During the MLB offseason, I wrote about how the Rockies were idiots for signing Ian Desmond to play first base. I may be wrong by seasons end but as of right now Desmond has essentially become a Ben Zobrist type player for Colorado. The Rockies have an offensive weapon at every position on the diamond and some haven’t even heated up yet. With the potent offense the Rockies pitchers have stepped up to create a dangerous team in the National League West.
Vet Mark Reynolds has been amazing for the Rockies hitting .320 with 13 bombs already. Ian Desmond’s hand injury may have been a blessing in disguise because the Rockies would have never had to fill first base with Reynolds. Reynolds along with Nolan Arenado have created a big middle of the order presence. Meanwhile at the top of the lineup lies one of the most underrated players in baseball: Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon may be known for his luscious locks and ferocious beard but damn that guy can play baseball. So far this season Blackmon is hitting .332 with 12 homers and 45 RBI’s. The Rockies lineup is dangerous with just these three guys but throw in Ian Desmond and you have a pretty potent lineup. Not to mention that D.J. LeMahieu, Trevor Story, and Carlos Gonzalez have all yet to heat up. The Rockies offense has always been good but this year it may give teams nightmares. But the real reason the Rockies sit a top the division is their pitching. Colorado’s bullpen ranks 16th so far after finishing last season in dead last and their starters have the 8th best ERA after landing in 26th in 2016. Greg Holland has helped stabilize the bullpen while rookies Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, and Antonio Senzatela have been revelations for the rotation while opening day starter Jon Gray has been out. If the pitching keeps up with it’s pace of not being crappy once again, the Rockies may have something to say about where that NL crown goes.
The Rockies aren’t the only team to look great so far this season. The Arizona Diamondbacks ,under new manager Torey Lovullo, have been scorching hot and not just because they play in the desert. They have a similar build as Colorado with a very strong lineup and average pitching yet the pitchers in AZ have stepped up. The Diamondbacks have the 5th best pitching ERA in the bigs while scoring the third most runs. Paul Goldschmidt is just too good. He looks to join the all exclusive 30/30 club as a freakin’ first baseman. Across the diamond there is Jake Lamb who continues to rake after his breakout campaign last year. Then you have A.J. Pollock (on the 10-day DL as of now), Yasmany Tomas, and a healthy David Peralta manning the outfield spots. Up the middle you have Chris Owings breaking out at shortstop and Brandon Drury handling second base duties. But like the Rockies, Arizona’s pitching has been the difference.
Zack Greinke looks strong after a terrible first season and Robbie Ray has looked awesome punching out 74 in only 60 innings. Taijuan Walker is on the shelf as of now with a finger injury but has been siolid since coming to the D-Backs this past offseason. Last year the Diamondback’s starters had a 4.94 ERA. In 2017 they have managed to trim that number down to 3.66 and once Walker comes back he will probably help get that number even lower. Then in the bullpen, former top prospect Archie Bradley has been en fuego and looks poised to jump into that closer role at some point in his career but as of right now that spot is held down by Fernando Rodney who’s struggles out of the gate have subsided.
Coming into the season it was expected that the Dodgers and Giants would be fighting for the division crown but as we stand here today, the Giants are 11 games back of the division leading Rockies. The Dodgers are still in the mix and are even ahead of the Diamondbacks by a half a game but if you compare the Rockies and Diamondbacks to LA, you can see there is a realistic chance both teams stick around until seasons end.