2018 Season Preview: Colorado Rockies

by Alex Fischer

2017 Record: 87-75 (3rd in NL West, NL Wild Card #2)

2017 Player Payroll: $130,963,571 (16th)

Projected Lineup:

All player projections for 2018 from Steamer

  1. Charlie Blackmon (CF), .331 AVG/.399 OBP/.601 SLG, 6.5 WAR
  2. DJ LeMahieu (2B), .310 AVG/.374 OBP/.409 SLG, 1.8 WAR
  3. Carlos Gonzalez (RF), .262 AVG/.339 OBP/.423 SLG, 0.7 WAR
  4. Nolan Arenado (3B), .309 AVG/.373 OBP/.586 SLG, 5.6 WAR
  5. Trevor Story (SS), .239 AVG/.308 OBP/.457 SLG, 1.3 WAR
  6. Ian Desmond (LF), .274 AVG/.326 OBP/.375 SLG, -0.8 WAR
  7. Ryan McMahon (1B), .158 AVG/.333 OBP/.211 SLG, 0.0 WAR
  8. Chris Iannetta (C), .254 AVG/.354 OBP/.511 SLG, 2.2 WAR

BE Gerrado Parra (OF) .309 AVG/ .341 OBP/ .452 SLG, 0.8 WAR

Projected 2018 Rotation:

  1. Jon Gray, 110 IP/ 3.67 ERA/ 1.30 WHIP/ 3.2 WAR
  2. Tyler Anderson, 86 IP/ 4.81 ERA/ 1.33 WHIP/ 1.1 WAR
  3. Chad Bettis, 46.1 IP/ 5.05 ERA/ 1.36 WHIP/ 0.4 WAR
  4. Kyle Freeland, 156 IP/ 4.10 ERA/ 1.49 WHIP/ 2.0 WAR
  5. German Marquez, 162 IP/ 4.39 ERA/ 1.38 WHIP/ 2.4 WAR

Ah, the high altitude Denver air.  Where balls just carry out of Coors Field to no end and the previous home of 60+ yard Matt Prater kicks.  Enough with the reminiscing of football, it’s time for some baseball!

Offseason Recap:

With the Rockies deciding not to re-sign last year’s All-Star closer, Greg Holland, they replaced him with another All-Star closer in Wade Davis, a Cub last year. Last season Davis had a 12.1 K/9, an ERA of 2.30 and a WHIP of 1.14 compared with Holland’s 10.99 K/9, 3.61 ERA and a WHIP of 1.15. Nice replacement, but as Lee Corso once said, “Not so fast my friend!” Davis signed a three-year, $52 million contract making him the highest paid reliever of all time. In my opinion, I don’t quite understand the signing. His BABIP was .262 and he had a FIP of 3.38. These numbers warrant the question: was he lucky? Did Chicago’s good defense inflate his value? Or is he the real deal? One thing for sure is that Denver is a very hitter-friendly park and the defense is middle of the road. I just don’t understand why the Rockies would pay a player so much in an environment that could lead to regression, and that’s not even considering the strength of other NL West offenses. Also, you passed on an All-Star closer in Greg Holland who is asking for a contract somewhere between $7-10 million. Sure, Davis did have a phenomenal ERA of 2.30, but can he realistically repeat that, or be lower than 3.00? Time will tell… But for now, I’m skeptical.

Besides Davis, the Rockies also added catcher Chris Iannetta, who played for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. This seems to be a nice addition. Iannetta hit 17 homers in just 316 plate appearances last year, putting his HR rate around the likes of Paul Goldschmidt and Freddie Freeman. Iannetta should bring a nice pop to the catcher position in Colorado. I will say that his defense is sub-par, though. He also will not be an everyday catcher, but that shouldn’t be an issue as Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy will back him up. He’s a solid addition for the Rockies.  Another acquisition was the reliever Bryan Shaw who will be a nice left-hander to bolster their bullpen.  This seems like a good signing and adds depth to a decent bullpen.  The last big move the Rockies made was the re-signing of Carlos Gonzalez.  Gonzalez took a huge step back last year as he had a .262 AVG., 14 HRs and 57 RBIs compared to 2016 where he hit 25 HRs, 100 RBIs and an AVG of .298. He did sign a one year contract and could be a filler for David Dahl until he becomes a consistent outfield player for the Rockies. I don’t see Cargo playing a huge role in the success of the team, but I like how the deal was only for one season.

