Archive for Rockies

The Rockies’ Blockbuster Night

In last night’s fifth inning, the Rockies threw punches and punches until the Giants were frontless. They scored 13 runs, which, as was noted at Purple Row, was a team record for runs scored in an inning. Oh, did I mention that this game was in San Francisco, and not in Denver? Because it was, which makes it all the more surprising. Let’s walk back through their blockbuster night, and use it to show what the Rockies are doing right this season.

First, let’s put this game into some context. Here are all the teams who have scored 15 or more runs in a game at AT&T Park, which as you probably know has been open since 2000.

15+ Runs Scored by Single Team, AT&T Park History
Date Tm Runs Opp Runs Barry Bonds?
5/6/2016 COL 17 SFG 7 No
7/10/2015 SF 15 PHI 2 No
9/13/2014 LAD 17 SF 0 No
8/31/2014 SF 15 MIL 5 No
8/24/2010 SF 16 CIN 5 No
9/24/2008 COL 15 SF 6 No
7/23/2005 FLO 16 SF 4 No
9/3/2004 SF 18 ARI 7 Yes
4/9/2003 SF 15 SD 11 Yes
5/24/2000 SF 18 MON 0 Yes
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference Play Index

As you can see, this doesn’t happen very often — happens even less when Barry Bonds hasn’t been involved. For reference, over the same time span, a team has scored 15-plus runs at Fenway Park 37 times. Across the bay at whatever Oakland’s ballpark is called now, it’s happened 16 times. At Camden Yards, it’s happened 27 times. Runs are simply harder to come by in games affected by the marine layer.

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They’ve Adjusted to Trevor Story

They say you can’t predict baseball, but that’s nonsense. You can’t predict all of baseball, but you can definitely predict some of baseball. One of those predictions that any one of us could’ve made: There was no way Trevor Story was going to keep that up. It was so obvious that even saying it would’ve been empty. Pointless. The prediction was essentially implied by the statistics, because the statistics were so absurd everybody recognized it.

Let’s talk about this. Hot starts like Story’s regress. We know that to be true, and regression takes place for a few reasons. Luck just evening out is one of them. Hot streaks are typically accompanied by good luck, and cold slumps are typically accompanied by bad luck. And then there are the adjustments. Adjustments! Our favorite genre. When you’re a hot hitter, you don’t keep getting the same at-bats over and over and over again. Opponents learn about you, and they put that information to use. Strengths are apparent, and so are anti-strengths, and that gets folded in to how a guy gets pitched. It’s a tale as old as baseball, even if it’s told a little differently these days.

Hot starts regress. Opponents adjust. Trevor Story had a hot start. Opponents adjusted. Welcome to the big leagues.

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What Pitchers (and Numbers) Say About Pitching in the Cold

Maybe it was the fact that she spent her formative years in Germany, while I spent most of mine in Jamaica and America’s South, but my mother and I have always disagreed about a fundamental thing when it comes to the weather. For her, she wants the sun. It doesn’t matter if it’s bitter cold and dry; if the sun’s out, she’s fine. I’d rather it was warm. Don’t care if there’s a drizzle or humidity or whatever.

It turns out, when we were disagreeing about these things, we were really talking about pitching. Mostly because life is pitching and pitching is life.

But also because the temperature, and the temperature alone, does not tell the story of pitching in the cold. It’ll make sense, just stick with it.

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Nolan Arenado Looks Like He’s Up to Something

We’ve gotten to see many sides of Nolan Arenado over the past two years. The maker of ridiculous defensive plays. The hitter of a multitude of home runs. The effusive trotter of the base paths. With regard to his plate discipline, however, Arenado hasn’t changed much since he got to the majors. To call him a “free swinger” doesn’t really do him justice: between 2014 and -15, Arenado ranked 10th in overall swing percentage (53.5%) and eighth in swing percentage at pitches outside of the strike zone (38.7%). As a result, he hasn’t walked much since he was called up in 2014 — at just over half the league average the past two years — which, hey, is something you might do too if you had the talent and skill to hit 40-plus home runs in the major leagues. In 2015, he saw the 17th-fewest pitches per plate appearance out of qualified hitters. Arenado hasn’t really waited around, is the point. He’s been aggressive in and out of the zone, and the trade-off has been fewer free passes. The reward was ten first-pitch home runs last season.

