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Colorado Rockies regression candidates for 2015: Purple Row staff survey

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It's that time of year again. That's right, kids, it's prediction time! The Purple Row staff takes a look at Colorado Rockies players likely to be better, and those likely to be worse, in the upcoming 2015 season. It's almost here!

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

In 2014, just before the Colorado Rockies season began, the Purple Row staff was assembled to form a league of heroes for optimal baseball analysis and with great power comes great responsibility. Tasked with providing fans a list of positive and negative regression candidates, we put our collective mouths where our considerable lack of money is and made some good, some bad, and some ... interesting ... predictions.

I feel pretty good about picking Justin Morneau and Nolan Areando to improve. I also couldn't help but chuckle a bit to see Wilton Lopez received two votes for positive regression. It seemed there was no way he could get any worse but he proved there was unexplored potential in that endeavor.

The consensus pick for betterment -- a Mr. Brett Anderson -- stings a bit. To be fair, we were technically correct as the 1.1 fWAR he posted in 2014 was better than the 0.3 he put up in 2013. But Anderson's 2014 season was still not what we had in mind.

Nolan Arenado received five votes for positive regression yet ended up in the "Wild Card" category because someone (Jordan Freemyer!) thought (quite reasonably I might add) that it was unlikely Arenado would be equally as insane on defense for the second consecutive year. I feel confident in saying Jordan was happy to be wrong in this regard. Certainly our collective eyeballs were happy for the vast array of gifs and videos 'Nado has treated us with since.

Considering that the only person to vote against Arenado also voted for him, I'll call that one a big win for us.

Purple Row's Big Bossman, Bryan Kilpatrick, gets credit here for being the sole staff member to pick Corey Dickerson for improvement. Dickerson only went on to be a huge breakout star who vied for the batting title until the last days of the season. And former Big Bossman Jeff Aberle should also get some dap for being the only one to vote for Troy Tulowitzki, who was on pace for an easy MVP award before getting hurt ... again ... but still ended with an absurd 5.1 fWAR.

We fared a bit better on the negative side of things, where Michael Cuddyer made us right (and sad) by getting hurt a lot. He dropped from 2.4 to 1.5 fWAR. Injuries were a big part of that, but they were also somewhat predictable.

Jorge De La Rosa (our other consensus for negative regression) had worse numbers in 2014 than 2013 mostly by default. His 2014 line of 4.10 ERA, 184.1 IP, and 2.1 fWAR is more than solid for a Rockies pitcher but his 2013 was just flat ridiculous, so he was a safe bet to come back to earth. A safe bet that we won.

And so we begin again. Predicting is a difficult, somewhat silly business. As I put it last year:

"There are the things you know and the things you don't. Then there are the things you know you don't know and -- scariest of all -- the things you don't know you don't know."

Predicting sports almost always falls into one of the latter two categories. And yet, here we go:

The Results

Here are the full results of the staff survey:

Name

Progression

Regression

Thomas W

Blackmon, Brothers

Morneau, Hawkins

Eric

Logan, LeMahieu

Stubbs, Blackmon

Nick

LeMahieu, Brothers

Morneau, Hawkins

Jordan

Matzek, Arenado

Morneau, JDLR

Jay T

CarGo, Butler

Tulo, JDLR

Jay M

Brothers, Lemahieu

Dickerson, Stubbs

Ryan

Rosario, Chacin

McKenry, Hawkins

Holly

Logan, LeMahieu

McKenry, Ottavino

Hendrik

CarGo, Logan

McKenry, Stubbs

Bryan

Brothers, LeMahieu

McKenry, Stubbs

Carolyn

LeMahieu, Arenado

Stubbs, Hawkins

Matthew

Arenado, CarGo

Blackmon, Matzek

Jeff

Dickerson, CarGo

Morneau, Hawkins

Tim

Brothers, Butler

JDLR, Blackmon

DC

CarGo, Butler

Stubbs, McKenry

Negative regression

Here are the players who only received votes to be worse in 2015:

Drew Stubbs (6 votes)

First, Jay Tymkovich gets bonus cookies for being the only one of us to pick Drew Stubbs to have a positive improvement last season, and Stubbs deserves some bonus cookies for delivering in spades.

Much like Jorge de la Rosa last season, Drew is the victim here mostly of expectations that he will not repeat his impressive 2014 campaign more than a belief that his 2015 will be some kind of disaster.

Stubbs saw a great deal of playing time in large part because of prolonged absences from outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez. Cuddyer is no longer on the team, but good news for the Rockies on CarGo's health could be bad news for the playing time of Drew Stubbs. This, in and of itself, could take an entire WAR point away from Stubbs without him actually getting any worse.

Beyond that, his high strikeout rate and BABIP are troubling indicators for the future especially when coupled with how much better his 2014 was than the two years prior.

There is a lot working against Drew Stubbs repeating in 2015 but that doesn't mean he won't still get opportunities to play a vital role or that he won't excel in those (hopefully somewhat limited) chances.

