Thursday, March 5, 2020

Colorado Rockies 2020 Season Preview



     2019 was not a fun year for the Rockies. The team could not win away from Coors Field, with a 28-53 road record. They had an overall record of 71-91, skidding to 4th in the NL West, 35 games behind the first place Dodgers. The offseason was even less fun, as the Rockies did not sign anyone to a major league contract, and trade rumors ended up angering face-of-the-franchise third baseman Nolan Arenado. The Rockies will look to put the offseason behind them, and focus on their biggest issue. For about every year in franchise history, that is pitching.

       Offseason additions: RHP Tyler Kinley, C Elias Diaz, UT Chris Owings, OF Mike Gerber, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez.

       Offseason subtractions: 1B Mark Reynolds, C Chris Iannetta, RHP Chad Bettis, RHP Seunghwan Oh, LHP DJ Johnson, LHP Chris Rusin.

       Rotation
The Rockies entered 2019 with an actually decent looking rotation. That all fell apart in season, thanks to Kyle Freeland. Freeland finished 4th in Cy Young voting in 2018, with a 2.85 ERA in 202.1 innings, and having a 0.8 HR/9 ratio, very low for a Rockies starter. German Marquez struck out a franchise record 230 batters in 2018. He struck out just 175 in 174 innings, with a 4.76 ERA. While he only walked 35 batters, he threw a league leading 14 wild pitches. The only starting pitcher with a good season was Jon Gray, picked 3rd overall in 2013. Gray had a 3.84 ERA. He struck out 150 batters in 150 innings, and his 9.0 K/9 was still below his career average. The rest of the rotation is open for tryouts. Antonio Senzatela made 25 starts, but he had a 6.71 ERA in 124.2 innings with a terrible 5.5 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. Chi Chi Gonzalez was a spot starter last year. In 15 games (13 starts) Gonzalez had a 5.29 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 63 innings. Peter Lambert made 19 starts, but he was just as bad as Senzatela, with a 7.25 ERA and a 5.7 K/9. Jeff Hoffman had a 6.56 ERA with 68 strikeouts in 70 starts.

           Bullpen
Wade Davis might have had the worst season for a closer in recent memory. He lead the league with 43 saves in 2018, but converted just 15 last year, with an 8.65 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 42.2 innings. It was his first time with a K/9 under nine since he was a starter in 2013. His 1.5 HR/9 was a career worst and his 10.8 H/9 was close to one. His 1.875 WHIP was 198 points higher than his previous career worst. However, he still looks like the Opening Day closer. Scott Oberg had a second consecutive encouraging season, with a 2.25 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 56 innings, to go along with five saves. He allowed just 6.3 hits per nine innings. Jairo Diaz has had a pattern of not playing in the MLB every other year. That will change in 2020, barring serious injury. Diaz appeared in 56 games, also making five saves, with a 4.53 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 57.2 innings. Carlos Estevez appeared in a team high 71 games, with a 3.75 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 72 innings. He made 11 saves for the team in 2016 as a 23 year old rookie. Expensive veterans Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee will take up two more roster spots. Shaw, who has lead the league in games played by a pitcher three times, had a 3.11 ERA in five seasons for Cleveland before joining the Rockies. He has a 5.61 ERA in two seasons in Colorado. He struck out just 58 batters in 72 innings last year. It was his lowest K/9 rate since 2012. McGee, a lefty, has had success as a Rockie before, coming in 2017. He wasn't so bad in 2019, with a 4.35 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 41.1 innings. Once a high strikeout guy for the Rays, McGee has lost his ability to punch batters out. Tyler Kinley was the one 40-man roster addition, coming via waiver claim from Miami. Kinley had a solid 3.65 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 49.1 innings over 52 games for the Marlins last year. James Pazos could be favored as an extra lefty. Pazos played in 12 games last year, striking out 10 in 10.1 innings allowing two runs for a 1.74 ERA. He had a 2.88 ERA in 60 games in 2018. Yency Almonte is out of options, helping his case. he had a 5.56 ERA in 28 MLB games last year.