Swinging as much as Arenado has in the past two years tends to require other skills to offset/complement that tendency, like above-average contact rates, great power, or speed on the base paths. An illustration: of the ten leaders in overall swing percentage from 2015, five had below-average contact rates:

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Trevor Story and Sample Size

Trevor Story hit another homer last night, his league-leading eighth home run of the season. That’s eight home runs in just 13 games, totaling 59 plate appearances. He also hit a double, giving him 12 extra base hits on the year; Josh Donaldson is the only other player in the majors in double-digits, and he has 10. At this point, it’s pretty clear that, while still a player with holes in his swing, Trevor Story hits the ball really hard when he does make contact.

Last night’s home run, for instance, was hit at 108 mph. It was the eighth ball he’s hit this year that left the bat with an exit velocity north of 105. For reference, here is the full list of the 13 players that already have eight or more balls hit at 105+.

Most 105+ Exit Velocities
Player Results Total Pitches
Carlos Gonzalez 15 215
Domingo Santana 13 230
Mark Trumbo 12 178
Manny Machado 11 175
Carlos Correa 10 189
Gregory Polanco 9 223
Josh Donaldson 9 248
Trevor Story 8 245
Giancarlo Stanton 8 219
J.D. Martinez 8 169
Bryce Harper 8 186
Danny Valencia 8 160
Jonathan Schoop 8 147

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Trevor Story Sorta Looks Like J.D. Martinez

The Orioles are 5-0, Ross Stripling almost threw a no-hitter in his Major League debut, and Eugenio Suarez apparently doesn’t make outs anymore, but those were all just footnotes of the first week of the 2016 season. There’s only one big story in MLB right now, and no, that’s not another easy setup for a pun based on Trevor Story‘s last name. Okay, maybe it is. They’re so easy!

But despite Trevor’s made-for-headline-writers last name, it’s his performance that keeps him in the news. After finally failing to hit a home run on Saturday, the first time in five big league games that he didn’t go yard, Story launched another one last night, bringing his season total to seven. No one else has more than four. 16 teams have fewer home runs than Trevor Story right now. He has as many long balls as the Mets, Marlins, Pirates, and Angels combined.

So, yeah, welcome to the big leagues, kid. It’s not often that rookie shortstops put on this type of show, and no player of any type has ever hit for this kind of power in their first week in the Major Leagues.

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Three Counterpoints to Trevor Story’s First Three Games

Trevor Story did something that has never happened in major-league history before: he homered in first three games of his career. People are generally pretty excited about that, and rightly so. Jeff detailed that excitement the other day, and backed it up with a couple of very good points about Story’s plate coverage and adaptability. It may very well be that we are watching the genesis of the next great Rockies shortstop. (Or, if you prefer, the second great Rockies shortstop.) But before we get carried away, I wanted to offer a few counterpoints.

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Let’s Get Irresponsibly Excited About Trevor Story

It took only three games for us to be able to refer to Trevor Story as a rookie sensation. For the most part, this is because Story is currently out-homering most of the teams in major-league baseball. He got Zack Greinke twice on opening day, and that’s remarkable enough, but Story homered again in each of the following two contests, so now here we are, with Story owning four dingers before the overwhelming majority of rookie players are even called up so as to preserve that extra year of control. Hot start. We’re good at noticing hot starts.

After the hot start will come a cooler period. In time, when we have more information, Story will resemble some kind of familiar shortstop, and we’ll have a better idea of how he’s going to work out. In the long run, I mean. The reality is we don’t know that much more now than we did a week ago. This is the hazard of trying to talk about anything so early in a season, and so early in a career. But the word “irresponsibly” is right in that headline. I think we can allow ourselves to have some fun. What’s the downside? So let’s discuss just a few notable observations. Exactly what they mean, I’ll leave to time to settle.

