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Colorado Rockies 2018 awards, staff picks

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The Purple Row staff shares who they think should win awards on the Rockies roster.

At the end of every sports season, awards are given out to players for numerous things. Last year in the MLB, Jose Altuve and Giancarlo Stanton won AL and NL MVP, Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer won the Cy Youngs, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger won Rookies of the Year, and Paul Molitor and Torey Lovullo took home hardware for Managers of the Year.

In this particular thread, we asked the Purple Row staff to just look at the Rockies and cast their votes for various awards. Here is what we came up with! Cast your own ballots in the comment section below!

Samantha Bradfield

MVP: Trevor Story

Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Freeland

Rookie of the Year: Ryan McMahon

Reliever of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Unsung Hero: Scott Oberg

This was a really tough choice all the way down. There are so many players on the Rockies deserving of all of these awards. Trevor Story’s resurgence put him clear cut for MVP this year for me, both defensively and offensively. Without him, the team wouldn’t be where they are right now. Kyle Freeland and German Márquez have both had amazing years, but Freeland’s consistency all season put him on top. He’s been able to pitch at almost any ballpark and win the game and when the team needed him, he was able to “stop the bleeding” a lot of times and get the team back on track.

Ryan McMahon has had a great year in both Triple-A and the major league level. Yes, he struggled early on but he was eager to learn and took everything with him, which later turned into a few memorable game-winning moments during the summer months. The reliever position was a tricky one because the bullpen has been all over the place, but Adam Ottavino and Scott Oberg have been nails almost all season.

Ottavino’s resurgence, like Story’s, helped carry this team through much of the season after an abysmal 2017. If you look beyond Ottavino and Wade Davis, you’ll also find that Scott Oberg has also had a great year — he has a 2.45 ERA in 58.2 innings, the lowest of his career. As Rich Allen from BSN Denver cited, since Oberg was activated off the DL on June 27th, the Rockies’ bullpen as a whole went from worst in the MLB to Top 5 and the team as a whole has the best record in the National League. He might not be as flashy as Ottavino most days, but he’s sure getting the job done — almost like the DJ LeMahieu to Ottavino’s Nolan Arenado.

Ben Kouchnerkavich

MVP: Nolan Arenado

Pitcher of the Year: German Márquez

Rookie of the Year: Garrett Hampson

Reliever of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Comeback Player of the Year: Trevor Story

Unsung Hero: DJ LeMahieu

The Rockies would not be where they are today without the contributions of Trevor Story and Kyle Freeland. But for Most Valuable Player, my vote must go to Nolan Arenado. The Rockies’ third baseman led all the team’s position players in all three versions of WAR, and his contributions both offensively and defensively continue to make him one of the game’s premier players. Despite struggles in August and September (likely due to not being 100 percent healthy), Arenado has been the best player on the Rockies in 2018. In terms of pitching, Freeland and German Márquez are both very good pitchers who go about their craft in very different ways. Márquez’s strikeout numbers have been other-worldly in 2018, as he set the Rockies’ single-season all-time strikeout record. Márquez’s ERA isn’t as sparkling as Freeland’s, but it should be a lot closer when looking at his FIP. Márquez did quite a job to turn an uneasy first half of the season into an All-Star caliber second half.

Rookie Garrett Hampson showed that he could be an effective player in the major leagues. Always one to show an impressive eye in the minor leagues, Hampson carried his on-base ability over to the Show and showed some flashy defense at times up the middle. If DJ LeMahieu exits via free agency this offseason, the Rockies should feel comfortable handing the second base reins to Hampson. He has the speed and OBP to be a leadoff guy. Out of the bullpen, the Rockies did not get what they hoped for from several arms. It took Adam Ottavino having a career year to carry the bullpen over the season’s first half. Fortunately, Scott Oberg and Seunghwan Oh have emerged in the second half, along with a return to form for Wade Davis, but Ottavino has been consistent for the entire season.

Trevor Story’s near-MVP performance gives him my Comeback Player of the Year performance, after many fans found themselves questioning if the Rockies should look to look elsewhere at shortstop in 2017. And my unsung hero is LeMahieu, who has come up with several big hits this season. Despite his worst offensive numbers since 2015, LeMahieu’s defensive ability and career-high in home runs should place him right around a 2.5 WAR.

Renee Dechert

Pitcher of the Year: German Márquez

Rookie of the Year: Ryan McMahon

Reliever of the Year: Scott Oberg

Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Unsung Hero: Chris Iannetta

Greatest Personal Growth: Jon Gray

After Kyle Freeland led the Rockies to a win over the Diamondbacks last week, Bud Black commented on Freeland’s ability to “will certain events.” I couldn’t find the exact quote, but it brought into focus for me the extent to which Freeland has willed this team forward, not only with his pitching but also his fearlessness. This season, he has been the most consistent Rockie as he redefined pitching at altitude. Even though Freeland only played every five games, he set the example. German Márquez, with his immaculate inning and single-season strikeout record, has been solid — at times, otherworldly — while struggling through some rough patches. The Rockies trusted him with Game 163 for a reason.