Michael McKenry (5 votes)

This is some low-hanging fruit right here but McKenry's 2014 wRC+ of 141 came out of nowhere. McKenry could have a perfectly fine 2015 season and still not get close to approaching that number. Furthermore, the addition of Nick Hundley without a subtraction of Wilin Rosario will almost certainly cut deeply into his playing time.

I think most of the staff expects Michael McKenry to be a serviceable back-up catcher which is both fine and a lot less that what he gave the team last year.

LaTroy Hawkins (5 votes)

I don't mean to be reductive here but I'm not sure how to give much further insight and analysis other than to say that guys don't usually get better at sports in their age 42 seasons. Best just to say so long and thanks for all the fish.

Justin Morneau (4 votes)

You can pretty much cross-apply everything we just discussed with Stubbs to Justin Morneau. Ironically for both of these men, many of the pundits and bloggers who are now picking them to regress are the same ones who never believed they would reach their 2014 numbers to begin with.

It makes logical sense, if their 2014's came out of nowhere, they are unlikely to repeat.

Jordan Freemyer:

I don't think Morneau will necessarily have a bad season, but it is probably unreasonable to expect him to win another batting title in 2015. The fact that Wilin Rosario could take some of his playing time this season will also likely contribute to a reduction in Morneau's counting stats.

Makes sense. I personally am not expecting a steep drop-off from Morneau because his 2014 was about what I expected and was consistent with the player I think he is when healthy but it's just incredibly unlikely he repeats a batting title and Gold Glove nomination.

Jorge De La Rosa (3 votes)

Jorge De La Rosa is probably going to be a candidate for negative regression for the rest of his career because of his age. I don't think many of us expect JDLR to fall off a cliff, but a steady decline would be in keeping with a standard baseball career.

Jordan Freemyer:

Call this a hunch, but De La Rosa is entering his age 34 season in 2015 and Coors Field, a place where he has pitched 445 innings, is notorious for taking an especially heavy toll on arms. Combine that with the fact that 2014 was De La Rosa's worst season (three starts in 2012 notwithstanding) since 2008 and the Rockies may be regretting that extension they gave him by the end of the season.

Adam Ottavino (1 vote)

Ah, the curse of being good in baseball. It is hard to continue to be good. Especially in the bullpen.

Holly Paulsen:

Based on volatility of bullpen/reliever performance from year to year. There always seems to be some guy who everybody is counting on out of the bullpen that totally craps the bed a la Rex Brothers last year.

Sage Farron:

And Lopez before that, and Belisle before that ...

Positive regression

Here are the players who only received votes to be better in 2015:

DJ LeMahieu (6 votes)

Okay, so you won the Gold Glove ... what's next? Well if you ask Purple Row (which is what we're doing here) even more good things.

It's easy to see how this would play out. At 26 years old it would be quite odd if his defense went AWOL, especially considering how hard he works on it, and the offense has a ton of room for improvement. Whether it's adding a little strength (and therefore slugging) taking a few more walks, or just getting a few more hits to fall, DJ is coming into his prime and has to be feeling confident coming off a season where he was nationally recognized for having elite skills.

A LeMahieu that contributes on offense is a LeMahieu to get excited about.

Carlos Gonzalez (5 votes)

The man they call CarGo had a Murphy's Law 2014. Five members of the Purple Row staff feel relatively confident that won't happen again.

Matthew Barrett:

If healthy, he could leap up to 3-4 WAR.

Rex Brothers (5 votes)

For the purposes of this conversation, Rex Brothers is bazarro Justin Morneau. In the same way our staff expects Morneau to come back to earth after being so good, we expect Rex to return from the depths of Hades where he spent much of his 2014.

If he is healthy and not awful, he will almost certainly improve in 2015, but there is also plenty of reasons to believe his improvement could extend well beyond that. Before the season-that-would-not-end even began, Brothers' was widely considered one of the best relievers in the National League and a shoe-in to take over the closer role in the near future.

It is unlikely that the talent that put him in such a position has evaporated entirely and more likely that his confidence and mechanics just went rogue for a year. New pitching coach Darren Holmes has reportedly already spent a great deal of time and energy working with Brothers in confidence that he can return to the dominance he experienced in the two seasons prior to 2014.

Our staff seems to have confidence in that as well. The impact that a good Rex Brothers could have on this team cannot be overstated, so while we are predicting improvement we are hoping beyond hope for it to be significant.

Nolan Arenado (3 votes)

Nolan Arenado was a bat first prospect who suddenly finds himself in the driving seat for the next 6-8 Gold Gloves at third base. It's crazy to think what this guy might be like if he ever delivers on the promise his bat showed in the minors and during a 28-game hitting streak he displayed in 2014.

Matthew Barrett (Arimaris):

If his offense keeps developing he should be an even better player this year.

Jordan Freemyer:

Another 24-year-old, Arenado has already established himself at the highest level with a pair of Gold Gloves in his first two seasons. I think 2015 is the year he establishes himself as a star with 25 or so home runs, another Gold Glove and an invite to the All-Star Game.