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The Outlandishness of Trevor Story

I can’t tell you whether Trevor Story is going to be a good major-league ballplayer. I can tell you with a high degree of certainty he’s going to be some kind of major-league ballplayer, but as for how he fares, well, that’s more unknown. He has the skills to make All-Star Games, but the same could be said of plenty of non-All-Stars, and this’ll be a big year for Story’s career. He might build upon last year’s gains, and become a part of a core. Alternatively, he wouldn’t be the first young player to stagnate or regress.

Story has become a something on account of his spring, and on account of what’s going on with Jose Reyes. Reyes might never play for the Rockies again, so there’s a vacancy at short, and Story might seize it. Some want for Story to be named the opening-day starter, and there are the usual arguments in favor of waiting at least a couple weeks. No matter — by May or June, it seems like Story is going to be the guy. I can’t tell you if he’s going to be productive. I can tell you only how he’s interesting.

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Changes Are Coming to Coors Field

Any opportunity to talk about Coors Field is a good opportunity, and, hey, wouldn’t you know it, but the Rockies’ home ballpark is undergoing some alterations that’ll have an effect on the gameplay. I’ve only just heard about them, but they’re relatively uncomplicated, and they should be in place in time for the start of the regular season. Baseball’s best argument against the idea that high-scoring baseball is exciting baseball is about to feature some higher fences.

I’m kind of a dork about park effects, and that’s why I find Coors so fascinating in the first place. They’re always trying to figure out if it’s possible to play some sort of normal baseball at altitude, and now we can get into the latest thought, as provided by Nick Groke. The Rockies are working to reduce the number of cheap dingers. It won’t not work. That much we can already say.

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Stop Throwing This Pitch to Nolan Arenado

Pitchers know hitters. They’ve got to. Sure, for the most part, pitchers want to trust their stuff and hit their spots and any deviation too far from one’s comfort zone is a concession to the hitter, but pitchers have got to know hitters, lest they be made to look silly. Example: pitcher faces high-ball hitter, throws high ball, gives up dinger. Well, duh. We told you he was a high-ball hitter, dumb-dumb. Why’d you put it there?

This is why pitchers read scouting reports, and watch videos, and look at heatmaps, and converse with their peers, and use their human brain to rethink past matchups against whichever opponent looms next on the docket. So they don’t look like a dumb-dumb. That’s all anyone’s trying to do, really. Competitive edge, work ethic, drive, determination — those are all just codewords for “Please don’t let my peers judge me.”

That’s why Mike Trout stopped getting the low fastball last year. It wasn’t for baseball reasons. It was so that anytime a nearby group of people shared a laugh over This Week’s Meme, the group’s laughter would no longer be misconstrued by the dumb-dumb pitcher who threw Mike Trout a low fastball as a public and personal lampooning.

But it turns out nobody is perfect, and that’s why we’re all insecure. Mistakes are made, constantly, by every kind of person at every kind of job. Making mistakes is one of the things humans are best at. All we can do is try to be better at learning from mistakes than we are at making them, and oftentimes it feels like an uphill climb.

Say, speaking of which, plenty of pitchers made mistakes to Nolan Arenado last year. Did you know he hit 42 homers? Don’t believe me? Look, here they are!

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 9.26.47 AM

Now we have something different to talk about. Now we have something different we have to talk about. You’ll notice I’ve drawn a red line that splits the field in two, and you’ll notice that 40 of the black dots representing home runs are to the left of that dividing red line. You could say Nolan Arenado has a type.

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MLB Farm Systems Ranked by Surplus WAR

You smell that? It’s baseball’s prospect-list season. The fresh top-100 lists — populated by new names as well as old ones — seem to be popping up each day. With the individual rankings coming out, some organization rankings are becoming available, as well. I have always regarded the organizational rankings as subjective — and, as a result, not 100% useful. Utilizing the methodology I introduced in my article on prospect evaluation from this year’s Hardball Times Annual, however, it’s possible to calculate a total value for every team’s farm system and remove the biases of subjectivity. In what follows, I’ve used that same process to rank all 30 of baseball’s farm systems by the surplus WAR they should generate.

