You’re reading the 2018 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the season had by every player to play for the Rockies in 2018. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the least amount of rWAR and end up with the player with the most.
★ ★ ★
No. 34, Mike Tauchman (-0.5 rWAR)
When Spring Training began, Carlos González remained unsigned and there were question marks as to who the third and fourth outfielders would be to start the season. Behind Blackmon and Parra there was a plethora of young and talented (and mostly left-handed) outfielders who felt ready to fill that role for the Rockies, including David Dahl, Raimel Tapia, Jordan Patterson, Noel Cuevas, and, of course, Mike Tauchman. A healthy Dahl felt like a shoe-in to make the squad, but once CarGo re-signed and David was optioned to Triple-A, that fourth outfield spot was up for grabs—and Mike grabbed the bull by the horns.
It all started in spring training, when Tauchman made a healthy sixty at-bats and slashed an impressive .333/.397/.567 with three doubles, four triples, and one home run. After a hot start to his age-27 season, and as a consistent member of Carson Cistulli’s “Fringe Five” on FanGraphs—a weekly write up on MLB’s most notable fringe prospects—the Rockies decided to take a chance on their 2013 10th round pick and placed Tauchman on the Opening Day roster, just as I had hoped.
It was fun for a little while.
Over the first half of the season, Tauchman filled mostly a pinch-hit, pinch-run, and defensive replacement role for the Rockies, but he was given the opportunity to start in six games. In those six appearances Mike went 2-for-20 with a double, scored three runs, and walked twice with eleven strikeouts. In other words, he fell flat on is face. In his total 2018 MLB appearances, Mike slashed .094/.194/.125 over 32 at-bats with a -22 wRC+ and .031 ISO.
Tauchman traveled between Denver and Albuquerque a couple times during the year, but eventually the inevitable happened. On June 12th the Rockies optioned Tauchman to the Isotopes again, and he spent the rest of his 2018 season there.
★ ★ ★
Baseball is a funny sport with its ups and downs, how you can be on top of the world one week and in a horrifying slump the next. It was a season like that for Mike Tauchman, except while he could find no success at the major league level, he went red hot in the minor leagues.
As an Isotope, Tauchman tore the cover off the ball and slahed .323/.408/.571 in 400+ at-bats, good for a 153 wRC+ and .248 ISO. It was a highlight reel stint at Triple-A for Mike, including a series in which he hit two grand slams on separate days against the New Orleans Baby Cakes, and another stretch that saw him hit five home runs in four games. Tauchman could not be stopped, and he was eventually named the Albuquerque Isotope’s 2018 MVP and made the All-Pacific Coast League Team for the second year in a row.
During all of this success, however, the Rockies offense continued to struggle despite their playoff push. Their lineups mostly consisted of CarGo, Parra, and Blackmon in the outfield, with David Dahl finally getting some much deserved action, but the Rockies seemed to have given up on the youth movement. Meanwhile, Tauchman raked for the ‘Topes, and in mid-August even Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs mused:
It remains mystifying that a contending club with such an obvious weakness in the outfield wouldn’t consider giving Tauchman a longer trial, whatever his pedigree. That said, much of everything else in the world remains mystifying, as well.
We’ll never know if Tauchman could’ve ridden his success back to Coors to help the Rockies in a playoff push that saw them score four runs in their final forty innings and be swept by the Brewers in the NLDS. But he was possibly the hottest bat in the whole organization at the time, and it does feel like they missed an opportunity to at least find out.