2018 finish: 91-72, Second in NL West
SI's 2019 Prediction: 81-81, Third in NL West
Key additions: INF Daniel Murphy, INF Mark Reynolds
Key departures: 2B DJ LeMahieu, RHP Adam Ottavino, OF Carlos Gonzalez
1. RF Charlie Blackmon
2. 3B Nolan Arenado
3. 1B Daniel Murphy
4. SS Trevor Story
5. LF David Dahl
6. CF Ian Desmond
7. 2B Ryan McMahon
8. C Chris Iannetta
C Tony Wolters
1B Mark Reynolds
UTIL Garrett Hampson
OF Raimel Tapia
1. LHP Kyle Freeland
2. RHP German Marquez
3. RHP Jon Gray
4. LHP Tyler Anderson
5. RHP Chad Bettis
RHP Wade Davis (closer)
RHP Seunghwan Oh
RHP Scott Oberg
LHP Jake McGee
RHP Bryan Shaw
LHP Mike Dunn
RHP DJ Johnson
LHP Harrison Musgrave
Movin’ On Up! Garrett Hampson was expected to be the starting second baseman, but Ryan McMahon likely displaced him after hitting .439 with three homers in a monster spring. Both players, however, should be significant assets to manager Bud Black in 2019. Hampson and McMahon are each capable of playing multiple positions and offer different skill sets. McMahon’s power will shine at Coors Field while Hampson is set to be one of the top stolen base threats in the game. The two 24-year-olds offer the kind of versatility that’s pivotal to the game in 2019 and Black would be wise to use them regularly.
Sell! Ian Desmond should probably be designated for assignment, but now he’s headed to centerfield after playing primarily first base in 2018 … which was after he played 123 games in the outfield in 2017. It’s unclear why Bud Black keeps Desmond around unless he’s great in the clubhouse—he logged an 83 OPS+ (lower than the slap hitters like Gorkys Hernandez and Ehire Adrianza) and hit just .236 over 160 games. The 33-year-old has had a great spring, but he’s blocking some more promising young players that should be seeing more at-bats.
Appreciate This Man! Kyle Freeland might not be the best pitcher to ever take the ball for Colorado, but he may be on his way to being the best pitcher in the history of Coors Field. The 25-year-old lefty was masterful at the notorious pitcher’s hell—he logged a 2.40 ERA over 15 home starts and just one homer every nine innings. He was able to do that thanks to a 48.1% groundball rate at home. Greg Maddux may be retired, but Freeland is a poor man’s facsimile of the legend and is easily one of the most underrated players in the game.
A Modest Proposal From Joe Sheehan: The Rockies are coming off consecutive playoff berths for the first time in franchise history, and they return 85% of their production from a year ago. To make it three in a row, though, they have to find more offense. Once you adjust for the run environment at Coors Field, which is still the best hitters’ park in baseball post-humidor, the Rockies had one of the worst offenses in the NL last season. Just four regulars were above-average hitters, and Ian Desmond, despite being a 20/20 man, was one of the worst hitters in baseball. It’s on Rockies’ GM Jeff Bridich to look past 780 runs scored (second in the NL) and see that he’s putting bottom-five offenses on the field in support of some of the best starting pitching in baseball. Adding Daniel Murphy to play first base will help some, but improving the catching duo and turning Desmond into a bench player are essential to fixing this offense.
MLB.TV Rating: 6.8
Colorado’s 2018 offense wasn’t quite as fearsome as it usually is, but Nolan Arenado remains one of baseball’s pre-eminent offensive threats and is protected by shortstop Trevor Story, who shined in 2018 with 37 homers and a 127 OPS+. Daniel Murphy’s arrival from the Cubs will boost a lineup that received lacking production from the right side of the infield, and the veteran lefty will love exploiting the cavernous gaps of his new home park. Charlie Blackmon endured a notable regression in 2018, losing 40 points on his batting average and 27 points off of his OPS+, but still led the National League in runs with 119 and remains a dangerous power threat despite some notable differences in his home/road splits. Add in flamethrowing youngster German Marquez, who ended last year with a 10.6 K/9 rate over 196 innings and you’ve got an eminently watchable and fun team. Plus, Coors Field is always liable for a game with 20 combined runs on any given night.
A rival scout analyzes the Rockies as they head into the 2019 MLB season.
What is the key question surrounding this team in 2019?
“I think the big key for them is going to be getting more production of that bullpen than they did specifically in the first half of last year. Some of those guys need to rebound and give them what they bought. Bryan Shaw, for me, is their biggest concern, and it’s been ugly both times. It’s been cutter-cutter-cutter, and he used to throw that cutter mid-90s. Now that’s his number one weapon and he’s throwing it 87, 88 and not commanding it as well. … I’m talking about McGee, I’m talking about Shaw, and I’m talking about the closer [Wade Davis]. Davis was fine, especially in the second half. But those other two guys, I think they spent over $100 million on those three guys last season and they didn’t get a lot for that.”
