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Five good and five bad trends from spring training to pay attention to this April

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Ten trends to think about this April

Baseball: World Baseball Classic Exhibion Game-Puerto Rico at Colorado Rockies Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Hi friends! Welcome to year two of Five Things, a Monday column where I talk about five things that happened in Rockies land last week. This one is on Tuesday, because apparently yesterday was kind of a big deal, which, fine. Either way, I’m happy to be back at it again and to have you along for the ride.

A few things will be continued from last year, including monthly trends and The Morales Line will be coming back. I partnered with Very Good Ratings Company (employees = me) to develop a better version of The Morales Line as well as a few other “metrics” to be announced as the season goes on. Anyway, enough about me. More about the Rockies!

Five Good Trends from spring training*

Mark Reynolds’ Walks

Reynolds walked 10 times in spring training in 65 plate appearances, good for a 15.4 walk percentage and the team lead in Arizona. Over the last three seasons, Reynolds has posted a walk percentage of 10.1, 10.9, and 10.2 percent, all below his career average of 11.3 percent. Keep an eye on his patience at the plate; we’ve already seen him reduce his strikeout rate to a career-low of 25.3 percent compared to his 31 percent career average, and it might be the next step in his progression to increase his walk rate as well. A walk rate of 12 percent wold be a huge improvement over last year and a great mark for Reynolds to reach.

(Yes, I did)

Trevor Story’s Power

This might seem obvious considering Story was a league leader in homers before injuring himself last year, but he picked up right where he left off, blasting five home runs this spring. All I wanted to see was for Story to continue that trend and he did just that. If he can be a bit more consistent this year, we might see him compete for a Silver Slugger by season’s end.

Gerardo Parra’s walks

I will say this; Gerardo Parra came ready to contribute in 2017 after his awful year. I’m still a bit skeptical about his performance over an entire season, but spring training stats tell us this; Parra was working on his faults from last season. Parra walked a grand total of nine times in 2016 out of 381 plate appearances, good for a stellar 2.4 percent walk rate! In spring training alone, Parra walked six times in 60 plate appearances, a significant increase despite the small sample size. He literally has to hit double digit walks to beat last year, but the Rockies need Parra to be around major league average to compete. Walking more will help that tremendously.

Tyler Chatwood’s Strikeouts

Chatwood has never been much of a strikeout guy. It really makes his success that much more impressive; out of the 59 players who had a better ERA than Chatwood in 100 innings, only two others (Josh Tomlin and Bartolo Colon) had strikeout rates below Chatwood’s 6.66 K/9. He’s relied on movement and soft contact to get batters out and has done a stellar job, but the numbers tell us that strikeouts help, a lot. What if Chatwood unlocked that secret, too? In Spring, Chatwood struck out 20 batters in 22 innings for an 8.18 K/9. If Chatwood even meets those in the middle — around 7.5 K/9 — we will see an even more effective third starter to boost the Rockies into playoff contention.

Kyle Freeland’s Strikeouts

The hometown kid has always been a good groundball pitcher. He’s recorded a 1.51 GB/FB ratio throughout his minor league career and posted a 1.64 ratio in spring training. Unfortunately, Freeland’s strikeout rate has been bad the last two seasons, creeping above six K/9 once in four stops, and that was at Triple-A Albuquerque last year. Freeland was second in the NCAA in his final collegiate year with an 11.59 K/9 rate, so he has the stuff, he just hasn’t exhibited it in the minors. This Spring, however, Freeland has shown the ability to sit batters down with an 8.27 K/9. As we learn more about Kyle Freeland, major league pitcher, let’s hope that strikeouts are a big part of that equation.

Five Bad Trends from spring training*

Trevor Story’s Strikeouts

Oh, the double-edged sword. Story struck out a team-high 22 times in 71 at-bats for a 30.9 strikeout percentage. Last year, Story posted a 36.3% strikeout rate in August (!) but reduced it to 28.6 in the month of July before going down. That improvement is everything you want to see; power usually comes with some trade-offs, like strikeouts, but if Story can return to the high 20’s and maybe get around 22-25 percent without losing power, watch out, National League.

Adam Ottavino’s Walks

If Monday’s opener was any indication, Ottavino struggled a bit with his release point and command in the spring. Ottavino led the team in walks with eight despite only throwing in 9.2 innings in Arizona. We know the kind of pitcher Ottavino can be — think early 2014, and then stop so it doesn’t get too dark — and then give him some time to get it together before we worry. Still, keep an eye on his command and see if it improves as April goes on.

German Marquez’s GB/FB Ratio

One of the biggest indications as to why Marquez did not get a starting role was the glaring difference between his, Freeland’s, and Senzatela’s GB/FB ratio.

Freeland: 1.62 GB per FB
Senzatela: 1.42 GB per FB
Marquez: 0.50 GB per FB

Marquez is the inverse of the other two, allowing two fly balls for every ground ball he induces. Even though the Rockies philosophy has moved a bit from the extreme ground-ball pitchers and more towards strikeouts, that still makes a difference at Coors.

Keep in mind, though, that Marquez has recorded a GB/FB rate of 2.02 throughout his minor league career, an incredible clip that clearly caught the Rockies eye. He’s also just 22 and performed well in his September audition, so take this with a grain of salt. Marquez will be fine, but he’ll need to show that he can return to form before getting another shot in the rotation.

Injury Rate

Please stop getting hurt.

Jordan Lyles

Jordan Lyles is still Jordan Lyles. He’s a great mop-up guy at this point; the guy who you use when you don’t want to use any of your key pitchers in a bad game, but has no business pitching any meaningful innings. This isn’t me rooting against Lyles, he just hasn’t been good for a few years now despite his tantalizing stuff. I want to see him succeed because he can make the Rockies better, but I need to see some tangible evidence of success in major league games to really feel comfortable with him appearing in close games, if at all.

*Spring training stats need to be taken with a grain of salt. They mean little to nothing, but we can infer some things. Small sample size, inconsistent competition, all that fun stuff.