I provide a detailed explanation of my methodology in the Annual article. To summarize it briefly, however, what I’ve done is to identify WAR equivalencies for the scouting grades produced by Baseball America in their annual Prospect Handbook. The grade-to-WAR conversion appears as follows.

Prospect Grade to WAR Conversion
Prospect Grade Total WAR Surplus WAR
80 25.0 18.5
75 18.0 13.0
70 11.0 9.0
65 8.5 6.0
60 4.7 3.0
55 2.5 1.5
50 1.1 0.5
45 0.4 0.0

To create the overall totals for this post, I used each team’s top-30 rankings per the most recent edition of Baseball America’ Prospect Handbook. Also accounting for those trades which have occurred since the BA rankings were locked down, I counted the number of 50 or higher-graded prospects (i.e. the sort which provide surplus value) in each system. The results follows.
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KATOH Projects: Colorado Rockies Prospects

Previous editions: Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati  / Cleveland.

Earlier this week, lead prospect analyst Dan Farnsworth published his excellently in-depth prospect list for the Colorado Rockies. In this companion piece, I look at that same Colorado farm system through the lens of my recently refined KATOH projection system. There’s way more to prospect evaluation than just the stats, so if you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read Dan’s piece in addition to this one. KATOH has no idea how hard a pitcher throws, how good a hitter’s bat speed is, or what a player’s makeup is like. So it’s liable to miss big on players whose tools don’t line up with their performances. However, when paired with more scouting-based analyses, KATOH’s objectivity can be useful in identifying talented players who might be overlooked by the industry consensus or highly-touted prospects who might be over-hyped.

Below, I’ve grouped prospects into three groups: those who are forecast for two or more wins through their first six major-league seasons, those who receive a projection between 1.0 and 2.0 WAR though their first six seasons, and then any residual players who received Future Value (FV) grades of 45 or higher from Dan. Note that I generated forecasts only for players who accrued at least 200 plate appearances or batters faced last season. Also note that the projections for players over a relatively small sample are less reliable, especially when those samples came in the low minors.

1. Trevor Story, SS (Profile)

KATOH Projection: 7.2 WAR
Dan’s Grade: 50 FV

Story’s prospect trajectory resembles a bathtub curve — which is to say it’s gone from high to low and back to high again. Drafted 45th overall back in 2011, he got off to a strong start in the low minors, but hit a wall as soon as he reached High-A. Story got back on track in 2015 when he hit .279/.350/.514 between Double-A and Triple-A with 20 homers and 22 steals. Story was one of the top offensive performers in the high minors last year, which is mighty impressive for a shortstop. His 25% strikeout rate is cause for concern, but is largely outweighed by everything else he does well.

Trevor Story’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Ray Durham 5.4 9.4
2 Ronnie Belliard 6.0 10.7
3 Todd Walker 6.7 4.6
4 Brandon Wood 7.6 0.0
5 Tim Unroe 3.3 0.5
6 Dave Silvestri 5.2 0.8
7 Chase Headley 6.3 19.2
8 Aubrey Huff 4.4 10.9
9 Bobby Crosby 8.0 8.1
10 Kevin Nicholson 2.7 0.2

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Evaluating the 2016 Prospects: Colorado Rockies

Other clubs: Braves, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Indians, OriolesRedsRed Sox, White Sox.

The Rockies’ system is a long list of potential major league contributors, topped by nearly a full team of 50+ overall grade prospects. They haven’t had the best luck developing young pitchers, but Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray give them a chance at building a cost-effective pitching staff in the near future as they try to retool, while a stable of younger hurlers may arrive in three to four years. I don’t see any huge surprises on this list for people, though having Brendan Rodgers number one may be debatable. Gray gets bumped down a bit for command concerns, though obviously his upside is apparent. Catcher Dom Nunez and starting pitcher Peter Lambert may be higher on this list than you will hear elsewhere, and Carlos Estevez‘ relief potential bumps him into the 50-grade territory for me.

