clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Rockies have an interesting plan on offense this year, and it should probably be getting more attention

New, comments

Let's talk about some of these platoons the Rockies will likely be using this year.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

While the critics sing their song of jejune doom, the Rockies are shooting for the moon, via a platoon. They hope that soon, it will provide a boon.

If the baseball gods don't pop their balloon, and allow them to remain injury immune, they just might be able to avoid that swoon in June -- And if they don't play like a buffoon, during games in the afternoon, the season will be a honeymoon. Who knows, they might even make it to the playoff saloon. Maybe then, folks will start singing a different tune.

Okay, so you probably didn't come here to read a rhyming binge, but the point about the Rockies and their use of platoons this season is probably something that should be under the microscope, and for whatever reason, it's been the most ignored intriguing story of the last two months.

Yesterday, our own Nick Stephens wrote a detailed piece which nicely describes how the last couple of roster spots will break down when we head towards opening day. Setting aside the pitching for now (because that -- particularly the bullpen -- is a little more tricky), I think I see a group of 13 who are in my mind likely to make up the everyday players once the first week of April arrives, and it's not in line with what some of our community members expressed in the comments last night, so this could provide some interesting discussion.

Anyway, here's how I view it now ...

The Starters:

  • 1B: Justin Morneau
  • 2B: DJ LeMahieu
  • SS: Troy Tulowitzki
  • 3B: Nolan Arenado
  • C: Nick Hundley
  • LF: Corey Dickerson
  • CF: Charlie Blackmon
  • RF: Carlos Gonzalez

Now when I say starters, I use that term loosely, because if I'm reading the front office moves correctly, they're banking heavily on some platoon help this season. In the case of first base, catcher, and center field, those guys will be the "starters" only because there's more right handed pitchers out there than left handed ones.

The Bench:

  • Michael McKenry (Backup catcher, will try to be worked in mostly against left handed opposing starters to keep Hundley off the field in those situations)
  • Wilin Rosario (If Hundley and McKenry stay healthy, I see most of his at bats coming from first base and pinch hitting because he's easily the worst defensive catcher of the bunch. A platoon with a Morneau maximizes his greatest strength as a player; hitting left handed pitching)
  • Daniel Descalso (Backup infielder at second, short and third. Dear Troy and Nolan, please don't get hurt.)
  • Drew Stubbs (Platoon partner for Charlie Blackmon in center field.)
  • Brandon Barnes (Fifth outfielder who gets playing time when Corey Dickerson and Carlos Gonzalez needs days off.)

The reason I feel pretty strongly about these 13 not just for opening day but for the foreseeable first stretch of the season is that paired together they allow the Rockies to capitalize on the strengths and hide the weaknesses of most of the group. Let's break this down a little more.

First off, the Rockies have four guys they need in the lineup as often as possible in Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, and Corey Dickerson. These are your horses that should produce anything from three wins above replacement to an MVP award if the can stay off the disabled list. The closer these four get to 600 combined games played from April through September, the longer the Rockies will be playing meaningful baseball.

Beyond that though, the Rockies have a bunch of guys at different skills levels who are significantly better when they face pitchers of a certain handedness (Cargo's platoon splits are pretty steep as well, but when healthy he's still good enough against lefties to be in there most days). The four with the most noticeable splits who fall into this category are Drew Stubbs, Justin Morneau, Wilin Rosario, and newly acquired catcher Nick Hundley. We'll use career OPS numbers here for sample size and simplicity.

Drew Stubbs OPS vs. RHP = .665

Drew Stubbs OPS vs. LHP = .823


Justin Morneau OPS vs. RHP = .896

Justin Morneau OPS vs. LHP = .705 (and it's been below .600 from this side of the plate since 2010)


Wilin Rosario OPS vs. RHP = .707

Wilin Rosario OPS vs. LHP = 1.009


Nick Hundley OPS vs. RHP = .711

Nick Hundley OPS vs LHP = .591

Now if you fit the strengths of these hitters into the roster layout I described above, it makes perfect sense. Stubbs plays center when opposing lefties start and couples nicely with Blackmon who doesn't have as extreme of a split but does bat from the left side, Morneau and Rosario platoon together and create a potential .900 OPS + position at first base (while also giving Morneau rest to help keep him healthy), and Hundley can get the majority of the starts behind the plate since most opposing pitchers are right handed.

From there, you sprinkle in the other players as they fit, and as you would expect if a team was intentionally constructing this as a plan, they fit pretty well. McKenry slides into the backup catcher role one year after absolutely crushing left handed pitching. The sample size is small, but so far McKenry has put up about the same OPS against right and left handed pitching in his career despite having a BABIP 33 points lower against lefties. This and the fact that he's right handed suggest he should benefit from more at bats against southpaws.

In addition to this, you also have Brandon Barnes whose strength is defense. He's also right handed with a bit of a platoon split, which works out perfect since the majority of his playing time should come when the big lefty bats of Dickerson and Gonzalez need a day off as well as when the Rockies need defense late in the game to protect a slender lead.

Beyond that, you have LeMahieu and Descalso to fill out the rest of your infield. Here, the Rockies have two studs in Tulo and Arenado, but if they go down, they're pretty screwed in terms of backup options.

If you add these 13 pieces together though, you end up with not just a solid lineup, but one that should be downright scary for any pitcher who walks into Coors. On most days, opposing starters will have to deal with the combination of the big four bats in Tulo, Cargo, Arenado, and Dickerson, but now they will also have to deal with the center field and first base platoons which suddenly gives the Rockies SIX(!!!) troublesome bats opponents have to work around. Add on the fact that this setup gives the Rockies better defense at catcher without creating an extremely easy out at spot in the lineup, and you have a team that nobody should want to face at Coors Field.

There will still be struggles on the road (this however could certainly limit them), but this is the type of group that could overwhelm teams that come into Coors and help the Rockies get to 50 wins at home; a number they seem to need to reach to be playing meaningful baseball near the end of the year


More evidence that the Rockies are going to construct the team this way comes from Thomas Harding, who wrote yesterday about the work Wilin Rosario is putting in at first base. This doesn't happen unless the Rockies plan to play him there at least some of the time.

There's also some good notes from Harding on a couple of pitchers who want to be in the Rockies bullpen this summer. First, Christian Friedrich is trying to keep things simple and take advantage of the advantage he has against lefties. There's also this link about Boone Logan and how he hopes to regain his form and stay away from the disabled list.

Tulo has arrived in Arizona, and Nick Groke has the details.

Zack Greinke is throwing for the Dodgers again after receiving an injection in his elbow last week. The Dodgers have by far the best top five starters of any team in the division, but any injury concerns here need to be monitored closely because they actually get very thin very fast if they have anything close to the rotation injury luck the Rockies have had during any of the last four seasons.