Who is the most overrated player on the team?
“I think Dahl, who they think has huge upside, I’m not in on that. I think he’s streaky, I think there’s power in there, but I don’t think there’s discipline in there. I like him, don’t get me wrong, I think he’s going to be an everyday player, but I’m not sure he’s going to bring the type of impact that they’re thinking.”
Who is the most underrated player on the team?
[Garrett] Hampson is the guy for me. I love him, just electric. I think it solves a couple problems. I think he ends up being the leadoff guy and gets Blackmon in the middle of the lineup. Hampson is dynamic on the bases, he fields well, he’s got a little surprising pop in there and is versatile. Coming up, he played mostly shortstop. I think he’s a better fit at second base, just because of the arm strength in the hole, but he’s got a quick release and with his instincts out there I think he could play shortstop, but for them the best fit’s going to be at second.
What young player on the cusp of stardom?
What young player(s) is/are the biggest bust candidate(s)?
David Dahl. “The other thing with Dahl that I didn’t mention is he’s been like glass, man. I mean this guy is hurt every year. Since he had his ruptured spleen two years ago, I’ve never seen the guy leave his feet for a ball in the outfield. He’s very, very tentative out there since he’s been hurt. You might get a half slide to one knee, but the next time you see him lay out for a ball, send me a text.”
Who gets the most out of his talent?
Nolan Arenado’s work habits are top of the charts. There were questions with him coming up in the minor leagues whether he’d even be able to stay at third base, now he’s the best third baseman in the business. His work habits are unbelievable, and he’s made himself into the type of player he is.”
Who gets the least out of his talent?
Jon Gray has top-of-the-rotation stuff that just hasn’t translated yet. His ability to sequence and trust his stuff has been in question. When he gets traffic out there, things seem to speed up on him, to where he has trouble putting the harness on it. He’s a guy they expected to anchor that staff for years, and just quite hasn’t lived up the billing.
Who has the nastiest stuff on the team?
“[Kyle] Freeland, from his slot, with his deception, his slider’s about unhittable to both sides. But I mean as far as pure fuzz on the gun, it’d probably be [German] Marquez. Marquez’s stuff is nasty, nasty! You look at his stuff from the second half and it’s just electric, 98, power breaking stuff, power slider and power curveball. He really figured it out the second half of last year. His stuff is filthy.”
Whose batting practice makes your jaw drop?
Trevor Story has as much raw power as anybody on the team. It really makes a loud noise coming off his bat. Now, he’s starting to tighten his zone up and lay off those breaking balls out of the zone more often. When he barrels ‘em, it’s like it comes out of a cannon.
Who are the guys you would to trade for?
Story and Arenado
Who do you want at-bat or on the mound in a season-defining moment?
Who don’t you want in that situation?
“I’ll say David Dahl, versus a lefty.”
Is the current manager one that you would hire to run your club?
I like them, and I like them under [Bud Black’s] leadership. He’s the perfect man for the job there. I think they could give the Dodgers all they can handle.
What is the ceiling for the team this year?
“I think they have a chance to upset the Dodgers. They’ve been in the postseason two years in a row now. I really think they’ve got the personnel to win that division. I don’t know enough about the Dodgers to make one-on-one comparisons, but I think they’re a team that’s capable of winning 90 maybe even 95 games.”
On now choking this time: “That’s been the thing. Nolan hasn’t shown up. I do think their young pitching, as they continue to grow and mature and be more prepared for it, and so will their bats, those young guys like Arenado and Trevor. I think they could still get on a run, and after two years of this they’re ready to go on a run.”
Emptying the Notebook:
“They’ve lost some guys, but they picked up [Daniel] Murphy at first base, a guy who’s going to grind out and give them some production in the middle of that lineup. Centerfielder Ian Desmond is becomes another question for me. I personally think that a guy that makes the team and he ends up on their bench, [Raimel] Tapia, who’s out of options, has never shown he’s a guy who can come off the bench and be very productive. Right now, they’re saying Desmond’s their centerfielder, but I wouldn’t be surprised Tapia starts getting more of the playing time there shortly into the season. … The left side of Arenado and Story is arguably the best in the game, with Arenado and Story. … You’ve also got Ryan McMahon, he’s having a good spring, but he’s more of a corner guy for me. His actions are longer, he’s a bigger, lankier-bodied guy. … Seung-Hwan Oh, is off to a slow start this spring, and they’re counting on him. I think Scott Oberg is their 8th-inning guy. … The catchers are the other battle they’ve got, between their backups. They’ll only carry two, and it’s Tony Wolters or Tommy Murphy. Murphy is out of options, so he either makes the team or gets exposed. … Their pitching is pretty good. I think Gray’s going to bounce back this year. He looks much stronger. …I see Freeland and Marquez anchoring that rotation, and then he comes into play. You’ve got [Tyler] Anderson in the 4-hole and either [Antonio] Senzatela or [Chad] Bettis in the 5-hole.”