MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Rockies look to 2017 and beyond

With Desmond at 1B and a trio of promising young pitchers, Colorado aims to improve upon 2016

Rockies look to 2017 and beyond

In the next couple of days, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich and his staff will begin to see if their offseason vision will translate into regular-season success.

While the national media went off on tangents, promoting the idea that the Rockies should have invested in a multiyear deal for a one-dimensional slugger to step in at first base, Bridich opted to take an approach designed to address the immediate need but to also create long-term roster flexibility, and opted to sign Ian Desmond to a five-year deal.

In the short-term the Rockies are counting on Desmond's athleticism and determination to make the adjustment to the right side of the infield, knowing that as other options arrive from the farm system, like the highly thought of Ryan McMahon, Desmond could turn into a Ben Zobrist-type player who can provide protection everywhere except behind the plate and on the mound.

More importantly, though, Bridich looked to solve the late-inning pitching problems, not only banking on a healthy Jake McGee and Adam Ottavino to regain their dominant abilities of the past, but also signing free-agent left-hander Mike Dunn and former Royals closer Greg Holland, who is coming off Tommy John surgery.

MLB Tonight: Holland to Rockies

Bridich ignored outsiders promoting an assortment of veteran free-agent starting pitchers, confident not only in the young arms emerging out of Colorado's farm system, but also well-versed in the struggles that established starting pitchers have had in adjusting to Coors Field, and the success enjoyed by homegrown starters.

"It becomes a badge of courage," former Rockies pitcher Aaron Cook said of the challenge of pitching at altitude. "When you come up in the Rockies organization, you get tired of hearing about not being able to pitch at Coors Field. You become intent on proving people wrong."

And over the years, the Rockies have taken a shot with some more-established pitchers, many of whom did not find Coors Field to their liking, including Bill Swift, Bret Saberhagen, Darryl Kile, Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle. Jason Jennings, another ex-Rockie starter, explained, "The competitor in you can't wait to prove the skeptics wrong."

Enter Chad Bettis, Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson, three products of the Rockies' scouting/player development departments, who joined Tyler Chatwood and Jorge De La Rosa as the primary members of Colorado's rotation a year ago.

Not only were those three a combined 15-6 at Coors Field, but the Rockies were 28-12 in games they started at elevation.

Rockies optimistic for 2017

Bettis is the poster boy for the Rockies' mentality.

A second-round Draft choice out of Texas Tech in 2010, Bettis impressed scouts at the amateur level with a mid-90 fastball and a curveball that was more than 20 mph slower. His curveball was initially taken away from him, but two years ago, when Colorado hired Steve Foster as pitching coach and former Rockies reliever Darren Holmes as bullpen coach, they immediately restored the pitch to Bettis' repertoire.

Bettis' career was reborn. In the past two years, he is 12-5 at Coors Field, and Colorado is 19-6 when he starts at home.

Gray, the third player selected in the 2013 Draft, struggled at Coors Field in a season-ending callup in 2015 (0-1, 8.27 ERA in five starts). But he added a curveball last spring, giving him a four-pitch assortment, and was 7-2 at Coors Field last year, the Rockies winning nine of his 14 starts.

The left-handed Anderson, a first-round selection in 2011, was an in-season callup last year. He made 12 starts at Coors Field, where he was 5-2, with Colorado winning seven of the 12 games.

The recent home-field success of Bettis, Gray and Anderson are why the Rockies feel comfortable with a rotation built around those three, plus Chatwood, who was inconsistent in his return from Tommy John surgery a year ago, but will be a full year removed from his return, and is 14-12 in his career at Coors Field compared to 18-19 elsewhere.

Arenado likes Rockies' chances

They have a handful of pitchers from within their system to audition in Arizona for the fifth spot.

History underscores the homegrown theory.

Several of the starting pitchers who have made at least 20 career starts at Coors Field and have a winning record were originally signed by Colorado, including Bettis (13-7), Cook (36-32), Jennings (31-22), Jeff Francis (34-29), Ubaldo Jimenez (30-19) and Juan Nicasio (13-9).

It's enough evidence for the Rockies to have reason to feel confident about their offseason decision to look within for answers to the one open spot in the rotation.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.