The Rain Delay

Hard-Hitting Baseball Analysis

2016 MLB Team Preview: Colorado Rockies

This is part of my 2016 MLB team preview series. I will preview each team before Opening Day, unveiling teams in reverse order according to my power rankings.

Previous: 30) Braves 29) Phillies 28) Brewers 27) Reds

26. Colorado Rockies

  • 2015 Record: 68-94, 5th in NL West
  • Key Additions: CL Jake McGee, LF Gerardo Parra, SU Jason Motte, MRP Chad Qualls, 1B/3B Mark Reynolds, OF Ryan Raburn
  • Key Losses: OF Corey Dickerson, RP John Axford, C/1B Wilin Rosario

Last July, the Rockies stunned the baseball world, shipping franchise icon Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Jeff Hoffman, Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro, and Jesus Tinoco. After months of incessant Tulowitzki rumors, GM Jeff Bridich finally pulled the lever, and sent a clear message that he was willing to make bold moves to alter the direction of the franchise. Carlos Gonzalez could be the next trade domino to fall, but Bridich is in no hurry. After Gonzalez’s monster 2015 season, Bridich can bide his time and wait for the perfect deal. What Colorado is able to procure for Gonzalez will be crucial in determining the future of the organization.

Projected Line-Up (with 2015 Slash Lines)2016 Colorado Rockies Lineup

Despite losing underrated power hitter Corey Dickerson via trade, scoring runs won’t be a problem for Colorado in 2016. Part of that has to do with playing in the fertile hitting grounds of Coors Field, but there is a lot of firepower in this lineup, starting with Gonzalez and superstar Nolan Arenado. Last year, Arenado and Gonzalez combined to hit a ridiculous 82 home runs, and have shown no signs of mercy to pitchers this spring.

Since I expect Cargo to be dealt at some point this season, I’ll spend my time discussing Arenado, a burgeoning superstar. The only delineation separating Arenado from superstardom at this point is his poor plate patience. Last year, Arenado had a subpar 5.1% walk rate and a middling .325 OBP. It’s understandable why a hitter as potent as Arenado loves to swing the bat, but it would behoove him to draw more walks. Defensively, Arenado is a wizard at the hot corner, blessed with quick reflexes, soft hands, and the ability to make strong throws from awkward positions. If you’re fan of great defense, watch this video below. If you’re not, what are you doing reading a baseball blog?

Fortunately for Colorado, two good hitters will set the table for their two star players, starting with leadoff man Charlie Blackmon. At home, Blackmon is a bona fide superstar, hitting for average, power, and swiping bases with regularity. Away from Coors Field, however, Blackmon hit a mere .238/.300/.395 in 2015. Blackmon hopes to shed his label as a Coors-abetted hitter moving forward. The other table-setter for Colorado, DJ LeMahieu, broke out in a big way last year, hitting a cool .301 with a .358 OBP to boot. Unfortunately for LeMahieu, regression in 2016 seems inevitable. LeMahieu’s career year was buoyed by an unsustainable .362 BABIP. If he can maintain an on-base percentage around .340, however, he will still be a very useful player, as he is one of baseball’s most efficient stolen base artists, swiping 23 bags last year on 26 attempts. Even if Blackmon is unable to hit outside of his home park and LeMahieu regresses, this is still a very sturdy top four in the batting order.

And the fifth guy in the order, Gerardo Parra, could be primed for a big year in a park perfectly tailored to his strengths. Parra, a hitter with speed and gap power, has to be salivating at the thought of playing 81 games in a park that is a doubles and triples bonanza. After being traded to Baltimore, Parra struggled mightily, hurting his value this past offseason. But if he can come anywhere close to rediscovering his first half form, Parra could end up being the steal of the 2015 offseason.

While there’s nothing particularly exciting about 1st baseman Ben Paulsen and catcher Nick Hundley, they are both competent big leaguers with a little pop in their bats. One guy to keep an eye on this year is shortstop Trevor Story, who is seizing the opportunity to be an Opening Day starter in Jose Reyes’s absence. Story is destroying the Cactus League so far this spring, posting a 1.444 OPS in 22 at-bats. While I would never advise placing too much emphasis on Spring Training statistics, Story is clearly a hitter with some ability, and his bat could play very well in Coors Field. If you play fantasy baseball, you should draft him as a late-round sleeper.

Projected Starting Rotation (with 2015 Stats)2016 Colorado Rockies Bullpen

While I’m bullish on Colorado’s run-scoring capabilities, I’m very bearish on their ability to prevent runs. It doesn’t exactly take a clairvoyant to predict this, since pitching has hampered the Rockies for as long as I can remember. While Jorge De La Rosa has been a reliable pitcher for Colorado the last few years, he has no business being an Opening Day starter. Number 2 and 3 starters Chad Bettis and Jordan Lyles don’t offer much intrigue, and frankly appear to have a ceiling no higher than that of a league-average starter.

But the pitchers I want to talk about are Tyler Chatwood and Jon Gray. In 2013, Chatwood was a revelation for Colorado, posting a 3.15 ERA across 111.1 very productive innings. His xFIP was a bit higher at 4.00, perhaps suggesting he was the beneficiary of some good luck. But even if his ERA catches up to his xFIP, his performance would still be palatable for a rotation in dire need of competence. Since 2013, injuries have limited Chatwood to just five starts, but he returns this year hoping to rekindle his 2013 magic.

Jon Gray, the third overall draft pick in the 2013 draft, bookends the rotation. Gray ostensibly has the talent to evolve into a frontline starting pitcher one day, but we have yet to see empirical evidence to suggest this. The Rockies hope Gray takes a big step forward in his first full season at the Major League level. He’s by far the Rockies’ most important starting pitcher since he’s the only one with the potential to emerge into a true difference maker – at least until prospect Jeff Hoffman makes his much-anticipated Major League debut this season.

Projected Bullpen (with 2015 Stats)2016 Colorado Rockies Bullpen

The 2016 Rockies will benefit from the acquisitions of nasty southpaw Jake McGee and hard-throwing set-up man, Jason Motte. Motte doesn’t fan as many batters as his powerful fastball would seem to indicate, but he still represents an upgrade over the litany of ineffective relievers that manned the 8th inning for Colorado last year. Setting up Motte and McGee are a variety of middling veterans. One name to remember is a guy who probably won’t be on the Opening Day roster: Miguel Castro. After raising eyebrows at Blue Jays’ camp last year, Castro surprisingly earned a spot on Toronto’s Opening Day roster. After starting the season as Toronto’s closer, Castro came undone and was sent back to the minors for more seasoning. Even so, his 2015 Spring Training performance underscores the potential he has to become a dominant late-inning reliever. Colorado should be patient with Castro and not call him up until he’s truly ready. But when he is, he could be a weapon out of the bullpen for years to come.


The Rockies will likely struggle in 2015 due to a pitching staff that, once again, is liable to surrender a deluge of runs. Colorado hopes Jon Gray, and eventually Jeff Hoffman, can show promise and give the team some hope for the future. The team will still be fun to watch, however, due to a lineup that will put up crooked numbers from time to time. The Rockies have a bright future with the 6th rated farm system in the league per Baseball America and an ascending superstar in Arenado. Good times are ahead for Colorado if it plays its card right. Just not this year.

Prediction: 5th place, NL West

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