The Rockies have had a losing season in 18 of their 24 years in the league including the last six seasons. They missed the playoff in each of their last seven years. Colorado returned to the top of the league in runs scored (845), which was an improvement of 108 runs from 2015 (737). They ranked 3rd in the National League in home runs (204). The Rockies allowed over 815 runs four times over the five seasons. They’ve regressed in three straight seasons leading to 860 runs allowed in 2016. Colorado finished 13th in the NL in ERA (4.91). They had the worst bullpen ERA (5.13 ERA) in the majors with 22 wins, 29 losses, and 37 saves.
In the offseason, the Rockies lost C Nick Hundley, IF Daniel Descalso, OF Ryan Raburn, SP Jorge De La Rosa, and RP Boone Logan to free agency. They signed OF Ian Desmond, RP Greg Holland, RP Mike Dunn, and IF Alexi Amarista. Their only trade involved sending SP Eddie Butler to the Cubs for RP James Farris.
Their offense should rank highly again 2017 with six players offering the ability to hit more than 20 home runs. OF David Dahl will be an intriguing upside side player and C Tom Murphy will offer power from behind the plate.
The starting rotation looks to have three serviceable arms – Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, and Tyler Anderson. Unless RP Greg Holland regains his previous form, the bullpen will have plenty of downside risk at times during the year.
A step over .500 would be a move in the right direction. Colorado lacks the pitching staff to be a contender in the NL West. Their first goal should be beating the Padres and Diamondbacks.
1. OF Charlie Blackmon
Blackmon suffered a turf toe injury in April leading to a couple of weeks on the DL. He barely ran over the first three months (six steals in nine attempts) with a slight improved over the second half of the season (11-for-17). Charlie offset his lower production in speed (17 steals) with a nice jump in power (29 HRs). His AVH (1.7096) was a career high while improving in each of the last four years in the majors. He hit over .300 in each of the previous five months (May – .316, June – .311, July – .303, August – .360, and September – .354). Blackmon flashed more power in May and June (12 HRs and 39 RBI) with even higher success in August and September (.357 with 17 HRs, 38 RBI, and four SBs over 210 at bats). His success in power wasn’t a home park edge as he hits 17 of his HRs on the road. His swing was productive against both RH (.320) and LH (.331) pitching. His K rate (15.9) and walk rate (6.7) fell in line with 2015. Charlie had growth in his line drive rate (27.8), which was the key to his success in batting average. He had a career-high HR/FB rate (16.2). Late in the 2016 season, Blackmon battled a back issue. An impressive leadoff hitter who plays in the highest scoring ballpark in the majors. His RBI rate (18) and growth in HRs suggests he should be moved third in the batting order. All the making of a plus five category player especially if he combined his 2015 success in speed (43 SBs) with his rise in power (29 HRs) in 2016. Possible 30/30 season with 100+ runs and 80+ RBI with an edge in batting average.
2. 2B D. J. LeMahieu
LeMahieu had a huge CTBA (.407) with growth in his K rate (12.6 – 16.0 in his career). This combo led to him winning the National League batting title while setting a career high in his walk rate (10.4). His jump in on-base percentage (.416) points him hitting second in the batting order. D.J. hit .341 in May and June while pushing his game to another leave in August (.439 with four HRs and 16 RBI over 98 at bats). His swing had value against both RH (.354) and LH (.331) pitching. LeMahieu is a ground ball hitter (50.6) with two straight years of improvement. His HR/FB rate (10.2) was a career high while gaining value in the last three years. A Fantasy owner now needs to decide between fact or fiction. There’s no doubt he’s a much better player than he was a couple of years ago. His CTBA (.407) doesn’t seem repeatable. I won’t fight for him, but I do believe there is too much good in his trend to ignore. I expect him to hit over .300 with 100+ runs, 15+ HRs, 70+ RBI, and 15+ SBs.
3. 3B Nolan Arenado
Nolan led the NL in HRs (41), RBI (133), and total bases (352) in back-to-back seasons. His K rate (14.8) improved over 2015 (16.5) with a nice step forward in his walk rate (9.8). Arenado had two months with 10 HRs (April – 10/22 and August – 10/36). His bat had much more value at home (.312 with 25 HRs and 85 RBI over 342 at bats). He did struggle in July (.228 with five HRs and 14 RBI). Nolan pounded RH pitching (.304 with 32 HRs and 110 RBI over 457 at bats) with similar power vs. lefties (.267 with nine HRs and 23 RBI over 161 at bats). His swing path continues to change to create more fly balls (46.7 percent in 2016) with some regression in his HR/FB rate (16.8). Special player who continues to improve. His upper cut swing does restrict some of the upside of his batting average. With a great RBI rate (21) and a high AVH (1.934), do we just pencil him in for a .300/40/120 season again in 2017? With no negative news, Arenado looks like a foundation player who I expected to win a batting title in the next future.
