For any mid-market team in any sport, the majority of problems when it comes to competing consistently are from the lack of depth that surrounds the stars.
For the Rockies, this has been the franchise’s major pitfall for nearly five seasons. An incredible lineup with Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, and others destroyed by injuries as the team’s depth failed to keep up with the long, grueling marathon that is an MLB season.
In 2017, the Rockies bench looks great! Some great signings, some up and coming prospects, a real power threat to—wait, hang on sorry I’m reading this paper upside down, let me turn this around and see what we have.
Those are just a few of the possibilities for the bench in 2017. Patterson and Valaika are still so young in their careers it’s unknown what direction they’ll go, both have great potential but as with anything in baseball, potential doesn’t mean much.
What we’re seeing right now is that the Rockies main weakness, their achilles heel, is once again the bench.
The Rockies had opportunities to strengthen this bench, players like Stephen Drew and Chris Carter sat and waited for contracts and jobs. But the Rockies persisted with the men they have. So now, the question isn’t “what impact can the bench make?” it’s “will the bench be what kills the Rockies?”
I don’t want to spend the time on what could have been with this squad. I’ve been specifically instructed by my therapist to only focus on what is. And what the Rockies bench is, is probably bad.
Adames and Amarista should probably not both be on the roster, but neither has options so they probably will be? Gerardo Parra is coming off a year where he was by far the least popular player and Mark Reynolds may not even make the squad all things considered. It’s not that the Rockies are saying “we could need Patterson and Valaika to step up;” it’s that they’re shouting “IF PATTERSON AND VALAIKA FAIL WE ARE RUINED”. They’re like Will Smith in A Pursuit of Happyness but instead of having desperation forced upon us by a thieving homeless man, they handed their desperate hopes to two children and said “figure this out, please.”
Now, don’t hit the panic button yet, this could work out. Patterson has had success at every level of the minors. If he sees success in 2017, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all. The kid has been tearing the cover off the ball since Modesto and last year he was sporting a .500 OBP into June. He’s a fourth round pick with pedigree and consistent success, it’s not bonkers to think he’ll be an outstanding utility outfielder and backup first baseman.
But, it is a little bonkers to put your bench entirely in the hands of a 24-year-old with 18 Major League at-bats. If you wanted to argue the Rockies bench could work out, you’d want stable ground that didn’t start with a greenhorn, you just don’t have that. What you do have are some bad hitting vets, a potentially fatal lack of power, and Gerardo Parra. It’s not exactly ideal!
Which brings us back to the initial point, are the Rockies equipped to sustain themselves over six months and 162 games? With this bench, it’s hard to see a team that could survive a devastating injury to a shortstop or, heaven forbid, a third baseman.
Any injury is going to hurt (no pun), the team won’t be the same without Arenado or Story regardless. But the Rockies have set up a very small window of escape if an important bat were to go down. Three months of a sub 100 OPS+ bat in the lineup could do double the damage when paired with losing a 120+ bat.
It all feels worse when you realize this may be one of the key reasons the last good Rockies teams sunk to the bottom. The lack of depth killed a potential five to seven year run of great Rockies teams and every year the front office didn’t address it properly was another nail in the coffin of Troy Tulowitzki eventually being traded and a new era beginning in Denver.
There’s precedent here that this is bad, that this ruins great players in Denver. This exact problem has plagued Rockies teams for over half a decade and here we potentially stare at it again.
I’m sure it’ll be fine. Everything always works out for the ol’ Colorado Rockies.
Now to take a long sip of water from this glass in my Colorado Rockies 2017 World Series Champions hoodie I custom made.