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2016 ZiPS Projections – Colorado Rockies

After having typically appeared in the very hallowed pages of Baseball Think Factory, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections have been released at FanGraphs the past couple years. The exercise continues this offseason. Below are the projections for the Colorado Rockies. Szymborski can be found at ESPN and on Twitter at @DSzymborski.

Other Projections: Arizona / Atlanta / Baltimore / Boston / Chicago AL / Chicago NL / Cincinnati / Cleveland / Detroit / Houston / Kansas City / Los Angeles NL / Minnesota / New York AL / New York NL / Oakland / Philadelphia / Pittsburgh / St. Louis / San Diego / San Francisco / Seattle / Texas / Toronto / Washington.

Colorado batters produced the third-lowest cumulative WAR among their major-league peers last year, falling just short of the 10-win threshold. That’s one relevant point when considering the Rockies’ prospects for 2016. Another? That the club also hasn’t altered the roster in any substantive way this offseason. There are, of course, other means by which a team can improve from one year to the next. The promotion of young players from within the system, for example. Or simply by way of positive regression. But even ZiPS — which, like other projections systems, is largely a regression machine — doesn’t call for much improvement in that way.

Third baseman Nolan Arenado (612 PA, 4.1 zWAR) appears to have developed into a real star, combining a high-contact, high-power offensive profile with above-average defense. Charlie Blackmon (638 PA, 1.8 zWAR) and Carlos Gonzalez (473 PA, 1.8 zWAR) are also roughly average. After that, however, the returns among the starting contingent are decidedly less encouraging. Outfielder Gerardo Parra (584 PA, 1.0 zWAR), whose acquisition rendered Corey Dickerson expendable, is best regarded as a solid bench player, at this point.

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FG On Fox: Fastball Pitchers and Surviving Coors Field

I don’t much care for the move the Rockies made Thursday. I like Jake McGee just fine — he’s an excellent late-inning reliever — and maybe I could understand the trade under different circumstances. But the Rockies don’t actually project to be good, so it seems strange for them to add a reliever at the cost of an affordable, long-term outfielder. Not only that, but of the two prospects exchanged, I like Kevin Padlo more than German Marquez, and Padlo is joining Corey Dickerson in going from Colorado to Tampa Bay.

The trade won’t be the end of the world, and the Rockies could just decide to flip McGee in a matter of months, but for now, it’s an odd decision. This is a move you might expect from a competitive team with a thin bullpen, not a mediocre team with a thin bullpen.

So the Rays add value to the roster and to the farm, and the Rockies add late-inning impact. That’s essentially the summary, with one interesting offshoot being that this seems to set the Rays up for another outfielder trade. There’s another interesting offshoot, though, and it has to do with the Rockies, and with where they play. Sometimes it can be an easy thing to forget about, but the Rockies play baseball literally a mile above sea level, and that makes the team something of an ongoing experiment. It’s always fun to have an opportunity to investigate a new Coors Field question, and the McGee acquisition opens the door.

Read the rest on Fox Sports.

The Weird Rumor is Now a Weird Trade

On Tuesday, I wrote about a trade rumor that, on paper, didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Ken Rosenthal and Marc Topkin both reported that the Rays and Rockies were discussing a deal centered around Corey Dickerson and Jake McGee, and they’re the kind of reporters who don’t just say things for the fun of it; when they throw names out there, it’s because there is some substance behind the report. And so not surprisingly, two days later, the weird trade rumor is now a weird trade.

