The Colorado Rockies aren’t exactly known for a long and storied history of dynamite bullpens. The very best they’ve had in franchise history (by ERA+) have lined up with postseason appearances most notably in 1995 and 2017. But the ever-present stat-killer that is Coors Field tends to make such seasons both underrated and rare.

In 2023, the starting pitching will likely keep the club away from contention but, oddly enough, they might have just built one of their best bullpens in quite some time.

It starts with closer Daniel Bard who was a Top 3 reliever in MLB a year ago. He has been shaky and got less use this spring and during the World Baseball Classic where he pitched one of the uglier innings we’ve ever seen from him. He begins the season on the IL dealing with anxiety issues and the club is going to give him the best chance to get himself right.

After him come lefty veterans and new acquisitions Brad Hand and Brent Suter. While there is a long list of relief pitchers who have brought similarly successful resumes to Colorado and tanked, these guys looked good this spring and should be given plenty of chances to show what they can still do. Both acquitted themselves well in their first appearances for the club, though perhaps notably we are at the one part of the season where Coors Field isn’t a factor at all.

Candidates for right-handed set-up man include Justin Lawrence and his wicked arsenal of high-end velocity and nasty spin rates from a side-slot angle, and Colorado native Pierce Johnson who has been among the steadiest guys in camp.

Lawrence has “closer stuff” and appears to be developing closer mentality. He was among the toughest guys to hit in spring racking up 13 strikeouts in 7.1 IP and began his regular season by striking out the side on Opening Day.

Johnson, a Colorado native, had to wait until the second game to make his season debut and apparently had shown off to manager Bud Black well enough this spring to be entrusted with the first save opportunity of the year. He allowed a weak base hit and struck out a pair, rewarding the skipper’s faith.

Perhaps the most exciting player in the bunch, though, is former San Diego Padres top prospect Dinelson Lamet who has shown signs of figuring it out and reaching the potential of his raw talent. Like all of these guys (except Bard) he had an excellent spring, allowing just a single run and striking out nine while walking two over nine innings.

Lamet was an exciting prospect with the Padres from 2014-2016 he made his debut in 2017 and pitched 114.1 innings with a 93 OPS+ which is pretty solid for a rookie. He improved to a 103 ERA+ in 2019 and was among the best pitchers of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, posting an ERA+ of 201 in 69 innings of work.

Since then, injuries and struggles have dramatically impacted his precipitously falling numbers which is why the Rockies were ultimately able to pick him up on waivers midway through last season. He was only able to get 20 innings but looked solid (117 ERA+) and if he has truly righted himself the Rockies might have yet another guy with closer ability in the ‘pen.

They round it out with a lefty/righty combo of long-relievers who are about as solid as you could hope for in that role. Connor Seabold came over from Boston with some success in the rotation and pitched well this spring while Blach has already shown an ability to handle this spot for the Rockies a year ago.

Seabold might have factored into the rotation with a better spring but instead he had an alright one and fits better right now as one of the two longmen. Neither guy is super exciting, players in this role rarely are, but that the club has two guys who can give them length from either side and who have success getting guys out one time through an order is promising.

That rounds out the eight guys Colorado carried (or intended to carry) coming into the season… but what about the depth?

Jake Bird, a fan favorite for a potential to breakout this season, was called up in Bard’s absence and pitched well. Former first round pick Riley Pint who has remarkable stuff but command issues may be waiting in the wings in Triple-A along with (somehow) a fourth lefty reliever in Fernando Abad who was also very good in camp.

Don’t forget about Tyler Kinley who was making an All-Star case last year before missing the remainder of the season with a flexor tear. He has a chance to return to this group at some point giving them a bevy of potential reinforcements.

Yes, I know what you are thinking, it should would have been nice for the club to put together a bullpen with this many exciting arms during the years when they were competitive. A group like this could have salvaged the 2019 or 2020 seasons and who knows what else beyond that.

And of course, there is the possibility that this becomes a disaster anyway. It can happen to any bullpen, especially the one in Denver. But you’ve got to give them credit where it’s due and recognize that this relief corp is surprisingly fantastic.