4. OF Carlos Gonzalez
It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Rockies transition Gonzalez to first base in 2017. He stayed relatively healthy in the last two seasons. Carlos had a higher CTBA (.382), but his AVH (1.695) was much lower than his previous three seasons (2013 – 1.958, 2014 – 1.806, and 2015 – 1.993). His K rate (20.4) has been better than career average (22.0) in the last two years while his walk rate (7.3) failed to match his previous success. Gonzalez hit better vs. RH pitching (.309 with 15 HRs and 60 RBI over 408 at bats) with more power against lefties (.273 with 10 HRs and 40 RBI over 176 at bats). Over the first half of the year, he hit .329 with 18 HRs and 51 RBI. His swing lost value over the last three months of the seasons (.266 with seven HRs and 49 RBI over 286 at bats). He suffered a left ankle injury in early August, which may have been the reason for his drop in power. Carlos hit fewer fly balls (32.5), which was the third straight year of progression. His HR/FB rate (16.9) came in below career average (19.3) for the second time in three seasons. Professional hitter who has a 30+ HR swing with the ability to help in three other categories (runs, RBI, and BA). Any steals would just be a bonus. Something like 90 runs, 30 HRs, and 100+ RBI with a .290 batting average seems like a reasonable conclusion.
5. OF Ian Desmond
I’m so happy Desmond came through with a strong season 2016 after only being able to find a one-year deal with Rangers. The Rockies signed him to a five-year $70 million contract in December. Ian enters 2017 with only an outfield qualification while he’s expected to play multiple positions this season. His K rate (23.6) was much better than his two previous years (2014 – 28.2 and 2015 – 29.2) with a career average walk rate (6.5). Desmond had the most success against lefties (.338 with six HRs and 26 RBI over 142 at bats). He built up his 2016 resume with two strong months in May and June (.351 with 11 HRs, 41 RBI, and 10 SBs over 228 at bats). Ian lost his power swing over the last two months of the seasons (.249 with two HRs, 23 RBI, and four SBs over 213 at bats). His bat was much better at home (.330 with 10 HRs and 53 RBI) with about the same production in HRs (12) on the road. This probably bodes well for his value in Colorado. Despite having 20+ HRs in four of his last five seasons, his swing path has delivered too many ground balls of the last three seasons (2014 – 50.1, 2015 – 53.4, and 2016 – 53.4). During this period, Desmond a HR/FB rate of 18.2 three times. In 2016, he had 450 of his at bats hitting second in the batting order (.307 with 14 HRs, 61 RBI, and 14 SBs). A neutral hitter with a solid floor of 20+ HRs and 20+ SBs with move upside in this offense. I just hope he doesn’t get soft after getting paid.
6. SS Trevor Story
Over five seasons in the minors, Story hit .263 with 70 HRs, 284 RBI, and 96 SBs over 2061 at bats. In 2015 between AA and AAA, Trevor hit .279 with 20 HRs, 80 RBI, and 22 SBs in 512 at bats. His K rate (26.8) in the minors invites batting average risk while showing the ability to a walk (10.3 percent). His power came quickly in April (.261 with 10 HRs and 20 RBI over 92 at bats). He struck out 34.1 percent of the time over this period. Story played well over the last two months (.270 with nine HRs and 30 RBI over 200 at bats). Just when Fantasy owners felt Trevor was about to fade, he bashed another eight HRs with 22 RBI in July. His K rate came in at 31.3 percent with a league average walk rate (8.4). Story was a fly ball hitter (47.1 percent) in his first year in the league. His season ended in July after tearing a ligament in his left thumb. His AVH (2.089) ranked with the best power hitters in the game while having a slightly lower bar in his minor-league career. He’s been able to neutralize some of his batting average risk due to an elite CTBA (.417). Story played better at home (.313 with 16 HRs and 40 RBI over 176 at bats) while still showcasing power on the road (.235 with 11 HRs and 32 RBI over 196 at bats). In a way, his approach reminds me of George Springer. With this thought process, Trevor could hit second in the order. Last year wasn’t a fluke. He is going to hit the ball hard with power. He’ll bat between .250 and .270 with regression in his CTBA. 30+ HRs and 20+ SBs is well within reach while adding value in runs and RBI.