The fact that there is a general consensus that this guy can get even better should scare the rest of the league.

Eddie Butler (3 votes)

Having hopefully learned a lot, both physically and mentally, in just three starts but also more than a month of being with the major league team, it seems likely that Butler will improve in 2015 if by no other virtue than getting the opportunities to do so.

Remember the difference between the way Tyler Matzek looked at the beginning of the season last year and how he looked at the end? That could very easily be the story of Eddie Butler's 2015.

Boone Logan (3 votes)

First, Boone be paid. Then, Boone be bad. After that, Boone be hurt. Now, hopefully Boone be Boone.

Human beings tend to trust mostly what we have experienced ourselves and Boone Logan's performance in 2014 was as uninspiring as it could have been for Rockies fans.

As I wrote when discussing the most volatile players on the roster:

Logan had by far his worst professional season of pitching in 2014. His 6.84 ERA and -0.3 WAR were low marks by nearly double but there were still signs of hope. Logan maintained a high (11.52 per nine) strikeout rate and low xFIP (2.85) even amidst the madness. The four consecutive sub-4 ERA seasons Logan had with the Yankees before arriving in Colorado probably speak more to the pitcher he actually is.

Wilin Rosario (1 vote)

With the anxiety inducing, mind-plaguing aspects of catcher mostly off the table for Wilin Rosario in 2015, I fully expect his bat to come back to the well above average levels we saw in 2012 and 2013. Whether or not he is terrible, serviceable, or surprisingly decent at first base remains to be seen, but a healthy and happy Rosario who isn't being asked to do an important job that he struggles with should be better by default.

Jhoulys Chacin (1 vote)

I couldn't vote for Chacin with anything resembling confidence but I'm glad someone did. It would be nice if the guy who was on the fast track to being the greatest Rockies pitcher ever (low bar, but it's our bar!) could recover from a nightmarish 2014.

I don't know anything about frayed shoulders and it sounds like I'm not alone. This is just one to keep an eye on.

Wild Cards

Here are the players who received votes to be both better and worse in 2015

Corey Dickerson (1 positive, 1 negative)

It's hard to imagine Dickerson getting much better at the plate and not-at-all difficult to see him improving in the outfield and on the base paths. He probably won't be fighting for a batting title again, but he will also likely cut down on the TOOTBLANs.

Jay Milnes:

Corey Dickerson's a guy I regard as potentially being a future star, so my inclusion of him as a candidate for negative regression isn't so much a reflection of any feelings that his 2014 season was an anomaly, but instead that I think expectations should be tempered. I just don't see him hitting .312/.364/.567 again to go along with 24 homers. I think Steamer's projections of .285/.334/.499 and 21 bombs is more realistic. That'd still be a great year, however, and I don't think he's going to turn into a pumpkin or anything. He has a bright future and could be a cornerstone of the Rockies for years to come, but I'd be impressed if he replicates or exceeds his performance in 2014.

Tyler Matzek (1 positive, 1 negative)

Jordan Freemyer:

Matzek has always had the stuff to be a quality MLB starting pitcher, and showed few signs of the control issues that plagued his minor league career in his 117 2/3 inninig big league debut in 2014. It seems perfectly reasonable to expect a 24-year-old pitcher to improve in his second major league season, provided he stays healthy. I expect Matzek to be the Rockies' best starter in 2015, and it might not be particularly close.

Matthew Barrett:

I am not sold on Matzek still and I think at least early in the season he is more likely to struggle as he adjusts to hitter's adjustments against him.

Charlie Blackmon (1 positive, 3 negative)

Matthew Barrett:

I think he could start as a platoon player, but I just don't see him doing much this year.  If nothing else the lack of playing time will reduce his "value" some.

Thomas Wilson:

Charlie Blackmon is going to regress. We all know it. Around the site you see the sardonic references to 2014 All-Star Blackmon, because we all know Blackmon had one great month and will now crawl back to the scrap pile with the Bryan LaHairs of the world. Here is a chart to illustrate the point:

Blackmon.png

The BABIP for these three players: .332, .361, and Charlie Blackmon's 2014 number of .315.

Player A is Blackmon's 2012-13 and Player B is Blackmon's 2013 if you stretch them out to the same amount of playing time that he received in 2014. In case you hadn't guessed it already, I don't think Blackmon will fall off any cliffs.

One under-looked aspect of the .340 wOBA that Blackmon has posted over the last 3 years is that Dexter Fowler posted a .347 wOBA and a 104 wRC+ for Colorado in 2013 and a .347 wOBA and 124 wRC+ for Houston last year.

If Blackmon is a true-talent, .325 to 345 wOBA hitter then he would be anything from a top 100 to top 25 outfielder in all or MLB, especially when factoring in his ability to play all three positions.

★★★

So there you have it: our best (somewhat educated) guesses on what will be different for the Rockies in 2015. And remember, we are absolutely positively never-ever wrong about things. Ever.