By Ryan Mayer

(CBS4)- The Colorado Rockies open their 60-game 2020 MLB season at the Texas Rangers new ballpark this Friday, July 24. Heading into 2020, there was some controversy surrounding the team as star third baseman Nolan Arenado had a back-and-forth with the front office over the team’s moves, or lack thereof this offseason. But, in the end, Arenado seemed resolved to continuing to play for the team as Spring Training wound to a close. 

Then the pandemic hit and four months later, we’re just getting ready to play things out. The Rockies share a division with a World Series favorite in the Los Angeles Dodgers, but outside of L.A. there’s not much certainty how the division will play out. Could the Rockies make the postseason in this shortened set-up? For writer Mike Axisa, it all comes down to the pitching staff.

“They could, in a short season they could. The pitching in Colorado is very hard to predict from year to year. You look at 2018, that was arguably the best pitching staff they’ve ever had in their franchise history,” said Axisa in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “Then, last year, all the guys that took steps forward in 2018, took steps back in 2019. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen year to year.”

If the team can get the pitching figured out, they should be just fine considering that offense tends to be easier to come by at Coors Field. The Rockies have perennially been one of the higher-scoring teams in the league thanks to their home park and Axisa expects no less this year.

“The offense should be better than it has been. The Rockies of course, throughout their history because of Coors Field always have great offenses. They’re always among the highest scoring teams. That wasn’t really the case last year. Their offense was a little bit below average. But, I think the talent is there. It’s just a matter of getting those guys to play up to it,” said Axisa. “Daniel Murphy, he wasn’t good last season. I like Ryan McMahon, I like Sam Hilliard those guys are going to play more now, so I think that will help the offense. It’s just a question of whether their starters can pitch more like they did two years ago than how they did last year. If they get just competent starting pitching, it doesn’t need to be great, just be competent. They’ll have a chance to go back to the postseason.”

They’ll likely have to make a run at the postseason to keep their star third baseman happy. Arenado has been clear about wanting to win, and at 29-years-old, he’s reaching the point of his career where it needs to happen sooner rather than later. Axisa has Arenado as one of the best players in the league in his book.

“I think he’s certainly Top 5. It’s hard to put an exact spot on him because of Coors Field, that complicates things. I don’t think it’s fair to just look at somebody’s road numbers and say hey this is the guy he really is. That’s not true. Look at DJ Lemahieu last year, he left Coors Field and he was better than he’s ever been at Yankee Stadium,” said Axisa. “I think Arenado if anything, the Coors Field factor, it hurts him more than it helps him,” said Axisa. “The bat to ball skills are incredible. The power is great. He is the best defensive player at third base, maybe in the entire league. He is a true superstar. I think he’s Top 5 in the game.”

The Rockies open their season Friday, July 24 in Texas against the Rangers at 6:05 p.m. MDT.

Ryan Mayer