7. OF David Dahl
Over five years in the minors Dahl hit .310 with 47 HRs, 205 RBI, and 74 SBs over 1494 at bats. This paints him as a 15/25 hitter to start his career. His K rate (19.7) looks about league average with a below par walk rate (6.6). The Rockies called him up in late July, and he responded with a hot bat for five weeks (.333 with 33 runs, five HRs, 17 RBI, and five SBs over 138 at bats). David hit .286 in September with two HRs and seven RBI over 84 at bats. He had almost equal success against righties (.316) and lefties (.313) while all of his home runs (7) were hit off of RH pitchers (.534 SLG). He did have more strikeouts (24.9 percent). I’d like to see him grab the leadoff spot in the batting order, but his approach just is ready. His AVH (1.586) showed more strength in the minors so 20+ HRs in Colorado should be in reach. I like his upside, and he did have a high CTBA in AAA (.433) and the majors (.429) in 2016. All the making for a .300/20/80/20 hitter in his first year in the league with chance to produce more upside in all areas.
8. C Tom Murphy
Over five seasons in the minors, Murphy hit .282 with 72 HRs, 258 RBI, and 11 SBs over 1360 at bats. His 2016 season started with him being on the DL due to a strained oblique. He struck out 25.3 percent of the time in the minors with a slightly below league average walk rate (7.4). He’s had a huge AVH (2.417 in the majors in 2016) over the last four seasons that projects to 30 HRs with 500 at bats. Tom also had a huge CTBA at AAA (.444) and in the majors (.480) in 2016, which was well above his two previous two years. His success in power (19 HRs) in 2016 was repeated over 44 at bats in the majors (5), but he did strikeout 38.8 percent of the time. As great as he appears, he’s an older prospect playing against younger players. Murphy has 20+ HR power in his first season in the majors, but he will have batting average risk. C2 in deep leagues with a Mike Zunino type outcome in the majors.
9. OF Gerardo Parra
It took one season for the Rockies to see Parra is a fourth outfielder in the majors. His CTBA (.315) fell below his 2013 (.321) and 2014 (.322) level with a slight uptick in his AVH (1.581). Gerardo has his highest K rate (19.2) since 2010 while his walk rate (2.4) almost fell off the stat sheet. Over the first two months of the season, he hit .280 with four HRs, 25 RBI, and five SBs over 200 at bats. Parra suffered a left ankle injury in June leading to seven weeks on the DL. Over his last three months of the season played, he hit .220 with three HRs, 14 RBI, and one SB over 168 at bats. Gerardo has a high ground ball rate (54.6) while his HR/FB rate (9.2) has been over his career average (7.9) for the last six seasons. Possible 15/15 skill set with 550 at bats, but Dahl has stolen his opportunity.
C Tony Wolters – The Rockies gave Wolters 205 at bats in the majors in 2016 leading to boring results (.259 with three HRs, 30 RBI, and four SBs). Over seven years in the minors, Tony hit .258 with 15 HRs, 166 RBI, and 35 SBs over 1648 at bats. A low-value backup catcher with some underlying speed.
IF Alexi Amarista – The window for Amarista to get reasonable at bats in the majors is over. Over six seasons in the majors, he hit .230 with 18 HRs, 150 RBI, and 38 SBs over 1582 at bats. This year he’ll be the utility infielder.
1B Mark Reynolds – When Ian Desmond signed to a contract, Reynolds was squeezed out of a chance to get semi-regular at bats. The Rockies signed him to a minor-league deal in early February. In 2016, he hit .282 with 14 HRs and 53 RBI over 393 at bats. Mark had his lowest K rate (25.4) of his career with some upside in his walk rate (9.5). Only an insurance policy with no draftable value.
OF Jordan Patterson – Over four seasons in the minors, Jordan hit .290 with 55 HRs, 239 RBI, and 63 SBs over 1574 at bats. His K rate (22.1) and walk rate (7.8) both rank just below the league average. Patterson had 427 at bats at AAA (.293 with 14 HRs, 61 RBI, and 10 SBs) so he’s close to being in the majors. Possible 20/20 skill set with more development.