Season Outlook:

As the wise man says, defense wins championships, but I think this will not be the case for this Rockies team, who can be contenders by using their great bats. Last season, leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon had a career high 37 HRs. Also, he has the best beard of any leadoff hitter in baseball, so the Rockies do have that going for them. Now, most of his home runs did come at home (24), but it’s not like Denver is getting a new stadium and Denver isn’t changing in elevation. Blackmon will play a key role in the success of this team and he is a great player to watch. The Rockies also debatably have the best third baseman in baseball, Nolan Arenado, who will clean up. Arenado is not only a defensive star, but he is just as valuable a hitter, cranking 37 HRs last year to go with 130 RBIs. Arenado is a likely all-star that will play a significant role in the Rockies pursuing a playoff run. The Rockies will have to make the tough decision at the end of the year on re-signing him, but that shouldn’t be too big of a distraction and he should be a beast. The Rockies also have a good second baseman in DJ LeMahuie. He will not kill you with power, but he is able to get on base consistently. This bodes well as he is projected second in the lineup ahead of Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado. Not too bad to hit in front of, so he should get a ton of Rs. The Rockies have a balanced lineup with a great leadoff hitter in Blackmon and 4-hitter in Arenado. I’m worried about the back end of the order, though. Trevor Story will provide some pop, but his AVG was awful last year hitting only .239, but he did manage a .308 OBP. It will be interesting to see if Ian Desmond hitting 6th will have a bounce-back year after a disappointing season last year. The Rockies have the pieces to make the playoffs this year, but everything will need to go right. The three player core of Blackmon, LeMahieu, and Arenado will need to repeat their success from last season. Is it possible? Yes! But it will all need to happen for this team to have success.

The Rockies didn’t really do anything during the offseason to bolster their starting rotation. The Rockies still lack a true caliber ace, but they are still solid nonetheless.  Jon Gray is the projected number-one starter and for good reason. He was injured for two months last year, but still was able to hold a 3.67 ERA and should anchor this rotation. German Marquez and Kyle Freeland were rookies last year and they made the most out of their opportunities having great seasons. The question is, will they repeat those same stats? Probably not, but I think they can still put up respectable numbers to still have spots in the starting rotation by the end of the season. The Rockies bullpen was able to add Wade Davis and Bryan Shaw while resigning Jake McGee. I think the Rockies will have a nice bullpen, but the Wade Davis signing still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I get it, he had a great season last year, but paying him around the same price as some aces? I can’t get on board.

The Rockies should be a fun team to watch and have potential to make some noise once October comes around.  They have a good 1-4 batting order and a decent rotation to go with a good bullpen, and if Wade Davis can repeat what he did last year, they have a chance. For this to happen everything will need to go right for this team including many players repeating, or outdoing their performances from last year. Realistically, I don’t see Blackmon hitting 37 HRs again, but 30 isn’t out of reach in my eyes. Arenado should be a beast once again and LeMahuie should provide a steady on-base presence. The starting rotation will need to perform at the same level as last season and Gray will need to stay healthy throughout. I predict that the Rockies will go 83-79 barely missing the playoffs.

Predicted Record: 83-79

Player to Watch: Nolan Arenado

Arenado is one of the best third basemen in baseball and there will be no regression this season. He is entering the prime of his career and should contend to hit at least 40 HRs to go with at least 120 RBIs. He is the star of this team, the clean-up hitter, and a defensive stud.  What more can you ask for?

Player to Watch: Brendan Rogers

The Rockies have themselves a fine-up-and-coming SS in Brendan Rogers. In 2016, while playing A ball, he hit 19 HRs and had 73 RBIs to go with a .281 AVG at only 20 years old.  The next year, he tore it up at A+ with an AVG of .387 to go with 12 HRs and 47 RBIs with only 286 plate appearances. He then was promoted to AA and struggled for the most part. He had a .260 AVG and his K% increased. While his patience and getting on base are an issue, there is still time for him to correct this. Also, the Rockies aren’t satisfied with his defensive play at SS, so Rogers is expected to slide into 2nd base. He is expected to get called up during late 2018, or by 2019. I’m not sure who he will replace, but he will find a spot on this team soon.

Categories: 2018 Season Preview, Articles

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