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.
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No. 14, Charlie Blackmon (0.8 rWAR)
We saw something new from Charlie Blackmon in 2018. For the first time since he became an every day player, he didn’t get better. In Blackmon’s first full season in 2014, he was a surprise All-Star selection as he laid claim to a full-time spot in the Colorado outfield. Then, in 2015, he made some changes to his approach at the plate, which resulted in swinging less and taking more walks. He took that to another level in 2016 by translating “not swinging as much” in to refined pitch recognition and more productivity at the plate. But his masterpiece came a year later, when everything from pitch recognition to making contact with authority came together. He led the National League in plate appearances, runs, hits, triples, total bases, and batting average, and he came in fifth in the MVP vote. It was one of the best seasons by an outfielder in Rockies history. He was rewarded with a contract extension that will keep him in Denver through at least 2021.
Given how good he was in 2017, it’s not surprising that Blackmon didn’t get better during the first season of his extension. That would have required another MVP-caliber year. But we can’t let that get in the way of how valuable he was to the 2018 team. His season was somewhere in between his raw and improving 2014-2015 seasons and his peak 2016-2017 years. He hit .291/.358/.502 for an OPS+ of 115 in 2018, and he did it while leading the team in plate appearances with 696.
Charlie Blackmon, 2014-2018
If 2018 is about where Blackmon’s offensive baseline will be for the remainder of his extension, the Rockies and Rockies fans should be pretty satisfied. He took a step back from his very high peak, but he was still one of the most valuable players on a very good team.
At least at the plate. By Defensive Runs Saved, Blackmon was the worst defensive center fielder in all of baseball by a fair amount. His -28 DRS among ranked last among 32 outfielders to log at least 500 innings in center — number 31 was Adam Jones with -18. Blackmon has never had a positive DRS since he became a full time center fielder in 2015, but his previous worst was just -7. Additionally, if we do an apples to apples comparison and look at Blackmon’s defensive season center field alongside others in Rockies history, -28 DRS is also the worst since 2002, which is as far back as the stat goes. The second worst was Preston Wilson’s -19 in 2005.
Offense and defense are two distinct aspects of the game, and just because Blackmon is poised to continue to perform well at the plate, it doesn’t mean he’ll be able to maintain his status as a solid center fielder. This past season showed that. Luckily the Rockies have options, and Blackmon is capable of playing either corner outfield spot.
Blackmon may never have another year like 2017, but there was much more room to go down than up. But the work ethic, studiousness, and self-evaluation that played a role in his year-to-year improvements from 2014 to 2017 should also play a role in keeping his level of offensive productivity high, as it did in 2018, for the next several years.