The 2018 Major League Baseball season is just around the corner and another year of exciting baseball awaits. Last year saw several teams that had not been in the post-season playoffs for an extended time, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and even a first time appearance by the World Series winners, the Houston Astros. But now that the new season is set to begin, there’s an even playing field; if you don’t count the mound…This year, the National League West will be a force to watch, with some of the best teams retooling and gearing up for what will be another eventful year.
The Colorado Rockies, a baseball fixture in the NL West since 1993, has never won a World Series Championship, but they are hoping this is their year. Last year, they advanced to the post season for the first time since 2009, but their dreams were dashed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won the National League Wild Card berth by defeating the Rockies. With poised veterans, eager youth and hot pitching, the Rockies are ready to battle in 2018.
The Rockies start their pre-season play against the aforementioned Diamondbacks team in Arizona on February 23rd, the start of the Cactus League play. This is the first year the spring training games will start so early; generally, first games are held on a Thursday, the last week in February. This year, the Monday start gives the spring training crowd an opportunity to enjoy opening day festivities the weekend before the first game, as opposed to the middle of the week. Regular season play starts at home for the Rockies, on April 6th versus the Atlanta Braves. The Rockies are looking to expand on their 87 wins last year and win their way to the post season. As part of interleague play, the Rockies will face the Los Angeles Angles, the Seattle Mariners, the Houston Astros, and the Oakland A’s at Coors Field. The Rockies will also face the Texas Rangers at their field, as well as the Angels, Mariners, and Astros.
Since their addition to the NL West in 1993, the Rockies have had a strong fan base. Before their stadium, Coors Field, was built, the Rockies played at Mile High Stadium, the home of the Denver Broncos. Initially, Coors Stadium was going to be built to house just over 40,000 people, but during their first season, they drew almost 4.5 million people to their games, the most in ever in baseball history for a brand new team. Coors Field was expanded and now can house up to 50,000 fans. These fans can enjoy The Rooftop, a newly designed section of the upper right field seating, with excellent views and select drinking establishments. In addition to drinking, locals can now also legally purchase Marijuana from a local Colorado Dispensary. Coors Field is also known for having green seats; except for the row of purple seats in the 20th row of the top deck, to indicate the spot that is one mile above sea level, or “mile high”. This year, Coors Field will feature three fireworks games—July 3rd and 4th versus the Giants and the last game of the regular season on September 28th, versus the Nationals.
It should be an interesting year in the NL West: the Dodgers, coming off a remarkable 104 wins last season, still look like formidable opponents this year. The Giants have been rebuilding after a less than remarkable year; they held the cellar spot in the division last year. The Padres have a great deal of young players to develop and the Diamondbacks are hoping their hitting will equal their stellar pitching. The Rockies, who were in third last year, have some work to do to be contenders this year.
The Rockies signed a one-year, 14 million-dollar deal with last year’s lead-off man, Charlie “Your Love” Blackmon, to avoid arbitration. Blackmon—and the Rockies—are hoping for a repeat of his .331 batting average, 37 home runs, 104 RBIs and 137 runs scored. Another veteran, second baseman D.J. LeMahieu, also signed a one year 8.5 million-dollar contract, also avoiding arbitration. Both players will be free agents after 2018 and both will be in their early 30’s, so this year is key for both of them to stay with the team after the end of this season. Plus, Brendan Rodgers looks like he might be able to slip into LeMahieu’s role after this season, depending upon how things go. And although Mark Reynolds had a good year last year in an unexpected start at first base, it remains unclear if the free agent will sign another deal with the Rockies since Ian Desmond is now healthy. However, Desmond’s first year with the Rockies in 2017 wasn’t a great one; the Rockies have high hopes that Desmond can deliver this year. Not only did he suffer from health setbacks last year, but he had a ground ball kind of year—the Rockies are hoping he can get the ball into the air this year. He also has to contend with newcomer Ryan McMahon, 22, who could get some starts at first.
The Rockies are also in talks to lock down Nolan Arenado, their talented third baseman who becomes a free agent as of 2019, into a long term contract. In addition to his numerous Gold Gloves and a Platinum Glove award, Arenado hit 37 home runs with 130 RBI’s in the 2017 season. The Rockies are also looking for more out of Trevor Story, their shortstop. While he hit 24 home runs and had 82 RBI’s, he also struck out 191 times, a number he cannot duplicate in the 2018 if the Rockies have their say.
Pitching is always a huge part of any team, and the Rockies have acquired some new arms to add to their rotation. The Rockies signed Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee to their young line-up—their oldest pitcher being Chad Bettis at age 29. If the Rockies can get these pitchers the experience they need, their pitching might be one of their strongest assets in 2018. These pitchers have to get acclimated to the Colorado elevation; balls hit at a mile above sea level travel an estimated 9 percent farther. Since balls hit in such a high elevation with such low density air travel further, the outfield fences in Coors Field were pushed back to compensate. However, more home runs are still hit at Coors Field than at any other. We’ll see if this holds true in 2018!