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Comparing the Rockies to the 2015 Royals

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Rockies news and links for February 20, 2018

Parallels between 2018 Colorado Rockies and 2015 Kansas City Royals | Rox Pile
The 2015 Royals had Wade Davis and now the 2018 Colorado Rockies do. They now have something in common. End of article, right?

But that’s not where the similarities end. The Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 2015—certainly lofty standards for comparison. But there are indeed quite a few likenesses to explore, according to Rox Pile’s Christian Espinoza.

For starters, neither the 2015 Royals or the 2018 Rockies were (or will be) a top 10 team in MLB in terms of payroll. The Rockies currently rank 15th in baseball in total payroll, while the Royals ranked 13th in 2015.

If the 2018 iteration of the Rox is anything like 2017’s version, the team will have an offense that is not overwhelming, much like the World Champion Royals team. The ’15 Royals and ’17 Rockies both had an overall OPS+ that was 2-3 percent worse than league average. Rather, the Royals built their success around quality defense and an excellent bullpen. In 2015, the Royals received 5 Defensive Runs Saved or greater from four players- Lorenzo Cain, Jarrod Dyson, Paulo Orlando, and Alex Gordon. In 2017, the Rockies received the same from the following four players- Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, DJ LeMahieu, and Gerardo Parra. As a team, the 2015 Royals had a significantly better overall DRS mark than the 2017 Rockies, but both teams clearly had their share of elite defenders.

As for the bullpen, Kansas City featured an enviable back-end trio of Davis (who owned a pristine 0.94 ERA in 2015), Luke Hochevar, and Greg Holland. On September 18, 2015, Holland came into a game in the bottom of the 12th inning trying to hold a one-run lead and accrue a save against the Detroit Tigers. Ultimately, Holland saw his command falter, allowing the tying run to score on a bases-loaded walk, before giving up a walk-off single to Dixon Machado. It was revealed that Holland had a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, prompting Tommy John Surgery and ending his 2015 campaign.

Davis took over as the closer and produced an 0.55 ERA from the time of Holland’s injury through the postseason. The Royals also received significant contributions from Ryan Madson, who signed a minor league deal prior to the season after not pitching in the big leagues in four years. Madson went on to produce a 2.13 ERA for the Royals in 61 1/3 innings. The Rockies will feature Davis, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw in the back end of their bullpen. Chris Rusin had a phenomenal campaign in 2017, and Adam Ottavino and Mike Dunn could help make for a “super-bullpen” if they are able to find their command. Even Scott Oberg, Carlos Estevez, and Zac Rosscup have shown a propensity for striking out batters, and represent possibilities with tremendous upside.

When it come to the starting rotation, the 2018 Rockies have the potential to be much better than the 2015 Royals, who received solid performances from Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez, but lackluster results from Danny Duffy and Jeremy Guthrie. Chris Young also managed to produce a 3.18 ERA, despite posting an xFIP 32 percent worse than league average. Those five pitchers combined for a 5.9 fWAR in 2015. Meanwhile, the combination of Jon Gray, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, Tyler Chatwood, and Antonio Senzatela produced a 9.4 fWAR for the Rockies in 2017, and Steamer’s projections for Gray, Marquez, Freeland, Tyler Anderson, and Chad Bettis amount to a 11.1 WAR in 2018. This is even more exciting to think about when considering that projection systems are often conservative in their estimates.

Compared to the team that won the World Series in 2015, the Rockies seem to be a team in which to be excited about for 2018. Of course, it must be noted that this is just a comparison to one American League team from three years ago. There is a likelihood that the Rox are not going to be the best team in the National League in 2018 (or the division, for that matter). If Rockies starters reach 11.1 WAR, that’s not likely to be the best in the league, even if it is significantly better than what the Royals posted in ’15. Perhaps the biggest takeaway here might be that the Rockies should still look to make additions to their offense to push them over the expectations of other clubs. That offense won’t come from JD Martinez, who signed a 5-year, $100 million deal with the Boston Red Sox on Monday. With Martinez and Eric Hosmer off the board, there are suddenly not many options left for adding offense in free agency.

It’s time the Rockies and baseball at altitude be taken seriously | Purple Row
Purple Row’s Renee Dechert wrote a highly-recommended piece in response to the Baseball Prospectus 2018 Annual. The Annual’s notes about the Rockies felt very shallow and almost seemed to make a joke out of the fact that the Rockies are attempting to be a competitive team. Rather than an actual focus of the Rockies’ performance, the author writes about how he gets “altitude headache just seeing [Coors Field] on TV.” It’s unfortunate that the Rockies were given this treatment from the usually insightful Annual.

Reporting Day: Reading the tea leaves at Talking Stick | Mile High Sports
In the latest Blake Street Irregulars podcast at Mile High Sports, the focus is on “reading the tea leaves.” A big focus in Spring Training camp for the Rockies will be on young players like Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers. According to Nick Groke of the Denver Post, the Rockies will also keep young pitchers Zach Jemiola, Harrison Musgrave, Ryan Castellani, and Yency Almonte around deep into the Spring to get an extended look, says Manager Bud Black.

The Rockies have a clear front-runner to play first base, and it’s not Ian Desmond | The Denver Post ($)
Ian Desmond says that he has not been focusing on first base, and is instead prioritizing his play in left field. That would seem to indicate that the Rockies are focused on running with McMahon as their starting first baseman in 2018. Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post says a reunion with Mark Reynolds remains possible, but that he and the Rockies have not engaged in talks recently.

Colorado Rockies: Raimel Tapia should be the leadoff man | Rox Pile
After Black recently suggested the possibility of moving Charlie Blackmon down in the batting order, speculation has abounded over who could fill the new role as the Rockies’ leadoff man. Rox Pile’s Olivia Greene believes the team would be best served with Raimel Tapia in that role. Out of the speculative options of Desmond, David Dahl, or Tapia, it seems apparent that Tapia has the most speed, but will he feature enough on-base ability to have sustained success in a leadoff role?

MLB made a big change to its rules to speed up games. Players are dubious. The Rockies will have to adjust. | The Denver Post ($)
Major League Baseball announced on Monday that new rules will be put in place to impact pace of play for the 2018 season. You can read about these changes in full detail here. The bottom line is that teams will only be allowed six mound visits per nine innings, with an additional mound visit allowed in extra innings. Nick Groke of The Denver Post spoke to Black, Gray, LeMahieu, and Chris Iannetta about the changes. The players responded with confusion more than direct objection, while Black insists that mound visits to discuss strategy are a significant part of his managing style.

Around the NL West

Transaction Analysis: San Diego’s Superstar | Baseball Prospectus
It seems like many are attempting to promote the notion that the San Diego Padres’ signing of Hosmer isn’t as bad of a deal as it seems initially. Bryan Grosnick at Baseball Prospectus provides some good points on why Hosmer may end up being a productive player for the Friars, but I remain ecstatic that a Rockies’ division rival handed out that kind of payday to a player who has not been productive in back-to-back seasons in his entire career.