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2018 MLB preview: Colorado Rockies

2018 Colorado Rockies preview

2017: 87-75 (third place in the NL West)

Last postseason appearance: 2017

Last World Series title: NEVER WON A WORLD SERIES TITLE

2017 Recap

In Bud Black’s first season as manager of the Colorado Rockies, the 2010 Manager of the Year coached his team to 87 wins and earned a spot in the NL Wild Card Game. Although they lost the game to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado had a very successful season.

The Rockies offense absolutely took advantage of playing 82 games at Coors Field, which, at 5,200 feet above sea level, is the highest park in the majors. The high elevation, mixed with the low air density, led to Colorado finishing first in the NL in hits, runs, batting average and on-base percentage and second in OPS.

2018 Colorado Rockies preview
Arenado and Blackmon finished fourth and fifth in NL MVP voting. (Photo from 104.3 The Fan)

Colorado was fortunate to have both Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, two of the best players in the league. Arenado, who finished fourth in NL MVP, had his third-straight season with at least a .285 batting average, 35 home runs, 130 RBIs and 350 total bases. To put that into perspective, Hank Aaron did this twice in his career, while Barry Bonds did this just once (2001).

Arenado ranked second in RBIs, third in total bases and extra-base hits, sixth in defensive WAR and SLG, seventh in overall WAR, doubles and triples, eighth in OPS and 10th in hits. He also won his fifth-straight Gold Glove Award, solidifying himself as one of the top defenders in this game. The 26-year-old is on pace to be one of the best third basemen this game has ever seen.

Blackmon now has the MLB Record for the most RBIs by a leadoff hitter, knocking in 103 of his 104 from the top spot. He also became the first player in MLB history to lead the league in hits, runs, triples and total bases in the same season. He also finished second in batting average and times on base, fourth in SLG, fifth in offensive WAR and OPS and eighth in singles. He finished one spot (fifth) behind Arenado in NL MVP voting.

Blackmon became the seventh player in the last 80 years to have a season with at least 210 hits, 130 runs, .330 batting average and 35 home runs (Joe DiMaggio, Stan Musial, Alex Rodriguez, Ellis Burks, Todd Helton and Albert Pujols).

2018: Around the Diamond

After 2018, Blackmon will be a free agent, and a year later, Arenado will be open to the market. With that said, the window of opportunity is shrinking.

Colorado will showcase almost the exact same lineup as they did in 2017. However, they did sign catcher Chris Iannetta, who played his first six years in Colorado. Iannetta will start behind the plate, with Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy also earning some playing time.

The Rockies do not appear to be interested in bringing back Mark Reynolds, which leaves a starting spot open at first base. Ryan McMahon, who struggled in his first stint at the MLB level in 2017, has shortened his swing and will be the everyday first baseman in 2018.

McMahon had tremendous success in Double and Triple-A during his 2017 campaign. In 119 games, McMahon hit .355 with 20 home runs and 11 steals. While he does not appear to have huge power, McMahon will hit for a high average and even swipe a few bases.

Joining McMahon around the infield will be DJ LeMahieu, who finished tied for eighth in hits, Trevor Story and Arenado. Left to right, the Rockies will have Ian Desmond, Charlie Blackmon, and Carlos Gonzalez, who they re-signed on March 12.

On the Bump

As expected because of ballpark conditions, the Rockies pitching was not great. Among the 15 NL teams, Colorado finished eighth in home runs allowed, ninth in ERA, 10th in hits and 11th in strikeouts. However, they do have some nice talent in their rotation.

2018 Colorado Rockies preview
Jon Gray is ready to be the ace of the Rockies. (Photo from The Denver Post)

Jon Gray, who spent time on the DL with a stress fracture in his left foot, will head into 2018 as the clear ace of the staff. The 26-year-old went 10-4 with a 3.67 ERA in 20 starts last year. He posted a 3.13 ERA at home, which clearly shows he is ready to be a No. 1 starter. His 3.18 FIP was the second-best in franchise history.

Gray will be followed by Tyler Anderson, German Marquez, Chad Bettis and Kyle Freeland. Anderson, who was banged up last season, was tremendous in September. In the last month of the season, Anderson, in 22 2/3 innings, posted a 1.19 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP. Marquez, who is just 23 years old, finished fifth in NL ROY voting. Look for Jeff Hoffman and Antonio Senzatela to also fight for some starts.

To replace Greg Holland, whose 41 saves were second-most in the MLB, Colorado brought in Wade Davis. Davis has made three straight All-Star appearances and is one of the best relievers in the game. Davis leads a solid bullpen, which includes Jake McGee, Adam Ottavino, Mike Dunn and former Indians pitcher, Bryan Shaw.

The Future

Excluding Ryan McMahon (No. 41), the Rockies have two other prospects on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list. Their highest ranked prospect, Brendan Rodgers (No. 14), is one of the best young middle infielders in the minors. The third overall pick in 2015, Rogers, in 89 games between A+ and Double-A, hit .336 with 18 home runs and 64 RBIs. He is a tremendous hitter with great defensive skills. Rodgers has also hit three home runs this spring.

Riley Pint (No. 100), is Colorado’s best pitching prospect. Pint, the fourth overall pick in 2016, struggled last season in Single-A, but is just 20 years of age. His fastball can reach triple-digits, and his off-speed stuff gives him a legitimate shot to eventually be a starter at the top of the rotation.

2018 Prediction: 84-78

The Rockies will be right in the mix for a spot in the playoffs. If the pitching can develop as hoped, look for them to be playing in the NL Wild Card Game once again.

 

Featured image by MLB.com

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