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The Most Confusing Rumor of the Off-Season

Ever since the Rockies signed Gerardo Parra, the Rockies trade of an outfielder has felt fait acompli, and given that they’re not really contenders this year, dealing Carlos Gonzalez has appeared to be the pretty obvious move. Given his strong second half and the fact that he’s only under team control for two more seasons — at a not-exactly-bargain-price of $38 million — while fellow outfielders Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson are under control for three and four more years respectively, it seems pretty logical for CarGo to be one on the move, though the Rockies have been entertaining offers on all three. Which is perfectly rational; you might as well weigh your options before deciding on a course of action.

But this morning, Ken Rosenthal reported that Corey Dickerson is the most likely outfielder to be on the move, and Rays beat writer Mark Topkin followed up with a somewhat confirming note of his own, including the player most likely to be leaving Tampa Bay if the two teams do strike a deal.

While acknowledging that this may just be the framework of a larger deal, or perhaps the first step of a series of moves, I’m hard pressed to think of a trade that makes less sense to me than Corey Dickerson for Jake McGee.

You know what the non-contending Rockies need more of? Good solid players they can build around for the future, like, say, Corey Dickerson. You know what the Rockies don’t really need at this point? A injury-prone closer with only two years of team control remaining, and one whose salary will skyrocket in arbitration if he stays healthy and racks up a bunch of saves. Yes, the Rockies bullpen stinks, but when you’re not really in contention, you can afford to give chances to young unproven guys; the ability to create assets by giving players opportunities is one of the huge advantages of not focusing on short-term results. And it’s not bringing McGee in to pitch at Coors Field is a great way to raise his trade value, so even if the team is looking to get him to flip him this summer, that seems like a dubious strategy.

From the Rays side, turning two years of McGee into four years of Dickerson would be a pretty smart move, except it’s not entirely clear what they’d do with Dickerson. They have Desmond Jennings and Steven Souza in their corner outfield spots, and it seems unlikely they’d want to displace either of those two at this point in their careers. They could move Dickerson to first base — something the Rockies could just do as well — except that they’ve got kind of a logjam there, between James Loney and Logan Morrison from the left side and Steve Pearce and Brandon Guyer from the right side.

Loney and Morrison are not any good, so swapping in Dickerson for either would be an upgrade, but that was kind of the point of signing Pearce last week; it doesn’t seem likely that they want to relegate him to the weak side of a platoon right after signing him. And they just traded for Morrison a few months ago, so presumably, they’re not quite ready to give up on him just yet.

From a pure asset standpoint, turning two years of an injury prone closer into four years of a solid average corner outfielder would be worth doing, but the Rays don’t really need an average corner outfielder, so as Topkin noted, it would be a move that forced some other pieces to fall into place. But even with that, it wouldn’t really explain why the Rockies would want to trade Dickerson for a reliever. After all, the combination of Parra and McGee will make $13 million next year and probably closer to $16-$17 million in 2017; if they really wanted to just upgrade their bullpen, they could have thrown that money at a reliever in the free agent class and just kept Dickerson, retaining the younger outfielder rather than signing an older hitter and trading for a pitcher.

I’m sure getting pitchers to actually agree to sign in Colorado is difficult — and no reliever on the market this winter is as dominant as a healthy Jake McGee — but I still find it hard to see how signing Parra to trade Dickerson for a short-term relief upgrade helps the Rockies do anything that they should want to be doing. If you’re optimistic about both Parra and McGee, maybe this pushes them from 74 to 76 wins or something, but it’s also quite possible that Parra is worse than Dickerson, offsetting most of the gain of adding McGee to the bullpen. And that’s without accounting for the fact that a Parra/McGee combination would be more expensive and have less long-term value than a Dickerson/FA reliever duo.

Most likely, if and when the deal is announced, there will be more pieces to the deal — or a follow-up trade — that will help explain the motivation that is driving these teams in this direction. The Rays side is at least fairly easy to imagine, especially if someone else is willing to overpay for Jennings or something. On the Rockies side, I would hope that there’s something else of note coming back besides McGee, or that they’re acquiring him with the intention of trading him elsewhere in the near future. If the Rockies really are trading a decent young hitter for a short-term bullpen upgrade in a year where they don’t really have much of a chance to contend, then it will be tough to see how the Rockies new front office is demonstrably different than the old one.

