Three positions the Colorado Rockies must improve at this offseason
Oct 31, 2022, 5:21 PM | Updated: 5:33 pm
The Colorado Rockies are looking to rebound from a 68-win season; their goal—as always—is to rebuild quickly into constant competitiveness.
But the Rockies are far from their goal. A fun season full of youth, stars, and a .500 record would be a huge step in the right direction—one the club should be targeting. This offseason could be a huge opportunity to flip some veterans who likely won’t be around anyway the next time the Rockies are a playoff team, sign some multi-year contributors, and develop young players.
Where do the Rockies as a whole need to get better organizationally? There are a few positions Colorado should be targeting to get better at both for next season and into the future. Here are the three biggest spots the Rockies need to address this winter:
Oh, look, another story about how the Rockies need better pitching… well, they do. But here’s the thing, it’s actually a decent staff. Colorado is more of a middle-of-the-road pitching team than a bottom-tier one. But consider this: Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, Yency Almonte, and a few others all had good years pitching for other teams. The Rockies have cut bait from a few pitchers in recent times that have performed well elsewhere without replacing them. Pitching powered Colorado’s 2017 and 2018 playoff runs, and it will their next chance to dance too.
The Rockies will return both German Marquez and Kyle Freeland, who are signed on long-term deals and had decent 2022 seasons. While two valuable bullpen arms should return, led by one of baseball’s best relievers last season Daniel Bard and the mostly injured Tyler Kinley. Like Kinley, the Rockies should get back Antonio Senzatela at some point in 2023, who was also lost for the last half of 2022 to injury.
That’s a solid start, but Colorado still lacks a big-time No. 1, most of the bridge in the bullpen to get to Bard, a left-handed reliever, and likely two other strong starters.
Colorado’s 5.08 staff ERA was the worst in baseball a season ago. Marquez was tied for 22nd in baseball with 181.2 innings pitched with a 5.00 ERA. No other player in baseball threw 174 innings or more with an ERA above 5. In fact, only three pitchers in baseball threw that much with an ERA above 4.5; one of them was Kyle Freeland. The third was a Red Sox.
Pushing Marquez and Freeland one spot down the order will not be enough. They’ll need to find a fourth and fifth starter. Maybe Senzatela can be that once he’s healthy. He’s usually a serviceable pitcher. But after those three, Chad Khul and Ryan Feltner mostly struggled in their about 20 starts each. Either is acceptable as a sixth starter or longman. Both Jose Urena and Austin Gomber had moments in about 15 starts each, but neither has been more than the fifth or sixth starter in their career’s performance.
Meanwhile, Colorado will likely have to replace Carlos Estevez, who can walk and was the team’s third-best bullpen arm. The Rockies alright bullpen mainly was made that way because Bard was so stellar. They need to shore up the spots around him. Adding some of the previously mentioned names into the bullpen full-time would help. Gomber could make for an excellent left-handed late-game reliever if the club is willing to give up on the star of the Nolan Arenado trade package.
Never in franchise history have the Rockies had great catching. Backstop is the only place on the diamond where the Rockies have never fielded an All-Star. Miguel Olivo, Tony Wolters, Jeff Reed, Chris Iannetta and Elias Diaz are responsible for the five best seasons at catcher in Rockies history. None of them cracked 2.5 fWAR. About a 3 fWAR is the sign of a “good starter” at any given position on the field. So never in 30 years have the Rockies had a plus catcher.
Diaz is still on roster, and he’s actually not very good. He followed his 1.6 fWAR 2021 season, ranking him on the above list, with a -1.4 fWAR 2022 season. Or, in other terms, he had a decent season followed by what Fangraphs ranks as the worst performance among all hitters in baseball who played over 100 games in 2022 outside of the stat-chasing Hall of Fame-bound Miguel Cabrera.
Diaz is also 31 years old, and it’s unlikely he or the at/below Mendoza Line Brian Serven or Dom Nunez are the long-term solutions at the spot.
One of the Rockies top prospects is actually a catcher, and he’s a rare switch-hitting backstop. Drew Romo, 20, slashed .254/.321/.372 last season in 101 games in the minors. But it was High-A, and he’s likely at least two years from his big league debut. Even so, the questions are primarily about his bat, not his glove. So it could take some time for Romo to become a true starter in the show.
The Rockies as a whole combined for a 0.7 fWAR in the outfield last season, compared to Aaron Judge’s historic season just for fun which was 11.4 fWAR—that’s the 18th-best season from a position player in baseball history. Judge is a free agent if the Rockies are looking for a quick and very expensive fix.
Kris Bryant being injured for most of the 2022 season certainly hurt the Rockies, and his return will immediately fix one of the three outfield spots.
Once called up at the end of the season, Sean Bouchard was a bright spot. The 26-year-old could very well be a part of the Rockies future. But he played Bryant’s left field for the entire month he was in the bigs. Bryant has played third base, first base, centerfield, and other spots before if the Rockies truly like Bouchard in left.
Charlie Blackmon spent over half his season DH’ing and is likely to do so for the rest of his career in an increased capacity.
The Rockies have one more season of Randal Grichuk if they want it, though he was pretty bad. Both Yonathan Daza and Connor Joe are OK to keep around but aren’t starters. Utility man Garrett Hampson could also shift to the grass, but he’s coming off a rough 2022 season.
So the Rockies will need to add at least one, but likely two, starting outfielders if they hope to win next season.
The future of the club is in the outfield. Top prospect Zac Veen could make his debut at some point in 2022. The 20-year-old corner outfielder made it to Double-A this past season, and some say he’s one of the sport’s future stars. So a one-year stopgap, which could be the veteran Grichuk, and a big pickup could solidify the Rockies outfield quickly and into a strong unit.