Rox face tough competition for pitching spots

Rest of club's 25-man roster easier to predict

Rox face tough competition for pitching spots

With Spring Training fast approaching, takes a look at a different aspect of this year's Rockies squad each day this week. Today's topic: Predicting the 25-man roster.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's time to predict the Rockies' 2017 roster, but keep in mind this is fun. The first muscle pull or "dead arm" issue or, heaven forbid, injury that costs part or even all of the regular season, renders this out of date. That's when this goes from a pre-Spring Training exercise to a challenge for new manager Bud Black.

Also, this time last year, no one was sure about shortstop Trevor Story. All he did was set records throughout April and -- although a left thumb injury limited him to 97 games -- finish with a National League-rookie record of 27 home runs.

But let's go predicting, shall we?

Catcher (2): Tom Murphy, Tony Wolters
Murphy brings top-shelf power and Wolters is a defensive whiz. Dustin Garneau, with two years of Minor League options and a strong arm, offers insurance.

First base (2): Ian Desmond, Mark Reynolds 
Desmond begins the first phase of a five-year, $70 million contract by seeing how a crash course at first pays off, after years at shortstop with the Nationals and last season in the outfield with the Rangers. Who knows if he'll stay as the years go by. Reynolds, last year's regular at first, has value because he's a righty bat who last year hit righty pitchers -- meaning he's an option against closers -- and can play the infield and outfield corners. Their presence gives potential power-hitting corner infielder Ryan McMahon time.

Desmond on his versatility

Second base (1): DJ LeMahieu 
He'll follow up on a last season's batting title and years of solid defense.

Third base (1): Nolan Arenado 
He's a star.

Arenado ready to achieve new goals

Shortstop (1): Story
Not only did he hit, but he finished with an above-average 4 defensive runs saved in 823 defensive innings.

Story on his health for spring

Utility (1): Alexi Amarista
With the Padres last season, Amarista did not take off when given a shot at the shortstop role. But he handled the middle of the infield and outfield with range as a utility man. His left-handed-hitting presence puts the squeeze on switch-hitting Cristhian Adames, who is out of Minor League options. Righty-hitting Pat Valaika offers depth, and has all his options.

Outfield (4): Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl, Gerardo Parra
Dahl, who starred in a late-season trial, and Parra, limited by an ankle injury and offensive inconsistency last year, serve as the lone competition for regular starts in camp (barring injury). By batting right-handed, Chris Denorfia, a non-roster invitee, has an advantage over prospects Raimel Tapia (No. 4) and Jordan Patterson (No. 18), who both saw time last year.

Starting pitchers (5): Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson, Jeff Hoffman  
Hoffman is in a contest with German Marquez, who performed slightly better last season. It's possible that Black will carry an extra young arm, with the one not in the rotation pitching in relief. Remember, we're predicting because we have to here. There are just as many reasons to think Marquez can prevail. Great problem to have.

Gray on pitching at Coors Field

Bullpen (8): Greg Holland (closer), Adam Ottavino, Mike Dunn, Carlos Estevez, Jake McGee, Chris Rusin, Jordan Lyles, Jason Motte 
Motte, due $5 million, will have to prove he's healthy after battling right shoulder issues last season. So will righty Chad Qualls, who had a stomach ailment last year and is due $3.5 million. However, a decision to keep Hoffman/Marquez in the bullpen and the returns from injury of righty Jairo Diaz (elbow) and Scott Oberg (forearm blood clots) could force tough decisions.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for 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.