                Catchers
In his first as a full time starter, Tony Wolters had a career high .262 average, with a .666 OPS. He hit just one home run in 121 games, two less than he had in 2018, when he played in 47 less games. He did improve defensively. The backup job is a three way competition. Dom Nunez has the advantage of being on the 40-man roster. He debuted late last year, hitting two home runs in 16 games, with a .179 average. Veterans Elias Diaz and Drew Butera are non-roster invitees. A World Series winner in 2015, Butera has a .200 average with a .554 OPS in his 513 game career, spanning over 10 seasons. Elias Diaz hit 10 home runs with a .792 OPS for Pittsburgh in 2018. He hit just two homers last year, with an OPS of .603. His .241 average is better than Butera and Nunez's last year, though in a bigger sample size.

                  Infielders
Daniel Murphy did not adjust to Coors Field and first base as well as the Rockies had hoped. The two time Silver Slugger winner hit 13 home runs with 78 RBIs. His .279 average was his lowest since 2009, and he had an 87 OPS+, the lowest of his career and just his second time under 100. Ryan McMahon took over at second base, hitting 24 home runs while stealing five bases, plus finishing with a .779 OPS. Trevor Story has established himself as one of the best power hitting shortstops. He hit 35 home runs with a .294 average and .917 OPS, while swiping 23 bags. He finished 12th in MVP voting, and won his second consecutive Silver Slugger award. Nolan Arenado has been an all-star in five consecutive seasons, and has won a Gold Glove in all seven seasons of his career. He won a Silver Slugger from 2015-2018. He hit 41 home runs with 118 RBIs, with a .315 average and a .962 OPS. He finished 6th in MVP voting. Garrett Hampson can play the outfield and middle infield. He hit eight home runs with 15 stolen bases in 105 games last year, with a .247 average and .686 OPS. Top prospect Brendan Rodgers is recovering from shoulder surgery, and it is not clear when he will be healthy, but it should be sometime near the start of the season. The former 3rd overall pick debuted last year, with a .224 average and .522 OPS in 25 games.

                      Outfielders
In his first season as a full-time right fielder Charlie Blackmon hit 32 home runs with a .314 average and .940 OPS in 140 games. His speed has declined. Once a 42 base stealer, Blackmon stole just two last season, getting caught five times. He has been an all-star in four consecutive seasons. The 10th overall pick in 2012, David Dahl made his first all-star team, hitting 15 home runs with a .302 average and a career best .877 OPS. Despite hitting 20 home runs, Ian Desmond's defense was so bad he had a -1.7 bWAR. A six time 20 base stealer, Desmond stole just three in 2019. He hit .255 with a .788 OPS. The good news is that his OPS was his best since 2012. Raimel Tapia also had a negative WAR, with a weak 74 OPS+. He hit nine home runs and stole nine bases. He had a .275 average with a .724 OPS. Sam Hilliard got a 27 game trial last year. He hit seven home runs with a 1.006 OPS, helping his case for a roster spot in 2020. Yonathan Daza also debuted in 2019, but was less successful offensively, with a .206 average and .494 OPS. He had just two extra base hits (no homers) in 44 games.

                         Projected Opening Day Roster
CF David Dahl (L)
RF Charlie Blackmon (L)
3B Nolan Arenado (R)
SS Trevor Story (R)
1B Daniel Murphy (L)
LF Ian Desmond (R)
2B Ryan McMahon (L)
C Tony Wolters (L)
Pitcher

                           Projected Rotation
German Marquez (R)
Jon Gray (R)
Kyle Freeland (L)
Antonio Senzatela (R)
Chi Chi Gonzalez (R)

                           Projected Bullpen
Wade Davis, closer (R)
Scott Oberg (R)
Jairo Diaz (R)
Carlos Estevez (R)
Jake McGee (L)
Bryan Shaw (R)
Tyler Kinley (R)
James Pazos (L)

                           Projected Bench
C Elias Diaz (R)
UT Garrett Hampson (R)
SS Brendan Rodgers (R)
OF Sam Hilliard (L)
OF Raimel Tapia (L)

                          Prediction
The Rockies regressed badly in 2019. To stop that, management did nothing and made their superstar unhappy. That is not a good thing. The Rockies are still better than the Giants, and are more talented than the Padres. But, it looks like another 4th place finish is going to happen for the Rockies in 2020.

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