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Garrett Hampson went from Goat to glory in 2018

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The Rockies’ number four prospect wasted little time proving he belonged in the major leagues

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. 20, Garrett Hampson (0.3 rWAR)

When the season began on April 5th, Garrett Hampson was in Hartford, CT, starting at second base for the Rockies’ Double-A affiliate, the Yard Goats, and fresh off a promotion from High-A Lancaster the year before. Hampson was a model of consistency in the Rockies’ minor league system, moving up year-by-year and regularly batting above .300, and entered 2018 ranked as the team’s seventh best prospect. Still, getting a promotion to Albuquerque and ending the year hoping to be considered for the major league club in 2019 seemed like a reasonably high expectation. Well, life comes at you fast.

Hampson went on to punish opposing pitchers in the Eastern League and, after hitting a .304/.391/.466 slash line over 172 plate appearances, was quickly promoted to Triple-A. His bat did not cool down and he continued to rake, proving he deserved every bit of attention he was getting. With the Isotopes he slashed .314/.377/.459 over 332 PA, hit six home runs, four triples, seventeen doubles, and stood out as an offensive and defensive weapon while the Rockies’ bats continued to struggle. When DJ LeMahieu suffered an oblique injury in July, the Rockies needed help at the keystone, and they called upon Garrett.

It was a modest major league debut overall—in his first game he went 1-for-3 with a double, RBI, and run scored—and Garrett ended his MLB season slashing a respectable .275/.396/.400. He moved between Triple-A and Denver a couple times, but when he was called up again on September 4th, Hampson settled in and remained a reliable backup second baseman and shortstop, pinch hitter, and pinch runner for the postseason-bound Rockies. When the playoff roster was announced and Hampson was still active, most fans were excited about what it meant for his future with the club the potential of his valuable skill set.

So what set him apart from other roster options, such as Pat Valaika, Raimel Tapia, or even Tom Murphy? In addition to his speed, it might have come down to his reliable, consistent approach at the plate. Let’s look at some of the numbers.

To start, Hampson was very good at making pitchers work. In 192 major league plate appearances, Hampson saw an average of 4.0 pitches per appearance (P/PA). For context, he was right up there with Joey Votto, who averaged 4.02. This isn’t valuable in and of itself, but for further context, the Rockies as a team ranked dead last in baseball when it came to P/PA.

Not only was he seeing pitches, but he was hitting them, too. When Hampson swung he made contact 75.9% of the time. When swinging at pitches in the strike zone, that number rose to 82%. He was even consistent across the field when putting the ball in play, as his pull, center, and oppo percentages were 32.1%, 39.3%, and 28.6% respectively. He could certainly work on increasing his power, but even had an admirable hard-hit rate of 28.4% and league-average line drive and fly ball rates.

It’s important to remember that Hampson achieved all of this as a 23-year-old rookie and should have years of improvement ahead of him. The Rockies would be wise to give Garrett the reigns at second base with LeMahieu likely leaving town, or to split his time there with Ryan McMahon and occasionally give Trevor Story a day off at SS. Hampson has all the tools to be an above-average utility infielder with some pop in his bat, as seen below in his Rockies debut. If nothing else, Garrett should prove the Rockies don’t need to address the infield in free-agency, and should be on the 25-man roster come Opening Day in 2019.