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Selecting the Colorado Rockies Franchise Four

Which four Rockies players belong on the franchise's Mount Rushmore?

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

For this season's All-Star Game, Major League Baseball is asking fans to pick each team's "Franchise Four," essentially the four best players in franchise history. You can cast your own vote for the Franchise Four here.

While the Rockies may not have the group of Hall of Famers to select from that the Dodgers or Yankees have, there are still some interesting names to choose from. Here is how I rank the Rockies candidates, starting with a few honorable mentions that failed to make MLB's ballot:

Honorable Mentions

Nolan Arenado

When MLB does another Franchise Four in 10 years, I have no doubt that Arenado will be one of the first names mentioned. At just 24 years old, he is already 12th among Rockies position players in career rWAR and possesses a pair of Gold Gloves at third base. He has also put up a career hitting line of .278/.316/.456 with 71 doubles in 992 career at bats and is improving at the plate every season.

Ellis Burks

The only position player with more than 10 rWAR as a Rockie to not make the official ballot, Burks played 4½ seasons with the Rockies, posting a .957 OPS in his time in Denver. Burks' 1996 season was one of the best in franchise history, as he hit .344/.408/.639 with 45 doubles, 40 home runs and 128 RBI. Burks finished third in MVP voting in '96 playing for an 83-win Rockies team.

Ubaldo Jimenez

This list feels incomplete without mentioning a pitcher, and that pitcher has to be Jimenez. Ubaldo actually compiled more rWAR in his Rockies career, 18.6, than all but three position players in franchise history. As with Burks, there is one season in particular that stands out for Jimenez. In 2010, he set a franchise record for wins in a season, going 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 221⅔ innings, striking out 214 and earning the start for the National League in the All-Star Game.

8. Dante Bichette

An member of the inaugural 1993 team, Bichette is one of just four players with more than 200 home runs in a Rockies uniform. One of the premier power hitters of the mid-1990s, Bichette was second in NL MVP voting in 1995, a season that saw him hit .340/.364/.620 with 40 home runs and 128 RBI for the playoff-bound Rockies. In addition to the 201 home runs he hit in seven seasons in Colorado, he was a four-time All-Star, hitting .316/.352/.540 in his Rockies career.

As good as Bichette was at the plate, his defense drags him down from a WAR perspective. Bichette accumulated just 4.6 rWAR in his Rockies career, putting him even with Corey Dickerson who has roughly ⅙ of Bichette's plate appearances as a Rockie.

7. Carlos Gonzalez

Coming to the Rockies in a trade for Matt Holliday (more on him later), Gonzalez announced his presence to the baseball world in the 2009 NL Division Series against the Phillies, going 10-for-17 with a pair of doubles and a home run in four games. He followed that up with a 2010 season that saw him hit .336/.376/.598 with 34 home runs, 117 RBI and 26 stolen bases. He won the batting title, finished third in NL MVP voting and won the first of his three Gold Gloves.

Gonzalez followed up his remarkable 2010 with three more 20-20 seasons, winning Gold Gloves and earning All-Star appearances in both 2012 and 2013. To date the 29-year-old has a .297/.357/.534 career batting line in seven seasons with the Rockies, compiling 17.1 career rWAR with Colorado.

6. Andres Galarraga

If this were a ranking of nicknames, the "Big Cat" would surely be No. 1. Galarraga came to the expansion Rockies as a free agent in 1993 and promptly hit .370, winning the batting title and helping to announce Denver as a hitter's paradise. The Big Cat had a 1.005 OPS in '93, hitting 22 home runs and driving in 98, finishing 10th in MVP voting and becoming the Rockies' first All-Star.

Galarraga earned MVP votes in each of his five seasons with the Rockies, finishing in the top 10 four times. He topped out at sixth in MVP voting in 1996, when he hit a career-high 47 home runs and drove in 150. That's not a typo, he had 150 RBI in 1996 and followed that up with 140 in '97. Regardless of your opinion of RBI as a stat, 290 of them in two years is amazing.

