Saturday, March 9, 2019

Colorado Rockies 2019 season preview

Scott Oberg. Photo from the Denver Post


       Three things in life are certain. Death, taxes, and people thinking the Rockies are only good because of Coors Field. Yes, Coors Field has a very big outfield and the altitude makes it easier to hit home runs. But, for the first time, the Rockies had some dominant pitchers, and struggled offensively. They lost Adam Ottavino and DJ LeMahieu in the offseason, but brought in Daniel Murphy. The Rockies are a force to be reckoned with, after making the playoffs in back to back seasons for the first time ever.

       Offseason additions: 1B Daniel Murphy, 1B Mark Reynolds, C Brett Nichols, RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez, OF Michael Saunders

        Offseason subtractions: RHP Adam Ottavino, 2B DJ LeMahieu, OF Gerardo Parra, OF Carlos Gonzalez, C Drew Butera, OF Matt Holliday

        Rotation
The Rockies finally found an ace. Kyle Freeland had a huge breakout season, with a 2.85 ERA in 202.1 innings, finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young voting, and was just 25. German Marquez was 23, and struck out 230 batters in less than 200 innings. His strikeouts passed Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010 as the franchise record. Another 23 year old, Antonio Senzatela, made just 13 starts, but is still the favorite for the 5th spot after a strong finish. Tyler Anderson, entering his age 29 season as the Rockies' oldest starter, also had a great finish, with a 1.83 ERA in his final four starts. Jon Gray is so inconsistent. Gray had a 12-9 record, but his ERA in the losses were exactly nine full runs higher than the ERA in the wins. Chad Bettis can make the rotation over Senzatela, but will likely be a swingman-type.

          Bullpen
Losing Ottavino, whose 2.43 ERA was best on the team, will hurt. But Scott Oberg wasn't far behind Ottavino, with a 2.45 ERA, including a 1.85 ERA in his final 35 outings. Wade Davis set a franchise record for saves with 43, but had the worst ERA (4.13) he's had as a reliever. Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee got matching three year, $27 million contracts last offseason, but had 5.93 and 6.49 ERAs, respectively. The Rox wish they could have spent that money on Ottavino, who conveniently got that same amount from the Yankees. Chris Rusin also struggled, with an ERA over 6.00. Harrison Musgrave returns after an average rookie season. Seunghwan Oh, acquired in a July trade from Toronto, put in some decent work after the trade. Mike Dunn allowed 17 runs in 17 innings in 2018, and will need to make the team out of Spring Training.

            Catching
Tom Murphy has always been the "catcher of the future" for the Rockies. Well, he's 28 now and still hasn't been given a chance, despite decent minor league numbers. Will this be Murphy's big year? Probably not, or never. Chris Iannetta return to Denver, hitting 11 home runs with a .730 OPS, which isn't bad as a catcher. Backup Tony Wolters struggled at the plate in 2018.

            Infield
Nolan Arenado received a monster extension. That's good for the team, as Arenado is a guarantee for more than 35 home runs when healthy. He has won a Gold Glove in all of his six MLB seasons, and his third place MVP finish in 2018 was a career high. Arenado's only bad stat is that he has a road batting average 99 points lower than his home BA. Trevor Story had a career year at the plate, hitting 37 home runs, finally hitting for average (.291), and swiping 27 bags. Daniel Murphy was signed primarily to play first base. He has a career OPS of .803. Second base will be a platoon between speedster Garrett Hampson and minor league slugger Ryan McMahon.

             Outfield
With Murphy signed to play first base, Ian Desmond will move to center field, where he played for one year in Texas. He has been underwhelming since coming to Colorado, but his 22 home runs and 88 RBIs plus 20 stolen bases just about matched his numbers from 2016, when he was an all-star. Charlie Blackmon will move to right field, replacing Carlos Gonzalez. Blackmon had a .291 batting average and .860 OPS in 2018, but they were 40 points and 140 points lower than his 2017 numbers. Blackmon doesn't steal as many bases anymore, but he is now a 30 home run threat. David Dahl has had health issues, but is still young. He also slugged out 16 home runs in 249 at-bats in 2018. Raimel Tapia and Noel Cuevas compete for the 4th outfield spot.

               Bench
The loser of the Hampson/McMahon second base battle, or just the player not playing in the platoon, will be on the bench. McMahon can also play first and third base. Tony Wolters and Raimel Tapia are also bench players. Pat Valiaka struggled in 2018 after a 13 home run 2017. He is the backup infielder.

               Lineup
RF Charlie Blackmon
SS Trevor Story
3B Nolan Arenado
1B Daniel Murphy
CF Ian Desmond
RF David Dahl
C Chris Iannetta
2B Garrett Hampson

               Rotation
Kyle Freeland (L)
German Marquez (R)
Jon Gray (R)
Tyler Anderson (L)
Antonio Senzatela (R)

               Bullpen
Wade Davis (R)
Scott Oberg (R)
Jake McGee (L)
Bryan Shaw (R)
Seunghwan Oh (R)
Chris Rusin (L)
Chad Bettis (R)
Harrison Musgrave (R)

                 Bench
C Tony Wolters
INF Ryan McMahon
INF Pat Valaika
OF Raimel Tapia

                 Additional Information
Ballpark: Coors Field
Manager: Bud Black
GM: Jeff Bridich
World Series Championships: 0
2018 record: 91-72

                  Steal of the Decade
There was two for me that came in mind. An honorable mention to when the team acquired Jake McGee and German Marquez for Corey Dickerson. Marquez set the franchise record for strikeouts, but he has had one good season, and McGee has struggled. In the other trade, made with the Cubs on December 8, 2011, the Rockies traded former first round picks Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers for Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu. Stewart had hit 25 home runs in 2009, but had hit .156 with Colorado in 2011. He hit .201 for the Cubs in 2012 in 55 games. He wouldn't play in 2013, then played in 24 games for the Angels in 2014 before leaving the majors for good. Weathers never made the majors, and didn't play in the minors in 2018, and has played in two different systems since the Cubs. Colvin was a 20 home run hitter in 2010 and hit 18 for the Rox in 2012, but that really was it for him. But, LeMahieu was the steal of the trade. LeMahieu has been a minor stolen base threat, but he has hit over .300 three times, including a league leading .348 in 2016. He won three gold gloves and made two all-star appearances. In 2018, his final year before leaving for New York, he hit a career high 15 home runs.

                   Prediction
The Rockies are a good team. But once again, they will need to fight for the playoffs. The Dodgers are very good and will likely be atop the NL West again. With the Cardinals getting better, nothing is a sure thing in the National League. But, the Rockies still have good odds.

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