Although Adam Ottavino’s comeback has been remarkable (and a Pitching Ninja staple), I came to see Scott Oberg as the reliever whose entrance into a game made me say, “Okay, this will be fine.” I’ve written about Chris Iannetta’s key role — his experience, his composure, and his skill. While the pitchers get their well deserved credit, Iannetta was often the one catching them, and his importance to this team should not be overlooked. Ryan McMahon addressed the issues with his swing and helped win key games. Plus, he has a great sense of humor:

In all of this, don’t lose sight of Jon Gray’s very public journey this season. He never complained; instead, he did the hard (and ongoing) work of finding himself as a pitcher. After his loss against the Nationals, Gray said, “I haven’t felt like myself all season.” Some will use that to revive the “head-case” argument. I see it as someone looking for a way forward and brave enough to admit it. This hasn’t been the season Gray wanted, but I think it can help him get where he needs to be.

Eric Garcia McKinley

MVP: Kyle Freeland

Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Freeland

Rookie of the Year: Ryan McMahon

Reliever of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Unsung Hero: Charlie Blackmon

All MVP debates lead to the question about what “valuable” really and truly means. I land on this definition: Which player did the most to help the team win games during the season? I don’t see any other option other than Freeland, who just had the best season any starter in team history has ever had. He was reliably excellent throughout the whole season, and if it weren’t for a couple exceptional seasons elsewhere, he’d garner more Cy Young attention. His few big moments made Ryan McMahon stand out as the team’s best rookie.

There were stretches of the season where it seemed like Adam Ottavino could do nothing other than strike batters out; in 2017, there were stretches where it seemed like he could do nothing other than throw balls. That’s why he’s reliever of the year and comeback player of the year. Charlie Blackmon didn’t have the MVP-caliber season he had in 2017, but he was still quite good, and his season has been under the radar due to other breakouts on the team.

Hendrik Kits van Heyningen

MVP: Trevor Story

Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Freeland

Rookie of the Year: Ryan McMahon

Reliever of the Year: Scott Oberg

Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Unsung Hero: German Márquez

As good as Nolan Arenado was for most of the year, his late August/September fade made Story an easy choice for MVP given his incredible defense at a premium position, jaw-dropping power, and much-improved plate disciple. Freeland has had arguably the best season for a Rockies pitcher ever, so he has to be Pitcher of the Year, but unsung hero German Márquez (finally getting some recognition with his 8 K start) has been just as good for most of the year and I might prefer him starting a winner-take-all game right now. Ottavino has had an incredible comeback season, but Scott Oberg to me has been the reliever of the year as he has been nearly as dominant as Ottavino but with none of the control issues that get Ottavino in frequent trouble. The Rockies rookie class was unusually weak this year, but despite a slow start and infrequent playing time, McMahon easily wins the award with his multiple game-winning HRs.

Nick Walsh

MVP: Trevor Story

Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Freeland

Rookie of the Year: Ryan McMahon

Reliever of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Comeback Player of the Year: Carlos González

Unsung Hero: David Dahl

It’s tough to get a lot of national attention when you play for a mid-market team like the Rockies, let alone when that team is led by perennial MVP-candidate Nolan Arenado, but Trevor Story has had a remarkable season few others have accomplished. He is the first shortstop to hit 40 doubles and 30 home runs while nabbing 25 bases, and joined Alex Rodriguez as the only shortstops to ever hit 30 home runs, collect 100 RBI, and steal 20 bases in a season. It’s a historic year for Trevor, and he has helped carry this team to the Postseason at a five-tool level—something Nolan can’t quite say. Pitcher of the Year is a coin-flip between Freeland and Márquez, but I’m picking Kyle due to his franchise record 2.85 ERA and consistency throughout the season.

Ryan McMahon is my Rookie of the Year, thanks in large part to his walk-off home run that stunned the Dodgers on August 11th, and Adam Ottavino takes the cake for top reliever. Otto locked up the 8th inning all year as the primary bridge to All-Star closer Wade Davis, and set a franchise record for strikeouts in a season by a relief pitcher with 112 and counting (plus, he has a fantastic 10 WPA+ and 2.0 WAR, best among Rockies relievers). CarGo is my Comeback Player of the Year mostly in a “clubhouse presence” sense—he has brought so much joy and camaraderie to this team and been a friend and leader to young players while making Nolan and countless other teammates smile every day, and you just can’t quantify that (in practical valuation, he did go from being a negative WAR player in 2017 to a 1.7 WAR player so far this year). Lastly, my Unsung Hero is David Dahl who is as hot as the sun and showing off his incredible talent when it matters most. With the Rockies chasing a division title in September, David slashed .298/.333/.679 with a .381 ISO, 9 HR, and 27 RBI—good for a 148 wRC+.