5. Matt Holliday

The centerpiece of the most famous play in Rockies history just misses out on the Franchise Four. Holliday was absolutely integral to the 2007 Rockies, hitting .340/.405/.607 with 50 doubles, 36 home runs and 137 RBI for the NL champions and quite frankly having the MVP stolen from him by Jimmy Rollins. Holliday made three straight All-Star teams from 2006-2008, hitting better than .320 and having a wRC+ of at least 139 in each of those three seasons.

Holliday put together an excellent five seasons for Colorado, hitting .319/.386/.552 with 188 doubles and 128 home runs in 698 games for the Rockies. He compiled 18.4 rWAR in those five seasons and earned three Silver Sluggers to go with his three All-Star appearances. Most importantly, the Rockies do not go to the World Series in 2007 without him.

4. Vinny Castilla

Castilla gets the Franchise Four nod over Holliday for one reason: longevity. Castilla played nine seasons for the Rockies in three separate stints spanning from 1993 to 2006. Or to put it another way, he was teammates in a Rockies uniform with both Freddie Benavides and Troy Tulowitzki. Castilla's time with the Rockies was also quite good as he hit .294/.340/.530 in a Rockies uniform and is third in franchise history with 239 home runs.

One of the best fastball hitters you'll ever see, Castilla took every advantage of playing in Coors Field, putting together three straight 40-homer seasons from 1996-1998. The third of those seasons, in '98, saw him hit .319/.362/.589 with 46 home runs and 144 RBI to go with an appearance in both the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game at Coors Field.

3. Troy Tulowitzki

Really, anyone from Bichette to Castilla could fill the fourth slot in the Rockies Franchise Four, but the top three is fairly clear, starting with Tulowitzki. Tulo has spent his entire 10-year career with the Rockies, hitting .299/.372/.518 with 178 home runs in 982 games. Tulowitzki finished top 10 in NL MVP voting three straight years from 2009-2011, earning All-Star appearances, Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers in the latter two years of that stretch.

While some players have had one standout season, Tulowitzki has been remarkably consistent, posting between five and seven rWAR in six of his eight full seasons (not counting his September call up in 2006 or 2015). His best season was probably 2010 in which he hit .315/.381/.568 with 27 home runs and 11 steals in 122 games. Tulowitzki was also impressive in 2014, hitting .340/.432/.603 with 21 home runs and 5.5 rWAR in just 91 games. Also, at some point in the early 2010s, he took over as face of the franchise from Todd Helton.

2. Larry Walker

Perhaps the most purely talented player to ever don a Rockies uniform, Walker is a shoe-in for the Franchise Four. His MVP season in 1997 is the greatest in franchise history with only one other individual season coming close. In '97, Walker hit .366/.452/.720 with 208 hits, 46 doubles, 49 home runs, 130 RBI and 409 total bases. He also had a dozen outfield assists and posted 9.8 rWAR.

That '97 season kicked off a stretch of three straight seasons for Walker in which he hit at least .360, including a .379 mark in 1999. From 1997-1999, Walker hit .369/.452/.689 with 109 home runs. He also won Gold Gloves all three seasons. After playing just 87 games in 2000, Walker came back in 2001 and hit .350/.449/.662 with 38 home runs and won the fourth of his five Gold Gloves as a Rockie. It was only injuries and longevity that kept Walker and his 48.2 career rWAR out of the No. 1 spot.

1. Todd Helton

The top spot on the list goes to the lone player in franchise history that has his number retired. A Rockies Franchise Four without Helton isn't even worth having. Every other player on this list was a teammate of Helton's at some point in their career, from the original Rockies to 24-year-old Nolan Arenado, and Helton was the best player on a lot of those teams.

Helton holds franchise records for games played (2,247), at bats (7,962), hits (2,519), doubles (592, 16th most in baseball history) and home runs (369). Only 29 times in major league history has a player hit at least 54 doubles in a season, Helton, Billy Herman and Joe Medwick are the only players to do so twice.

In 2000, Helton put together one of the two greatest offensive seasons in Rockies history, hitting .372/.463/.698 with 59 doubles, 42 home runs and 147 RBI. He flirted with hitting .400 into August, finishing fifth in NL MVP voting and compiling 8.9 rWAR. He was an All-Star for the Rockies five times, won four Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves and had three top 10 finishes in MVP voting for generally mediocre Rockies teams in the early 2000s.