1. SP Jonathan Gray
Gray flashed upside early in his minor league (4-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 51 Ks over 37.1 innings in 2013), but his arm came up short at AA (10-5 with a 3.91 ERA and 113 Ks over 124.1 innings) and AAA (4.33 ERA with 110 Ks over 114.1 innings). Jon had strength in his K rate (9.9) in his first full season in the majors while still showing weakness in his walk rate (3.2). He pitched poorly in his first two starts of the year (11 runs and 19 base runners over 8.2 innings) while delivering a disaster outing on May 19th (nine runs and 11 base runners over 3.1 innings). In his other eight starts in May and over the first half of June, Gray allowed two runs or fewer in each game (2.20 ERA with 57 Ks over 53.1 innings). He pitched well in June and his first start in July (1.64 ERA with 37 Ks over 38.1 innings). Over the last two months of the season, Jon allowed four runs or more in seven of his last starts. His AFB (96.0) was elite, but batters hit .300 against it with 11 HRs over 287 at bats. He has a plus slider (.180 BAA) and a winning curveball (.200 BAA). Gray even has a changeup of value (.244 BAA) at times. If he pitched in any other city, he would be much more attractive. Ace upside once he figures out how to throw more strikes, but his disaster ability does lower his ceiling. Possible 15 wins with a sub 3.75 ERA and 200+ Ks.
2. SP Chad Gettis
If this resume can win 14 games, Gray could win 20 games in 2017. Bettis allowed three runs or fewer in 21 of his 32 starts. He allowed five runs or more in seven games. His K rate (6.7) faded in 2016 even with a low walk rate (2.9). Chad had plenty of risk vs. RH batters (.297 with 17 HRs over 374 at bats - .508 SLG). He had three months of value (April – 3.77 ERA, July – 3.55 ERA, and September – 3.03 ERA) and three months with poor stats (May – 7.02 ERA, July – 6.84, and August (5.19 ERA). His AFB (92.8) has declined in each year in the majors. Bettis throw an upside changeup (.202 BAA) and solid curveball (.208 BAA). Batters crushed his four-seam fastball (.325 and .510 SLG). Over five years in the minors, he had 27-16 record with a 2.97 ERA and 400 Ks over 397.1 innings. More of a double start gamble than a full season ride. His minor resume suggests there’s more here than meets the eye. Again, pitching in Colorado does invite disaster risk. Chad needs to locate his fastball better in the strike zone especially against RH batters.
3. SP Tyler Anderson
Over four seasons in the minors, Anderson went 25-12 with a 2.38 ERA and 293 Ks over 358.2 innings. He missed all of the 2015 season with a left elbow injury (stress fracture) that didn’t require surgery. This same issue cut short his 2013 season. Last year Tyler started the year on the DL with an oblique issue. His quick success at AA and AAA (2.00 ERA with 24 Ks over 27 innings) led to his call-up to the majors. He had an ERA under 4.00 in each month with his best success coming in June (2.66 ERA with 24 Ks over 23.2 innings). His stuff had risk against RH batters (.281 with 12 HRs over 335 at bats). His AFB (92.0) was just below the league average. He didn’t have one pitch that offered plus value. Former first round draft pick with a low walk rate (2.2). Looks like a gamer while lacking a difference maker pitch. His success will fall on his ability to throw strikes.
4. SP Tyler Chatwood
Chatwood still walks too many batters (4.0) with a low K rate (6.7), but he still had success getting batters out (.250). His approach was slightly better against righties (.242 BAA). Tyler went 8-1 on the road with a 1.69 ERA, 1.113 WHIP, and 61 Ks over 80 innings. He allowed more than triple the runs (53) at home leading to a 6.12 ERA and 1.641 WHIP. Over his first ten starts, Chatwood went 6-3 with a 2.69 ERA with 39 Ks over 63.2 innings. He had an ERA over 4.40 over every other month of the season. His AFB (93.2) was a career low. Tyler throws a slider as his best pitch (.203 BAA). He continues to induce a high number of ground balls (57.2 percent). I can’t get a handle on a soft tosser with command issues. On the positive side, most of his mistake end up on the ground. If he threw more strikes, his value could continue to improve.
