Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.
Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.
With the performances from Connor Joe, Brendan Rodgers and C.J. Cron this year, will the Rockies have only one bat they’ll need to replace when Trevor Story leaves? Between the starters and the rest of the lineup, I feel like the future could be bright.
— Merritt, Kearney, Neb.
Merritt, I hope I understand the gist of your question. I think the Rockies are going to need to do more than just replace Story.
Cron comes the closest to filling Story’s shoes (we’re talking about Story in his normal years, not this down cycle). But remember, Cron is also scheduled to become a free agent and there are no guarantees Colorado will be able to re-sign him. With the designated hitter likely to come to the National League in 2020, Cron will be a hot commodity. The Rockies will try to keep him but it’s not a slam dunk.
Joe and Rodgers have been impressive, and so has catcher Elias Diaz. That’s a good step toward the future and there is some promise on the horizon. But the offense still needs an upgrade and the bullpen is a crapshoot.
I’d like to be wrong, but I’m skeptical that the Rockies can build a lineup and a bullpen to pair with the current starting rotation during this window of opportunity. We’ll see if owner Dick Monfort and front office can make a few bold moves to take advantage of the window.
Patrick, this Rockies team feels like it’s a power hitter or two, plus a revamped bullpen away from being a playoff team again. The rotation is perhaps the best we’ve ever had and the team speed is great if we can just drive them home. What do you think needs to happen to get these guys back to the playoffs next year?
— Garrett, Denver
Garrett, I addressed this issue in the previous question. But you’re right, this rotation has a chance to be the best ever — if it’s not already. Right now, it lacks quality depth, so if a starter or two gets hurt, the team is in trouble. And if the Rockies fail to re-sign Jon Gray, that’s another hole to fill.
The good news is that lefty Ryan Rolison and right-hander Peter Lambert (returning from Tommy John surgery) are about ready to join the rotation. There are still going to be growing pains, but they do hold promise.
To reiterate, I believe the Rockies need to acquire a power-hitting outfielder and/or DH and find a way to get at least two veteran relievers.
Realizing there are roughly six weeks left in the season, and things can change depending on off-season acquisitions, what role, if any, do you see for Garrett Hampson in 2022? Starting middle infielder, with Brendan Rodgers playing the other position? Starting center fielder? Utility man? Used in a trade? None of the above? I ask because I like the way Hampson plays and think he adds a dimension to the offense with his speed.
— Dave, Fort Collins
Dave, that’s an excellent question. I’m sure the Rockies are going to be discussing Hampson’s role over the coming months.
Hampson, in my opinion, is frustrated by his scattered playing time and lack of a defined role. But the truth is, he hasn’t performed well enough to take ownership of center field. He slashed .260/.310/.440 in his first 76 games through July 2 but has slashed .185/.248/.259 over his last 40 games.
Ideally, the Rockies want Sam Hilliard to be their starter in center, but unless he cuts down on his strikeouts, that’s not going to happen. This leads me to believe that the Rockies’ main goal in the offseason is to sign an outfielder who has some power.
Where does that leave Hampson? If Rodgers becomes the starting shortstop after Trevor Story leaves via free agency, I could see Hampson getting a shot to be the starter at second base. But as you mentioned, offseason moves could change the landscape. Bottom line: Right now, Hampson profiles as Colorado’s top utility player.
With the upcoming Rockies’ general manager search, will they be required by Major League Baseball to conduct a full search? If not for the GM position, will it be a requirement for them to do so for the open amateur scouting (if Schmidt is GM) and director of player development openings? I would really like to see the Rockies add from outside the organization in some way to show that not every department will be status quo.
— Bobby, Grand Junction
Bobby, I touched on this topic in last week’s mailbag. The basic answer to your question is, yes, the Rockies will be required to conduct a search. MLB requires teams to consider female or minority candidates “for all general manager, assistant general manager, field manager, director of player development and director of scouting positions.”
While I believe that Schmidt will land the permanent GM job, I imagine there will be some new blood in the front office. I also believe that would be a good thing. Plus, there are a number of jobs that need to be filled and an analytics department that needs to be beefed up and reconfigured.
Hi Patrick, love your mailbag. I know there has been a lot of head-scratching this season over the Rockies’ huge hitting splits between home and away games. There’s always been a big difference between batting averages at Coors and on the road of course, but this year it’s almost unbelievable.
I also now remember that MLB changed the baseballs slightly in 2021. So I’m just wondering, has there been any discussion or analysis done on how the new baseballs move at altitude compared to at/near sea level? Is it possible there is even less movement from the new balls at altitude, thus making the movement difference between 5,280 feet and sea level even greater than previously?
— David, Los Lunas, N.M.
David, I asked around on this and nobody I talked to believes the “new baseballs” are acting any differently than in the past at Coors Field vs. on the road. In other words, the difference in movement at altitude vs. sea level remains the same.
With the Rockies’ continuing inability to hit on the road, I’m wondering if they should be looking at, for lack of a better term, “professional hitters.” That is, guys who are patient at the plate, willing to work deep into the count, and consider a well-timed single or double as much a success as a home run. Think Tony Gwynn as a model. I know that type of hitter is out of favor these days, but building the team around mashers has been generally unsustainable. After all, “Moneyball” was really about identifying and exploiting inefficiencies in the market. Your thoughts?
— Dave G., Fort Collins
Dave, that’s a great question, but I think you sort of answered it yourself when you said “that type of hitter is out of favor these days.”
I wrote a story for Tuesday’s Denver Post about the Rockies’ “power outage.” In that article, manager Bud Black said: “I do know that power plays, and teams that have had successful seasons, in this day and age, need the home run.”
I’d like to think that baseball will move away from the so-called three true outcomes: strikeouts, walks and homers. We do see a few players flying in the face of baseball’s current trend. The Angels’ David Fletcher comes to mind.
But the truth is, “professional hitters” are really difficult to find during an era when pitchers are throwing 95-100 mph fastballs and wicked breaking stuff. The Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon is a “professional hitter,” even though he’s no longer a consistent slugger.
This year’s Chicago White Sox are not a great power-hitter team. Their 147 homers rank 11th in the American League, but they are probably the best team in the AL. They do some of the things you’re talking about.
Source: Read Full Article