MLBPipeline.com is breaking down how each of the postseason teams was built, looking at the composition of their projected Division Series rosters.
Entering 2017, the Rockies hadn't had a winning season in seven years or made the postseason in eight. Yet they still had cause for optimism.
Their 75 victories a year ago were the most since 2010, fueled by the most productive rookie class in franchise history. The system was ready to contribute again with more members of the best crop of young pitching prospects that Colorado ever has had. Add in the dynamic veteran duo of Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, and the Rockies believed they could compete.
"We talked about it in the winter time and Spring Training as a group," GM Jeff Bridich said. "We knew there were reasons why Mark Reynolds wanted to come back here as a free agent, why Greg Holland had interest. We took a look at the talent and definitely saw the ingredients to be a postseason team."
That's exactly what the Rockies have become. They raced to a 47-26 start and finished with 87wins, their third-most ever, to secure their fourth postseason berth in 25 seasons.
Colorado's two best players are second-round picks from last decade. In the four full seasons that National League MVP candidates Blackmon (2008) and Arenado (2009) have teamed up in the lineup, the Rockies have improved their win total each year.
In 2016, they introduced a dynamic group of rookies that included four more early-round choices. Gray (No. 3 overall, 2013) already looks like he'll become the best pitcher ever signed and developed by Colorado. Story (supplemental first round, 2011) has more homers than any shortstop in baseball over the past two years.
David Dahl (No. 10 overall, 2012) tied a big league record by hitting safely in his first 17 games and has 20-20 potential -- though he has missed all of this year with rib and back ailments. Anderson (No. 20 overall, 2011) shook off a history of injuries and posted the second-best ERA (3.54) ever by a Rockies rookie.
It's no coincidence that Colorado's three best teams ever (2007, 2009, 2017) are its only three that finished in the top eight in the National League in runs allowed. Scoring runs at Coors Field never has been a problem, but preventing them has. Inserting Gray and Anderson into the rotation was a positive step, and the Rockies took another one in 2017 by adding more homegrown arms in Freeland (No. 8 overall in 2015) and Senzatela (signed for $250,000 out of Venezuela in 2011).
Bridich said the Rockies wanted to flood the big leagues with quality young arms. They've never had this much mound depth, and the plan is working out as hoped so far.
"We wanted to create as deep of a young starting pitching group as we could," said Bridich, who joined the franchise in 2004 and became GM a decade later. "We let them challenge each other, develop together at the Double-A, Triple-A and Major League levels. Let them grow with each other, push each other. That was definitely our hope two, three years ago."
The Rockies also found more promising rotation fodder via the trade route. They sent Corey Dickerson and prospect Kevin Padlo to the Rays in January 2016 for McGee and Marquez, a relative unknown coming off a strong season in high Class A. Marquez has progressed rapidly, leading all rookies with 14 quality starts and giving Colorado a trio of rookies with double-digit victories.
"You have to take some risks," Bridich said. "Trading Corey Dickerson, an up-and-coming offensive player, was going to be a risk. We felt at the time Corey was going to be a better fit in the American League and we knew Tampa had good pitching prospects, like they usually do. [Professional scout] Jack Gillis pounded his fist about Marquez. He really believed in the kid."
Though the Twins are the only postseason club with less production from players acquired via trades and waivers, the Rockies have pulled off some valuable deals beyond the McGee/Marquez move. Former GM Dan O'Dowd dispatched a pair of first-round picks going nowhere (Ian Stewart, Casey Weathers) to the Cubs in December 2011 for Lemahieu, who has sandwiched a pair of All-Star selections around a batting title in the past three seasons.
Bridich upgraded Colorado's catching and bullpen without giving up any of his prime prospects in the final week of July. He added All-Star reliever Neshek from the Phillies for three Minor Leaguers, then Lucroy from the Rangers for Rookie ball outfielder Pedro Gonzalez.
Last December, Desmond received the second-largest free-agent deal in Rockies history and the most ever for a hitter at $70 million over five years. The two-time All-Star hasn't worked out as hoped, enduring injuries and the worst season of his career.
A couple of much smaller forays into the free-agent market have paid off, however. Holland was one of the game's top closers before blowing out his elbow and missing the entire 2016 season following Tommy John surgery. He returned this season to tie the franchise record with 41 saves.
"I felt like we knew the guy and had a handle on his personality and competitiveness without having lived with him yet," Bridich said. "We put trust in the person and in his rehab from successful surgery that was 18 months ago rather than 12. The way it has worked out is exactly how everyone involved hoped it would work out."
After delivering 14 homers on a one-year, $2.6 million contract in 2016, Reynolds returned to Colorado on a Minor League contract that guaranteed him $1.5 million if he made the big league roster. He not only did that but more than doubled his power output with 30 homers.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.