Lots of NFL moves to talk about. Matt Forte retired, the Jets released Muhammad Wilkerson, the Bears released Mike Glennon, and the Panthers released Jonathan Stewart. Forte’s retirement isn’t a huge shock to me, he’s looked pretty much done since joining the Jets after a successful Bears career. We at Wyman’s Sports (which consists of just me) wish Forte well in his future endeavors. Wilkerson’s release is a little surprising to me as he had recently signed a long term deal with the Jets after years of speculation about his eventual departure. Teams will be sure to try and scoop him up because he’s still got plenty left in the tank. Glennon getting released is a little surprising to me just one year after signing with the Bears but with Mitchell Trubisky getting the vote of confidence to be the starter, Glennon’s contract just doesn’t seem feasible to have around. The Panthers releasing the franchise’s all-time leading rusher in Stewart also wasn’t too surprising especially after the team drafted Christian McCaffrey with the 8th overall pick last year. The writing was on the wall for that one. So with that quick update, let’s get to the Colorado Rockies.
Record: 87-75, 17 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, 6 games behind Arizona Diamondbacks for top Wild Card Spot, won 2nd Wild Card Spot, lost to Diamondbacks in NL Wild Card Game
Notable Offseason Additions: CP Wade Davis, RP Bryan Shaw, C Chris Iannetta
Notable Offseason Subtractions: RF Carlos Gonzalez, C Jonathan Lucroy, SP Tyler Chatwood, RP Pat Neshek, CP Greg Holland, 1B Mark Reynolds
Best Offensive Player: CF Charlie Blackmon
Best Pitcher: Jon Gray
C-Chris Iannetta, Tyler Wolters
SS-Trevor Story, Pat Valaika
LF-Ian Desmond, Raimel Tapia
SP-Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, Chad Bettis, Anthony Senzatela, Jeff Hoffman, Kyle Freeland
Bullpen-Wade Davis (CP), Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, Chris Rusin, Scott Oberg
Manager-Bud Black (2nd season with Rockies)
Hitting Coach-Duane Espy
Pitching Coach-Steve Foster
1st Base Coach-Tony Diaz
3rd Base Coach-Stu Cole
Bench Coach-Mike Redmond
The Rockies have been and always will be a great hitting team no matter who’s on the roster and that’s in large part due to the Coors Field effect. For those who live under a rock or minimally follow baseball, Coors Field is located in Denver, Colorado in the Rocky Mountains. The altitude is very high and the air is very thin so the ball is going to travel further. It was an issue that Major League Baseball had for a while when talks of putting a team in Denver were occurring in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s before the Rockies debuted in 1993. Since then, though, they’ve had a plethora of great offensive seasons and 2017 was no different. There were two hitters in their lineup who could have won NL MVP and nobody would’ve bitched about it in Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado. Last season, Blackmon (who was my NL MVP pick) hit .331, slugged .601 with 37 home runs, drove in 104 runs, scored 137 runs, and had a WAR of 6.5. Arenado hit .309, slugged .586, hit 37 home runs, drove in 130 runs, played outstanding defense at third base, and was worth 5.6 WAR. Those guys are the spearheads of an excellent lineup that is expected to look like this.
1. Charlie Blackmon-CF
2. DJ LeMahieu-2B
3. Nolan Arenado-3B
4. Trevor Story-SS
5. Ian Desmond-LF
6. Gerardo Parra-RF
7. Chris Iannetta-C
8. Ryan McMahon-1B
9. Pitcher’s Spot
The one real weak spot in the lineup is first base, as I’ve never heard of Ryan McMahon and he’s only had 19 career at bats but the Rockies can play around with this lineup as there are several guys who are capable of playing multiple positions if need be. Ian Desmond is capable of moving out of left field to play first base and be replaced by Raimel Tapia or, if healthy, David Dahl. Pat Valaika is a guy who can play numerous positions as well. But even if they can’t figure out first base, there’s so much talent in this lineup that those deficiencies can be masked really well. DJ LeMahieu has hit at least .300 in each of the last 3 seasons, including winning the NL Batting Title in 2016 when he hit .348. There’s also shortstop Trevor Story, who was (forgive me) the STORY of the first half of his rookie 2016 season when he hit 27 home runs in just 97 games before an injury prematurely ended his season. Story was fully healthy last season and he hit 24 home runs despite hitting just .239. A lot of that is due in large part to a very high strikeout rate of 34.4%. But when he does get around on one, he can send it a very long way. It also helps that he’s a good defender at a premiere position, as he was worth 11 DRS, which was best amongst NL shortstops, second overall (and WAY behind #1 Andrelton Simmons’ 32 DRS). Arenado was the best defensive third baseman in the Majors with 20 DRS and LeMahieu was worth 8 DRS. So some excellent defense being played by the Rockies infield.
Pitching in Colorado is always a challenge and that’s especially true for Rockies pitchers, who have to pitch in that stadium 81 games a year. If you manage to have an ERA under 4, it’s basically just as good as being sub-3. Jon Gray is easily the most talented pitcher on the staff and he got the nod to start the NL Wild Card game. He had an injury-plagued year, but in 20 starts he went 10-4 with a 3.67 ERA, a 3.18 FIP, and struck out 9.14 batters per 9 innings. He’s probably the only guy that you can really bank on in this rotation. Last season, the only pitcher to pitch enough innings to qualify for the ERA title was German Marquez and he pitched the bare minimum required of 162.0 innings. He pitched to a 4.39 ERA and his FIP was basically the same at 4.40. The feel-good story out of this Rockies’ rotation, though, was Chad Bettis. After being diagnosed with testicular cancer and undergoing chemotherapy in March 2017, Bettis returned to the mound just 5 months later and pitched 7 scoreless innings in his first start back against the Braves while giving up just 6 hits.
There’s a lot of talent in the Rockies’ bullpen. They signed star closer Wade Davis to a 3 year $52M deal, the average annual value of $17.33M being the largest ever for a reliever, to be their closer while also adding former Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. They already had other quality relievers such as Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, and Jake McGee as well. The Coors Field effect still matters to these guys, but there’s no denying that there is some ability there. Davis was absolutely dominant as a closer in Kansas City and he was an All Star in his one season with the Cubs. Shaw was a setup man for the Indians while Ottavino and McGee have closer’s experience. This is definitely one of the more talented bullpens in the National League and under normal circumstances, any late-inning lead the Rockies can get will seem to be pretty safe with this bunch, but again the Coors Field effect brings things into question.
Overall, I’m expecting a bit of a decline for the Rockies. I think they played above their capabilities last season, particularly on the mound. Their pitching staff was 8th in the Majors in WAR and I don’t think that’s going to be sustainable for them especially considering their ballpark and the actual talent they have. They’re going to score a ton of runs, but preventing runs may be an issue. I don’t envision a return trip to the postseason but a winning record is certainly not out of the question. Bud Black is a good manager and I’m sure he will find some way to get the most out of his guys.
Projected Record: 81-81, 4th in NL West
That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow where I discuss the Detroit Tigers, who have officially begun their rebuild after pretty much gutting the entire team around the Trade Deadline last year. Let me know what you think of the Rockies’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.