My view of the Rockies (Colorado)

Baseball is my favourite sport. My first published article was by the Edmonton Prospects Baseball Club. Major League Baseball will not be coming to Edmonton (likely ever) so one had to look outside the province for a team. Understandably the presumption is that an Edmontonian would root, root, root for the Blue Jays. My MLB team is the Colorado Rockies.

Visits to Denver in 2009 and 2010 are what began my fandom with the Rockies. A fandom that included a brief stint writing for the FanSided Rockies site call Rox Pile in 2015. To enjoy the best of both worlds, I’m merging my affinities for Edmonton Sports and the Colorado Rockies.

The Skinny:

from MLB’s twitter account

The Colorado Rockies are not winning the National League West. So if you are looking for a bandwagon to jump on, view the above graphic and choose a team that no one doubts will finish at least .500 (preferably not the Dodgers).

Even as a glass half full person, with Rockies Club management not willing to push their salary expenses any higher than they already are, the team was not going to compete for first place even if they had kept their best player.

Yes they traded away their best player in Nolan Arenado and paid St. Louis gobs of money to seal the deal. The only name coming back that has any excitement to it is Austin Gomber who will compete for the last spot in the starting rotation.

Are the Rockies going to be the worst team in the National League? Hell no!

The Good:
  • German Marquez, last year’s Opening Day starter and likely the OD starter for the foreseeable future, would be in the top two of any starting rotation in the league except maybe for the Washington Nationals and the two teams locked in to finishing atop the NL West in the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
  • Kyle Freeland, now two years removed from being in contention for the Cy Young award, shaved a hit and a home run off his per nine statistics bouncing back from a horrendous 2019. While I’ll argue he has top of the rotation years in him, I’ll settle for telling you he’s a solid middle of the rotation guy on any team.
  • Antonio Senzatela, now entering his 5th professional season, is coming off a year in which he posted his lowest hits per nine inning and lowest walks per nine. FanGraphs has Sensi “power ranked” higher than Freeland. He is trending to be a top of the rotation pitcher and there’s no reason to believe he will regress.
  • Jon Gray was once a top this list of Rockies pitchers but injuries have taken their toll on him. With Arenado gone, Gray becomes the name most often mentioned in trade rumours with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

With the words “expiring contract”, here ladies and gentlemen is where the tone of this article changes.

The Worrisome

The Rockies top bat and fielder Trevor Story hits the free agent market after this season. After the laughable (the tears are real) mishandling of Arenado, how does one convince himself the team will sign Story to a contract worth a small Brinks truck and actually honour it? How does one convince himself that Story believes the Rockies management won’t run him out of town like they did Arenado?

This is the classic “trade at the deadline ” or “let him walk away for nothing” situation. The biggest loser in this situation tends to be the original team because even in the event of a trade, the future becomes later. There is no reason to believe the Club’s GM will fare as well selling Trevor as he did selling Nolan – – spoiler alert, no one thinks he did well selling Nolan.

The Club gave up on oft-injured David Dahl allowing him to become a free agent. This seemingly will go one of two ways – Dahl regains his 2019 All-Star form and becomes the perennial All-Star Rox fans expected or Dahl continues to struggle with injuries and becomes one of baseballs plethora of “what if” players.

In an off-season where the Rockies have been crying poor, it’s easy to view the above move as nothing more than a salary cutting decision and if that’s your cup of tea, keep drinking. My only qualm with the move is the Club really does not have a player to promote as “the guy” to replace him. Instead the team has a trio of players they hope hodgepodge together enough stats and quality time in the field to outperform whatever Dahl does for his new team.

A Trio of Questionable Trios

The outfield alongside Charlie Blackmon:

  • Garrett Hampson, a converted infielder. If there is someone I’m bullish on for un-quantifiable reasons, it’s him.
  • Raimel Tapia, last season (his 5th) was his first posting a positive WAR (wins above replacement) at 0.8. By that metric a 2.0 is considered a starter. Work still to be done.
  • Sam Hilliard, burst onto the scene in late 2019 with a 1.006 OPS (On-base plus slugging percentage). His 87 plate appearances were not enough to qualify for season leaderboards but in 2019 that would have placed him 7th overall. In 2020 that OPS dropped to .710.

As an added wringing of the hands, with Kevin Pillar signing with the Mets and Ian Desmond recently announcing he is holding off on his return to baseball, Yonathan Daza will get a long look. In 2019, Daza reached Triple A for the first time batting an impressive .364. In his Rockies debut that season, Daza batted a less than impressive .206.

The infield alongside Trevor Story:

  • Ryan McMahon, the third baseman who was the 2013 42nd overall draft pick by the Rockies now has a clear path to play his natural position. With consistent playing time in 2019, McMahon began showing consistency at the plate. If you were to extrapolate his 2020 stats over a full season, he regressed in every offensive category.
  • Brendan Rodgers, since being drafted 3rd overall in the 2015 draft Rockies fans have patiently awaited for him to come in and claim his spot. With Story cemented at shortstop that spot will need to be second base. His 2019 debut and 2020 season were cut short by injuries. Unfair as it seems, this may already be his put up or shut up season.
  • Josh Fuentes, Arenado’s cousin, rose from depth player to starting first baseman during the 2020 season. With Daniel Murphy retired and McMahon moving across the diamond, can Fuentes hold down the fort? Non-roster invite C.J. Cron seems to be a logical platoon partner as (brief) career numbers suggest Fuentes’ days off should come against left-handed pitching.

The bullpen. A ‘pen that allowed the second most inherited runners to score.

  • Daniel Bard, what’s the encore for a fellow after receiving the Comeback Player of the Year Award? If at some point during the season fans are allowed back into the stands, does the case of “the yips” that sidelined Bard for six seasons come back?
  • Scott Oberg, he has become the shiny nice thing that we seemingly cannot have. In August of 2019, now at fan favourite level, he was placed on the Injured List with blood clots and has not seen the mound since. He has also had right shoulder surgery since his last time toeing the rubber.
  • Robert Stephenson, the Club’s solution to pitcher Jeff Hoffman being out of minor league options was trade for another former first round draft pick being labelled just as much of a disappointment. The “change of scenery can be a good thing” cliche is in full effect here. Let’s hope it plays out that way for both gentleman.

Spring training games are scheduled to begin on February 28th. The regular season on April 1st. MLB TV subscription has been updated. Join me on the journey where 3rd place in the NL West is the pinnacle. It’s a weird time.

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