For a century and a half, the game of baseball has been evolving and much of what we witness today would seem foreign to yesteryear’s fans of the game.

But through all the growth and change one universal truth has stood the test of time: If you want to win, you have to pitch.

Some teams over the years have tried to cheat the system and the Blake Street Bombers of the 90s sure tried to prove you can slug your way to victory but even for a team that plays in an offensive haven, data shows that the quality of starting pitching is the biggest indicator of the overall quality of the club.

All that is to say that if you need a reason as to why most analysts will be predicting Colorado to finish near the very bottom of the league, you needn’t look much farther than the number of question marks they have surrounding their starting rotation.

The whole mess starts at the top where German Marquez is coming off the worst season of his professional career and also now has been ruled out for the World Baseball Classic on account of a left hamstring injury.

At his best, Marquez is the Rockies best pitcher and during stretches from 2017-2021 he showed glimpses of the potential to break out as one of the best pitchers in baseball. But not only did he fail to take that next step in 2022, he stalled out and took a big step backward, posting and ERA+ of 94 which is 14 points lower than his next worst season.

There was much debate about the cause of such a drop in production despite Marquez being right in the middle of his physical prime. Everything from slight changes in his delivery to the grip on his fastball to pitch selection has been considered but the long and short of it is the Rockies need the old version of Marquez back if they are going to do anything with this group.

He has all the incentive in the world to figure it out as well given that this is a contract season and whether he wants big money from Colorado or someone else, he will need to prove he is worth it.

Kyle Freeland, meanwhile, quietly had a very strong finish last year and was the lone Rockies pitcher who finished above the league average. It wasn’t by much though, at 103, and still pretty far under his career average ERA+ of 114.

The Denver Southpaw has never displayed elite tools but has toyed with elite command and pitchability throughout his career and appears to be in the ever-evolving process of adjusting to a league that is constantly adjusting to him.

These are the two most important players not just for the Rockies in 2022 but in 2023 and beyond. If they can rebound and prove to the club, themselves, and the world that they can be consistently above the league average (putting those down times mostly behind them) they can be building blocks for a better future. If not, the Rockies will need to shift directions considerably.

After them comes a slew of “your guess is as good as mine” candidates. Austin Gomber was fantastic in his rookie season and awful in his sophomore follow up. Antonio Senzatela has been up and down in his whole career, usually balancing out around league average (which plays up because he is good at Coors) but he won’t be available until May.

The club brought back Jose Urena after he was… fine… to end the season and he looks very likely to grab onto a rotation spot now with the injuries.

Ryan Feltner, who has never been considered a top prospect but has shown flashes of some pretty exciting stuff in MLB with high velocity on the fastball and a pretty wicked slider, might be the only guy in the rotation at the beginning of the year to dream on a little bit.

Prospects aren’t as exciting in this realm as they were a year or two ago either. Both Ryan Rolison and Peter Lamber once had quite a bit of shine and promise but injuries have ravaged the last two years for both and it is difficult to know, if any, impact they can have.

The next in line might be Karl Kaufman who is an even bigger question mark and likely to begin the year in Triple-A.

There’s always the possibility that the club could sign a veteran or two during this final month, something they’ve done before, and bring in someone to help raise the floor a little bit. But there is only so much wiggle room here.

Even if Marquez and Freeland return to top form, that gives Colorado 2/5ths of a reliable rotation. 

Like with most things in life, there is always the slim possibility that everything goes right with health, luck, and growth and this group ends up being far more productive than they look on paper but right how it’s hard to give them a grade better than a D.

And that’s a D in the sense that it is technically passing for an MLB rotation right now but just barely.