Injuries and surprises slightly alter Rox roster

Several changes from pre-Spring Training predictions

Injuries and surprises slightly alter Rox roster

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In February, we made our first Rockies roster prediction. That story was heavily couched. After all, if not for injuries and surprises, it wouldn't be Spring Training, would it?

A Rockies team that expected to go into the regular season counting on youth will be even younger in terms of experience when it takes the field for Opening Day on Monday against the Brewers at Miller Park.

With three open spots remaining, here's how the team shapes up. In most cases, we review what we said back in February.

Catcher: Tony Wolters, Dustin Garneau. Rookie Tom Murphy was expected to share the job with Wolters, but he suffered a hairline fracture in his right forearm. Of course, the original prediction was that the strong-armed Garneau would serve as insurance.

This week, the Rockies signed veteran Ryan Hanigan to begin the year at Triple-A Albuquerque. Now, there is an experienced option, and plenty of competition -- both now and when Murphy gets back, which the Rockies hope is sometime in April.

First base: Mark Reynolds. The Rockies signed Reynolds, their regular first baseman last season, as a veteran bench bat who could be a viable starter at any of the infield or outfield corners. Free-agent signee Ian Desmond suffered a fractured left hand this spring, and Reynolds is there, as needed.

Desmond discusses his comeback

Second base: DJ LeMahieu, Cristhian Adames. The defensive metrics haven't been kind to LeMahieu the last few seasons because the Rockies' strategy of extreme shifts has made his impact difficult to measure. He's also coming off a National League batting title, but he is still unheralded. Maybe this is the season people are fully aware of his two-way production.

Going into camp, it wasn't clear if the switch-hitting Adames, who is out of Minor League options, would hold his roster spot. But Desmond got hurt, Reynolds became a regular and Adames won a job with a solid spring.

Third base: Nolan Arenado. The intensity of the World Baseball Classic was good for Arenado, one of the game's top young stars, even though he struggled with the bat there.

Shortstop: Trevor Story, Alexi Amarista. In Spring Training, Story flashed some of the power that made him a rookie sensation last year. He also has made his share of dazzling defensive plays.

Story makes smooth stop, throw

Amarista is an important addition. When Story was hurt the last two months of 2016, the range at short took a drastic hit. Amarista can give above-average range if Story is lost for an extended period.

Left field: Gerardo Parra, Stephen Cardullo. The contest between Parra, who suffered slumps and an ankle injury last year, and David Dahl, who shined as a rookie after being promoted in July, was called off when Dahl suffered a rib injury early in camp. And Parra has demonstrated traits that were missing last year -- a controlled swing and discerning eye at the plate.

Parra's two-run homer

When Dahl is back in late April, it could be a great problem to have if Parra carries his production into the regular season.

Cardullo hit for power, gave good at-bats off the bench and showed versatility to make the club as a non-roster invitee.

Center field: Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon spent spring hitting the way he did last year, when he set career highs in every significant batting category.

Right field: Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez had a strong offensive showing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, and he had a solid spring heading into the final year of his contract.

Starting rotation: Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, Tyler Chatwood, and expected to be Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland. The group feels a bit incomplete, with righty Chad Bettis undergoing aggressive chemotherapy for testicular cancer. Bettis hopes to return this season. Gray and Anderson had strong rookie years at home in 2016. Chatwood had a 1.69 ERA on the road last year, and before struggling at Coors Field in 2016, he had solid home numbers.

Senzatela and Freeland are in line for jobs after strong springs. Righty Jeff Hoffman and lefty Harrison Musgrave are parked in Triple-A, hoping to contribute.

Freeland fans five over five

Bullpen: Greg Holland (closer), Adam Ottavino, Jake McGee, Mike Dunn, Carlos Estevez, Scott Oberg, Jordan Lyles and expected to be German Marquez. The big winner is Oberg, who pitched well enough to push the Rockies to designate veteran Jason Motte (with a $5 million salary) for assignment. Marquez was part of a hot rotation contest, but he should earn a bullpen role because lefty Chris Rusin will begin the year on the 10-day disabled list with a right oblique strain.

After missing last season because of Tommy John surgery, Holland proved he is healthy. Ottavino, McGee, Dunn and Estevez all have closing experience. Any of them could step in for a closing opportunity if Holland needs a break in the first two weeks -- the Rockies open with 14 consecutive games.

Keep an eye on a pair of righties who will not break camp with the club. Jairo Diaz is finishing a comeback from Tommy John surgery and veteran Chad Qualls is battling right forearm soreness.

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.