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Rockies cement most talented bullpen in franchise history

Drew Creasman Avatar
December 29, 2017

This offseason, the Colorado Rockies have taken their biggest area of need, the bullpen, and transformed it into one of the most impressive collections of relievers they have ever put together.

Now with Wade Davis in the mix, the Rockies have solidified the most talented and experienced bullpen they’ve ever walked into a season with and arguably one of the most talented groups in all of MLB.

With Davis, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw the Rockies have re-created the murderer’s row of late-game pitchers with which they finished the 2017 season. Shaw essentially steps into the Pat Neshek role, the big difference being that Colorado will have him for the entire season.

At the press conference where the Rockies introduced Shaw and reintroduced McGee, the latter told BSN Denver in an exclusive interview that he believed the club was “one established closer away” from being arguably the scariest group in the game.

We also asked GM Jeff Bridich about his focus on the bullpen.

“I think the bullpen is an important piece. I think it’s a little broader than that. There’s been a lot of time and energy and manpower put on pitching and defense.” In other words, they’ve prioritized run prevention and this recent string of moves takes that to a whole new level.

After those three is a list of players that would’ve been too nerve-racking in a closing rotation. Adam Ottavino, Carlos Estevez, and Chris Rusin have all shown closer stuff and put up dominating numbers at times. Any of the three could be turned to for the last three outs in an absolute emergency. But as it stands, they can be left to battle for the seventh inning spot, with Rusin likely to resume his role as the Swiss-army-reliever.

Despite his Murphy’s Law season, Ottavino remains one of the toughest pitchers in baseball to square up. And after reverting to his old pitching mechanics, Estevez has shown much more potential to fulfill the promise provided by the electric arm that saw him take over the ninth inning less than a month into his MLB career. Both players have experienced success (and failure) as the Rockies closer.

In fact, Ottavino is just one year removed from having a strong argument that, even with Holland coming to the team, he could be the team’s best reliever. We have tabbed Otto for a bounce-back year next season here at BSN Denver and if that holds true, the potential value the Rockies could get from their ‘pen is off the charts, even more so if Estevez takes the next step.

Chris Rusin is Bud Black’s personal gift from the baseball gods. He doesn’t fit a traditional role on a depth chart but still somehow among all these names could be considered the Rockies’ most valuable reliever with the number of innings he pitches and his extreme versatility. McGee was quietly stupendous in 2017 and Shaw is essentially McGee quality with Rusin’s endurance.

Of the eight spots in the bullpen, Colorado has filled six with players that all have exhibited elite MLB stuff. They have a proven, multiple-time All-Star closer followed by five high-end set-up men.

The next guy on the list is no slouch either. Lefty Mike Dunn had a strong start and finish to 2017 after signing the most expensive reliever contract in team history last offseason. Back issues (and home run issues) ballooned his numbers in the middle part of the season, but with McGee and Rusin in the mix, Dunn could be devastating as a lefty specialist. If he can rebound and stay healthy, he too is talented enough to make a positive impact in 2018.

That leaves just one final spot for another slew of promising young players including Scott Oberg who finished last season on a positive note, pumping 101 mph fastballs and coming through in some big clutch situations. The Rockies also have two incredibly talented starters who may find themselves on the outside of the rotation picture who could find their way into the ‘pen in Antonio Senzatela, who has been successful in relief, and Jeff Hoffman, who hasn’t yet.

Even after that, you’ve got an intriguing collection of young arms in Jairo Diaz, Shane Carle, Zac Rosscup, Yency Almonte, Zach Jemiola, Sam Howard, Harrison Musgrave, Jerry Vasto, Austin House, James Farris and Rayan Gonzalez.

On the surface, it may look almost exactly the same as the group the Rockies ran with a season ago with Davis swapped out for Greg Holland. But a full year of Shaw versus two months of Neshek, the advancement of the young arms, a not-at-all-shocking Ottavino rebound, and an ever-growing bombardment of young pitching who simply cannot all fit into the starting rotation means that the Rockies can feel as good about their reliever corp as any point in history.

You could argue that on paper, they could be a Top 5 group in all of MLB in 2018. Things are still taking shape so we don’t know that for sure, and they don’t play the games on paper, but if nothing else, the Rockies are firmly out of the “Pitchers-Don’t-Want-To-Come-Here-And-We-Won’t-Try-To-Spend-Money-On-Them” era.

Bridich, going back to last season’s acquisitions of Holland and Dunn, has made it abundantly clear that he (rightfully) believes Colorado needs to do everything it can to stabilize the late innings both at their offensively friendly park and out on the road in order to truly compete in this league.

This philosophy paid off big with a postseason appearance in 2017. Even without any further additions, which there could well be, he has built a roster more than capable of returning in 2018.

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