A good bench can often separate the pretenders from the contenders in MLB. And it has been a while since the Colorado Rockies have been able to boast quality depth.

One of the primary reasons why few fans or folks in the media are likely to predict lofty things for the club in 2022 is because they don’t believe they’ve got anything in the way of reinforcements.

The “terrible” state of the farm system has been overstated, a conversation for another time, but the fact remains that there don’t appear to be any star-level players on their way to the big league roster.

However, any longtime veteran of watching and analyzing baseball knows that each individual walks their own path and there are just as many top prospects who flamed out as there are guys who were overlooked right up until the moment they made themselves All-Stars.

We will take a deep look at the farm system in March but for now let’s take a look at the players likely to be providing immediate backup for the starters.

Let’s also hand out another grade:

Bench: C

Garrett Hampson (UTIL) is a really nice piece to have on your bench since he brings some of the best speed in baseball and has proven to be an above average defender at short, second, centerfield, and maybe even third base in a pinch. 

He is also a natural platoon partner for anyone at any of those spots who may struggle with left-handed pitching. Hampson handled southpaws to the tune of .271/.335/.479 for a very respectable OPS of .815. 

The struggles are real against right-handed pitching though, where he posted an OPS of .601, making it difficult to justify him as a regular starter despite the athletic ability.

When deployed in the moments he is best for, though, Hampson can be a difference maker.

Connor Joe (LF/1B) was the feel-good story of 2021, re-emerging into the game of baseball after defeating testicular cancer and finding himself, both literally and figuratively, with the Rockies.

He, almost out of nowhere, became one of the club’s most valuable hitters last season, posting a slashline of .285/.397/.469 good for an OPS+ of 117, second best on the team.

Unfortunately, that was in a small sample size of 63 games since he spent the first part of the season in the minors and the last part of the season on the IL.

A good-to-great Spring Training for Joe could even see him force his way into the starting lineup. 

He’s difficult to analyze because he sits right on the cusp between maybe being a late bloomer, maybe just catching lightning in a bottle for a moment, or maybe being a truly special player who has just been overlooked his whole career.

We will have to watch to find out with Joe.

Yonathan Daza (OF) is the best defensive outfielder the organization has seen in a while and also brings well above average speed. Like with most players who make it to the Bigs with that profile though, he has a hard time hitting enough to make himself a true plus for the team.

Like with Hampson, Daza can be a benefit in a lot of specific circumstances. If the Rockies were to sign a big bat outfielder with minimal defensive utility (Kyle Schwarber, anybody?) Daza would be a perfectly natural late-game replacement for such a player.

But unless he really improves at making hard contact, he will probably spend his whole career as a fourth outfielder. At least he’s a pretty decent one.

The final few spots are likely to be a battle of youngsters with Colton Welker likely to have the inside track.

Welker is a corner infielder who was an above average hitter at every single level of the minors.

Unfortunate injuries stopped him from making his debut sooner but he was able to get his feet wet in 19 games last year. He didn’t do much with his limited time, but he didn’t look overwhelmed either.

He has drawn comparisons to Garrett Atkins of Rockies circa ‘07 and that would be quite the boon for the team.

It’s a bit much to expect him to become such a reliable hitter right away, but his fantastic contact tool and ever-improving approach at the plate suggests Colorado has a potential breakout candidate here.

Actually, they’ve got two.

If there is one player set to storm MLB and make his mark right away, it’s Elehuris Montero.

Brought over in the much-maligned Nolan Arenado trade, Montero got right to obliterating Double-A.

Over 92 games, he hit .279/.361/.523 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI. Those numbers may not look off the charts but in the Eastern League that heavily favors pitching, it’s impressive enough for a 137 wRC+.

That earned him a promotion to Triple-A where he just kept it going. He was his same self, hitting .278/.355/.546 with six home runs in 28 games. Perhaps most interestingly, Montero managed to do all this without the lofty strikeouts that typically accompany power hitters.

In Double-A, he struck out 23.7 percent of the time, just below the league average, and in Triple-A he lowered it to 16.5 percent. Small sample size, of course, but for his entire minor league career his walk-to-strikeout ratio has simply been fantastic for a slugger.

He, too, is a corner guy and so if he wants to get onto the roster and into the lineup, he will have to slug his way in. 

Like with most elements of this Colorado Rockies team, as currently constructed, there is talent here bubbling beneath the surface that, if maximized, could end up surprising a whole lot of baseball fans. Especially Rockies fans.

There is always the chance that it goes the other way and none of these bench players can contribute, leaving the Rockies once again with no help when things go wrong. And things always go wrong.

But don’t be baffled if one or two of these players are becoming fan favorites for those who don purple by season’s end.