The Rockies Should Play Corey Dickerson at First Base

The Rockies officially signed Gerardo Parra the other day. It was an odd move, because it seemingly killed the team’s leverage to deal one of their existing outfielders, which is something that has been rumored to be in the offing all offseason. While that might be true, it doesn’t have to be true, because there is an easy solution to the logjam — playing Corey Dickerson at first base.

The Rockies have been searching for a first baseman for a couple of years. Over the past three seasons, the team has produced just 1.4 WAR at the position — 22nd in the majors overall. When Todd Helton retired, they went the veteran route and signed Justin Morneau. He helped improve the team’s performance at first base to 15th overall over the past two seasons, which is better but not spectacular. Morneau hit well when he played — a .316 average and 3.0 WAR aren’t too shabby — but he only logged 52% of the team’s plate appearances at first base the last two years. And now he’s gone.

In his wake, there are currently two main candidates for first base playing time, Ben Paulsen and Mark Reynolds. The Rockies quietly signed Reynolds to a $2.6 million contract last month. Reynolds has been around forever, but is just entering his age-32 season. If you’re wondering why a 32-year-old first baseman nets less than $3 million, well the answer is because he isn’t very good. Reynolds has been worth 0.3 WAR or less in four of the last five seasons, and in two of those five seasons — including last season — his value dipped below replacement level. He loses value in both defense and base running, which would be fine if he were a true masher. He isn’t. In fact, his wRC+ has topped 100 in any of the last three seasons, nor has his slugging percentage topped .400 in them.

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The Decline of Carlos Gonzalez: Star Player

It’s tough to admit that time has begun to pass you by. This is how we end up with middle-aged woman wearing Phat Farm sneakers at the mall or that 60-year-old dude who only shoots threes and never gets back on defense playing basketball at the rec with the college kids every day. And, hey, I’m not here to judge those folks. Matter of fact, I respect the hell out of them. The old dude can really splash and the mom just values her children’s opinion and wants their adoration. I’m sure she’s a wonderful parent, albeit one with a very questionable fashion sense. At the end of the day, it comes down to whatever makes you happy, and if wearing Phat Farm sneakers or being the local wellness center’s version of Mike Miller is what makes you happy, then do it up!

Take the Rockies, for example. Following Tuesday’s acquisition of Gerardo Parra, it’s a near-certainty that the Rockies will be trading an outfielder. The most probable outfielder to be moved is Carlos Gonzalez, at least if the rumors we’ve heard over the last year-plus are any indication. And so if they want to ask for two top-100 prospects in exchange for Gonzalez, then, sure, more power to ’em! If that’s what makes them happy. They’re never going to get two top-100 prospects for Carlos Gonzalez, but there’s no harm in hoping.

There used to be a time when Gonzalez would have commanded two top-100 prospects or better. From 2010 to -13, Gonzalez was a top-25 hitter and a top-25 overall position player, according to WAR. He was a legitimate star. He hit both lefties and righties, he ran the bases well, he was a lock for 20 homers as well as for 20 steals, and the defense graded out fine in the corners. The only thing that ever kept from CarGo from elevating himself from star to superstar status was that he had trouble staying on the field. When he wasn’t hurt, though, there weren’t many better than CarGo.

Thing about injuries, though, is that they’ll take a toll on you quick. Gonzalaz fractured his right wrist way back in the minors, and in 2011, it started hurting again, sending him to the disabled list. The next year it was a hamstring. Then it was a finger sprain in his right hand, then a tumor on his left hand the following year that required surgical removal. The big one came later in 2014 — left knee surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon. Gonzalez remained mostly healthy in 2015, aside from the occasional day off due to “tired legs,” “right knee discomfort,” “sprained left hand,” or the ever-present “flu-like symptoms.” But these last couple years, after the hand surgery and the knee surgery, Gonzalez hasn’t looked like himself.
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