead them into the playoffs and the World Series.

The Rockies can relate. In their 31 years of existence, the Rockies have made the playoffs five times, and in each of those seasons, the bullpen was excellent. The 2007 World Series team had a bullpen ERA of 3.85. Dual closers Brian Fuentes and Manny Corpas combined for 39 saves. In 2009, Huston Street claimed 35 saves and posted a 3.06 ERA. In 2018, another playoff year, Wade Davis made 43 saves to go with a 4.13 ERA.

The Rockies hope sidearm right-hander Justin Lawrence can evolve into their closer of the future, but the bullpen is currently undergoing major reconstruction. Its 5.38 ERA was the highest in the majors last season and the fifth-highest in franchise history. Colorado’s 33 blown saves were tied with Texas for the most in the majors and were the second-most in franchise history. For a team playing at altitude, that won’t cut it.

Power surge

Given that the Rockies play at Coors Field, the numbers seem almost inconceivable, but here they are. Last season, the Rockies:

• Hit 163 home runs, tied for the fourth-fewest in the majors, and struck out 1,543 times, the third-most in the majors and the most in franchise history.

• Batted .249 with a .310 on-base percentage, both the lowest in franchise history.

• Slugged .405, second-lowest in franchise history behind only the 2022 team (.398).

The Rockies haven’t had a 30-home run hitter since 2019, when Nolan Arenado hit 41, Trevor Story hit 35, and Charlie Blackmon launched 32. The hope was that veteran Kris Bryant would supply power, but that hasn’t happened yet. In his two injury-plagued seasons, Bryant has hit only 15 homers with a 2.9 home run percentage that sits below the major league average of 3.1%.

Power for this year’s team will likely come from third baseman Ryan McMahon (career-high 24 homers in 2019), left fielder Nolan Jones (20 homers in 106 games as a rookie last season), second baseman Brendan Rodgers (career-high 15 in 102 games in ’21) and possibly Elehuris Montero (11 in 85 games last season).

Power potential resides in the minors, where outfielders Jordan Beck, Yanquiel Fernandez and Zac Veen are honing their craft. Beck, who’ll begin the season at Triple-A Albuquerque, might get called up this season. Fernandez and Veen are more likely to debut in 2025.


In their first 31 years of existence, the Rockies have posted a winning record on the road just three times: 2009 (41-40), 2017 (41-40) and 2018 (44-38). They made the playoffs in each of those seasons.

Colorado will never dominate on the road, but to become a competitive team, it at least has to play competent baseball away from the high-altitude confines of Coors Field.

That wasn’t the case last year when the Rockies went 22-59 on the road, averaging just 3.65 runs per game vs. 5.25 at home. Their 70 road homers were tied with Cleveland for the fewest in the majors.

The home-road conundrum has long haunted the Rockies, but the 2018 team, which came one victory away from winning the National League West, provided a formula for a modicum of success. The Rockies’ pitching was solid on the road, where they posted a 4.03 ERA and served up only 83 homers. Lefty Kyle Freeland posted a 3.23 road ERA and served up just six homers across 18 road starts. Right-hander German Marquez had a 2.95 ERA and was dinged for only 11 homers in 17 road starts.

Colorado, meanwhile, hit 91 homers on the road. Not a great number, to be sure, but the Rockies got clutch hits in big moments that season. The prime example came during a mid-August sweep of the Braves in Atlanta — Colorado’s first four-game road sweep of the Braves. In that series, Trevor Story and DJ LeMahieu delivered big home runs.

The lesson learned: solid pitching and timely hits can produce road victories, even if you play for Colorado.

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