Gray likely to start 2017 opener vs. Brewers

Rockies will start season in Milwaukee for fourth time since 2010

Gray likely to start 2017 opener vs. Brewers

DENVER -- Although there is plenty of talent within the organization, and they have found a manager in Bud Black, the Rockies have moves to make before next season begins. But that can't stop us from looking ahead to April 3, the start of the 2017 season.

There was a lot to like about the Rockies in 2016 with a youthful rotation and a potent lineup that should be augmented with bright new talents in the coming years. Now they have to fix a bullpen beset by injuries and forced to go with inexperience last season, all while improving upon a 75-87 finish.

OPPONENT

The Rockies will begin 2017 against the opponent they ended 2016 against, the Brewers, only this time in Milwaukee. It's becoming a bit of a tradition; it'll be the Rockies' fourth opener at Miller Park since 2010. The Brewers, a club also full of young talent, could go with right-hander Jimmy Nelson to open the season on the mound.

OPENING DAY STARTER

After a season full of starting pitching, Colorado has a surprising number of candidates. But the nod here goes to right-hander Jon Gray, who is coming off a club rookie record 185 strikeouts.

Gray notches shutout with 16th K

OPENING DAY LINEUP

1. Charlie Blackmon, CF
2. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
4. Carlos Gonzalez, RF
5. Trevor Story, SS
6. David Dahl, LF
7. Gerardo Parra, 1B
8. Tom Murphy, C
9. Gray

The Rockies must address first base, where a right-handed hitter is needed. If Colorado finds one, Parra, who struggled with slumps and injuries in his first season of a three-year, $27.5 million contract, and Dahl, who made an exciting debut as a rookie, will have a compelling competition in left field.

Dahl's solo homer in the 9th

THREE REASONS TO BE EXCITED

• Arenado has finished tied for the National League lead in home runs each of the last two seasons. He is becoming a better overall hitter and a true star in the Rockies' lineup.

Arenado's homer in the 1st

• With Blackmon and Gonzalez coming off career years and Story healthy after seeing a wrist injury end his NL Rookie of the Year bid in 2016, the lineup will be deep and potent, while young hitters like Dahl are ready to help.

• Behind Gray, righties Chad Bettis and Tyler Chatwood and lefty Tyler Anderson will be the core of a rotation full of 20-somethings, with righties Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez and southpaw Kyle Freeland among the prospects competing for starts.

Anderson strikes out seven

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.