5. SP Jeff Hoffman
The Blue Jays drafted Hoffman first overall in the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft. Over two seasons in the minors, Jeff went 11-14 with a 3.56 ERA and 199 Ks over 222 innings. His walk rate (2.9) is close to being major league ready, but it did regress at AAA (3.3). In his eight appearances in the majors, Hoffman walked 4.9 batters per nine with a short K rate (6.3). He has a plus fastball (95.3) that has high 90s upside. His curveball projects as a plus pitch while also offering a developing changeup. Live arm that may need more time to develop.
6. SP German Marquez
The Rockies had no problem pushing German’s innings (187.2) at age 21. Over five years in the minors, he had a 3.63 ERA and 421 Ks over 491.1 innings. Marquez throws strikes (2.5 walks per nine) with an improving K rate (8.4). He pitched well in two of his three starts in September (three runs and 12 base runners over 11 innings with 10 Ks). In his bad outing, German allowed six runs and 12 base runners over 4.1 innings. His AFB (94.5) has strength. His curveball and changeup are developing while his fastball is gaining velocity. Not an elite prospect, but a hard thrower with developing talent.
7. SP Antonio Senzatela
Over five seasons in the minors, Antonio went 41-19 with a 2.44 ERA and 360 Ks in 489 innings. His walk rate (2.0) has been an asset in each season, but his K rate (6.6) tends to fall short of expectations. He did have growth in strikeouts in 2015 at High A (8.4 per 9). Last season a right shoulder injury led to only seven starts (1.82 ERA). Senzatela throws a mid-90s fastball and a changeup with upside. His slider has the potential to be an above-average pitch while also developing a curveball. This season Antonio will start the year at AAA. His competition and opportunity in 2017 will be much tougher plus he needs to get healthy.
8. CL Adam Ottavino
Adam missed the start of the 2016 season due to TJ surgery in May of 2015. He returned to the majors on July 5th while proceeding to throw 16.1 shutout innings with 17 Ks. This led to him earning the closing job in mid-August. Other than one disaster outing on August 31st (five runs and five baserunners over one inning), Ottavino had a successful return (7-for-9 in save chances when pitching as closer with a 2.67 ERA). He dominated righties (.156) with great command (one walk and 26 Ks in 59 at bats). His arm had less value against LH batter (.256 with six walks and nine Ks over 39 at bats). Even with a huge groundball rate (61.9), Adam did have some disaster risk based on his HR/FB rate (23.1). His AVB (95.2) was above his major-league resume. His best pitch was a slider (.100 BAA) while batters struggled to hit a four-seam fastball (.217). In his career, Ottavino has 11 saves in the majors. With Greg Holland added to the roster, he’ll have a short window to keep the job if he starts to struggle. His weakness against lefties (.311 in his career) could be his Achilles heel. Only a flier with insurance being a must.
9. RP Greg Holland
Holland missed all of the 2016 season due to TJ surgery just after the 2015 season. He’ll have a full 18 months to regain his previous form. There wasn’t a lot of fight for his arm in the offseason due to concerns with a shorter fastball. The Rockies signed him to a one-year deal for $6 million with a vesting option of $15 million in 2018 if he pitches 50 games or finishes 30 games. If he fails, Colorado will owe him another million. From 2012 to 2015, Greg converted 141 of 155 save chances while showing growth in his command and K ability in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, his elbow wasn’t right leading to the worst walk rate (5.5) of his career. When at his best, Holland has a fastball that sits about 96 with a plus slider (.130 BAA in his career). If he regains his command and fastball, Greg will be the closer for Colorado in 2017. Keep a close ear to spring training as he could be undervalued in the early draft season.
10. RP Jake McGee
McGee threw the most first strikes (66.0 percent) of his career, but he had a huge step back in his walk rate (3.2). His AFB (94.0) was well below his best two seasons (2013 – 97.3 and 2014 – 97.4) and 1.6 mph lower than 2015 (95.6). The tell should have come from the fade in his fastball in September of 2015 (93.8). Jake struggled in April (7.04 ERA) with some correction in May (1.50 ERA). He landed on the DL in June with a left knee issue. After the All-Star break, McGee had a 3.05 ERA while allowing too many hits (24 over 20.2 innings). On the year, he allowed nine HRs over 45.2 innings. His stuff had losing value against both righties (.303) and lefties (.297). Jake relies on his fastball more than 85 percent of the time so he doesn’t have a fall back option if he starts losing velocity. Back to being a lefty specialist with some closing experience. His pitches need to regain life in the strike zone.
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