As we prepare for the 2021 season, Diamond Digest writers will be taking a look at each team’s off-season and previewing the season to come. Today, Ilan takes a look at the Rockies!
I started writing season previews on the Colorado Rockies here in 2018. Back then, our website was barebones, our name was Next Generation Baseball, and our best days were yet to come. In 2018, the Rockies were the up-and-coming team. They had just advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, they had a star third baseman, star shortstop, star center fielder, and a young, strong pitching staff that had multiple Cy Young contenders. I was excited, albeit a little concerned, but there was potential for that Rockies team to have sustained success.
It’s 2021 now, and the Rockies are a different team. Their star third baseman? Gone. Their star shortstop? One foot out the door. The star center fielder? Declining rapidly. The young, strong pitching staff? Mismanaged and regressed. The young, promising Colorado Rockies are gone. Now, we are left with the shell of a talented baseball team in the most powerful division in baseball. The Rockies lie deep in the shadow of the twin behemoth Padres and Dodgers. With all this said, what is there to preview for the 2021 Rockies season? Let us find out:
Record: 26-34, 4th place in NL West
Team MVP: Trevor Story
Team Cy Young: German Marquez
2020 was a very forgettable season for the Rockies. After a strong early start, the team’s floor fell further and further. The Rockies pitching, mainly in the bullpen continued to be a problem and the Rockies had one of the worst offenses in baseball. While the normal top 3 (Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and Trevor Story) produced fairly well, the other offensive players were the worst supporting cast in baseball.
Key losses from 2020: Nolan Arenado, David Dahl, Tony Wolters, Wade Davis
Notable Free Agent Additions: Greg Bird, Dereck Rodriguez, C.J Cron (all MiLB contracts)
Notable Trades: Nolan Arenado to STL for LHP Austin Gomber, 3B Elehuris Montero, RHP Tony Locey, SS Mateo Gil and RHP Jake Sommers.
The Rockies have not signed a major league free agent since December 21st, 2018 when they signed Daniel Murphy. In the 2019-2020 offseason as well as the 2020-21 offseason, the Rockies did not sign a single player to a Major League contract. None of the players listed as notable free-agent additions have any guarantee to be on the 25 man roster come opening day. Greg Bird and C.J Cron are expected to compete for the first baseman job at camp, though both are similar in terms of offensive makeup. Dereck Rodriguez is a strong candidate for the starting rotation, perhaps not opening day but at some point in the season, I expect him to start a game. For a team that has said repeatedly they are committed to winning, the lack of Major League signings tells us, the fans that the team is more preoccupied with cost-cutting than winning. It is like the Tampa Bay Rays without any smart front office members.
2021 Season Preview
- Raimel Tapia (CF)
- Trevor Story (SS)
- Charlie Blackmon (RF)
- Brendan Rogers (2B)
- Josh Fuentes (3B)
- Ryan McMahon (1B)
- Garrett Hampson (LF)
- Elias Diaz (C)
Projected Bench: C.J Cron, Colton Welker, Chris Owings, Dom Nuñez
Projected Rotation: German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray, Antonio Senzatela, Chi Chi Gonzalez
Projected bullpen: Daniel Bard, Scott Oberg, Yency Almonte, Tyler Kinley, Phillip Diehl, Joe Harvey, Robert Stephenson
This was hard to make because there is so little talent on this roster right now, so a lot of things are very fluid. For example, one can easily change the positions each player is starting at – this is honestly a smart idea. Players on the Rockies are very versatile, they can fill in holes where they need to. The issue with the offense is that besides Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon, the players have very little offensive skill so far. While Ryan McMahon has had his moments and Brendan Rodgers is a former top prospect, neither has proven themselves to produce offensively on a consistent basis yet. In this lineup, only one player had a wRC+ over 100 in 2020: Trevor Story.
As for the pitching staff, once again German Marquez put up strong numbers, while Kyle Freeland and Jon Gray look to regain their consistency from past seasons. The bullpen is interesting; Daniel Bard had one of the most remarkable comebacks in recent history, proving to be an effective arm out of the Rockies bullpen. The fact Scott Oberg is playing baseball is miraculous as well, missing all of 2020 due to the thoracic outlet surgery; he is currently throwing and preparing for the 2021 season after being one of the shining lights of the Rockies bullpen in 2018 and 19. Tyler Kinley is an interesting breakout candidate after a decent performance towards the end of the 2020 season. The rest are going to be shuffled to and from AAA as the season progresses, and hopefully one or two will perform decently well over the course of the season. The roster is very bare-bones, with minimal MLB experience and/or not very impressive MLB experience.
FanGraphs: 64.4-97.6, 5th in NL West
PECOTA: 60.3-101.7, 5th in NL West
Personal Projection: 56-105, 5th in NL West
Projecting the Rockies’ win/loss total is always difficult. Coors Field has been a thorn in the sabermetric sides. There are always going to be a few “Cooooors” games: the kind of games that make no sense, where neither team can pitch effectively and the Rockies win 13-12. Though there are a handful of exceptions to the rule, the Rockies really are not good. Simple as that, the Rockies spent this offseason refusing to sign Major League players and adding on to that, trading their best player for a meager return. More than that they are not good, they have to play the Padres and Dodgers regularly. This is a depleted team playing two teams that added drastically in the offseason, which is going to add to their losses drastically.
To go more in-depth, the Rockies had a .307 wOBA in 2020, which was a bottom 10 wOBA in baseball. Compare this to the 2018 playoff-bound Rockies, who had a .325 wOBA and were a top 10 wOBA team in baseball. The steep drop-off from being one of the strongest offensive teams in baseball to one of the weakest is the key factor in the recent downfall of Colorado. In 2018, the bullpen was weak and the rotation was not consistent, but they could hit the baseball well, which covered many of the other issues with the team. In 2021, many of the key offensive players have left or are not producing. This is not a team capable of contention, which is not a hot take for most.
The Rockies have never lost 100 games, even when they were explicitly rebuilding. This is a team that was allegedly built to compete, at least in the eyes of the Rockies front office. They expect the Rockies to be in contention for a playoff spot, alongside the Padres and the Dodgers. This is delusional; Jeff Bridich and Dick Monfort are living in a completely different reality than the one the rest of us are in. No successful team gets projected to lose over 100 games. No successful team trades their most prominent and important player and continues to enjoy that same success.
Colorado has returned to the basement, the same place they were from 2011-2016 and 1998-2006. The team has repeatedly squandered some of the best talents the sport has ever seen – Larry Walker, Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, and now Nolan Arenado spent their careers in an environment where winning was an afterthought. After 2 years of success, it felt like the wait was finally over. There was a team with hope, potential, and growth. Then, the floor fell from beneath their feet. The indifference to winning is what caused the Rockies’ sharp fall from grace.
Colorado, and the Rocky Mountains region, is an area that loves baseball. But, even a region with such a strong love for the sport can only stomach so much. This offseason showed the complete scope of the Rockies’ front office’s negligence. The Rockies fanbase is rightfully angry; people have lost their love for the Rockies. Something needs to change before this team falls deeper into obscurity, only to be brought up when someone needs a punchline. Rockies fans, Rockies players, and the community built by both deserve better.