Adam Peterson

MVP: Kyle Freeland

Pitcher of the Year: German Márquez

Rookie of the Year: Ryan McMahon

Reliever of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Comeback Player of the Year: Scott Oberg

Unsung Hero: DJ LeMahieu

I’m typically in the camp that assigns MVP to position players and Cy Young to pitchers; they’re separate awards for separate categories of pitchers and should be treated as such. Of course, there are occasions where a pitcher is so far and above the competition he deserves the MVP and that’s the case with Kyle Freeland this year. Nolan and Trevor would be no. 2 and no. 3 on my ballot, but they both had long stretches of bad baseball this season, even though they contributed stellar defense all year. Kyle Freeland barely had a bad start this season: his worst was a four inning, five earned run performance on April 18 in Pittsburgh. Other than that outing, he had just three starts where he gave up more than three runs (four, exactly, each time), and had just four starts total where he didn’t pitch at least into the sixth inning. Oh, and a franchise record 2.85 ERA over 202 13 innings is really hard to ignore.

For the sake of variety, I’ll give German Márquez and his franchise record 221 strikeouts my pitcher of the year award. Ryan McMahon gets my Rookie of the Year because he deserved more playing time and he owns two of my favorite moments of the year. Scott Oberg and Adam Ottavino both have had incredible years after super disappointing seasons in 2017, so they split my Reliever of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year awards. Charlie Blackmon signed a big contract this offseason but somehow his 117 OPS+ flew below the radar. I suppose that happens when you’re carried by your pitching.

Kyle Bishop

MVP: Nolan Arenado

Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Freeland

Rookie of the Year: Ryan McMahon

Reliever of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Unsung Hero: Seunghwan Oh

Make no mistake: The Rockies would not be anywhere near where they are without their stellar pitching. The starting rotation stalwarts Freeland and Marquez have pitched the Rockies into the playoffs, and even Gray, Anderson, Senzatela and Bettis have put together awesome outings in key games. But the leadership and all-around ability of Nolan Arenado cannot possibly be overstated. When he’s hot, the whole world feels it. And when he’s cold (as he was for a stretch last month), the Rockies find themselves in a lot of trouble. For that reason, Nolan Arenado is this team’s MVP.

Among the relief corps, hardly anyone was as overlooked coming into the season as Ottavino. His frustrating 2017, combined with some high-profile signings, made him seem like an afterthought. However, Ottavino’s offseason work and in-season dominance cemented him in the 8th inning role. The addition of Seunghwan Oh to an underachieving pen gave Bud Black one more weapon on the positive side, and was a key factor in reducing the number of bullpen implosions down the stretch.

Ryan Schoppe

MVP: Nolan Arenado

Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Freeland

Rookie of the Year: Ryan McMahon

Reliever of the Year: Scott Oberg

Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Unsung Hero: Harrison Musgrave

Everything’s probably been said about the vast majority of these picks. However, I will add that trying to pick a ROY candidate only brought up all sorts of frustrations about how the youngsters got used once again. As much as I love Story, Arenado’s production across the board is just still a bit better. However, there’s a very real conversation about who is the Rockies best player, which is crazy considering that it’s a result of players stepping up rather than Arenado taking a step back. Musgrave’s contribution as a LHP in the pen while not huge, did cushion the blow of the rest of the LHP being horrible for most of the season.

Jordan Freemyer

MVP: Trevor Story

Pitcher of the Year: Kyle Freeland

Rookie of the Year: Ryan McMahon

Reliever of the Year: Scott Oberg

Comeback Player of the Year: Adam Ottavino

Unsung Hero: Carlos González

It should say something about the success of the Rockies in 2018 that I found almost every category to be a tough choice, they had that many good performances this season. The toughest call for me was the unsung hero, where I saw a half dozen legitimate candidates. But what a good decision bringing back CarGo turned out to be. With David Dahl injured and Gerardo Parra scuffling, González got red hot and helped lead the Rockies to a 19-6 stretch in July, hitting .345/.389/.667 that month with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 21 games en route to a line of .278/.330/.470 for the season with 16 home runs. Nolan Arenado is certainly a worthy MVP choice, but I can’t overlook what Trevor Story did down the stretch, hitting .298/.352/.750 with 10 home runs in September, and that he established himself as one of the best shortstops in baseball. You could also easily pick German Márquez as Pitcher of the Year, but when Freeland posts the lowest ERA for a Rockies pitcher since Coors Field opened, that is hard to ignore. The only real clear-cut choice here is Ryan McMahon, who had by far the most involvement and impact of any Rockies rookie.