From Milwaukee, Thomas Harding predicts how Rockies will fare in 2017

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Apr 23, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jordan Lyles (24) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It was a long winter for the Colorado Rockies. On Monday however, the slate was wiped clean. Baseball begun anew; but will 2017 be more of the same? Or can Rockies fans expect more this season? MLB.com’s Thomas Harding joined Gil Whiteley on Mile High Sports Radio to give his two cents.

“I’m going to say 83-84 wins, but if they can get in that 90-win, playoff-type thing, I think that’s kind of on the shoulders of the general manager Jeff Bridich,” Harding said. “You hate to put it on one guy, but can he get it done? If he can, if he can make good decisions at the deadline or really evaluate what he has and say ‘yes, we can fill the hole with this guy,’ then I think that this team can get a little bit further on and possibly upset one of the two behemoths in the division: the Giants or the Dodgers.”

A lot of the Rockies’ success will hinge on how they handle adversity. Harding praised their depth in terms of position players. He expects that depth to be tested, both in the field and on the mound.

“They’re going to have to make decisions during the year,” he said. “They’re going to have holes that come up, whether it’s starting pitching or other places. Do they have the depth to fill them?”

That depth is already being tested, as Ian Desmond, David Dahl, Chad Bettis and Tom Murphy are all out with various ailments. Harding praised the Rockies bringing back Mark Reynolds, who he believes is a “starting-caliber” player.

Something else the Rockies will need to be successful is contributions from unlikely sources. For Harding, one player stands out as a potential surprise breakout performer.

“I’ll tell you who I think is going to be a surprise is the relief pitcher Jordan Lyles,” he said. “He struggled so much as a starter, but you saw, when they moved him to the bullpen, that the action on all of his pitches got better. If there is a surprise, he’s the guy I’m looking at in that middle relief, multi-inning role. If he can do that, it makes a huge difference.

You want him to give you one inning most of the time, but two innings some other times; especially at Coors Field. If you have him doing that, and also Chris Rusin from the left side, then those long series don’t wear out your bullpen.”

Listen to the full interview with Thomas Harding, including a look at the evolution of catchers, in the podcast below.

Catch Gil Whiteley every weekday from 11a-12p on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best local coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s biggest sports talk lineup.

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