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Rockies hope the best Story is yet to be written

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Rockies news and links for February 3, 2018

Story aims to parlay ‘17 lessons into ‘18 stardom | Rockies.com
Trevor Story struggled offensively in the first half of 2017, with a .224/.303/.396 slash to show for his efforts. Story found his power stroke in a second half that saw him post a .254/.314/.520 batting line, and he also hit a home run in the National League Wild Card Game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Altogether, the offensive performance represented a significant step back from an excellent debut campaign in 2016, but the increased second half production and season-long superb shortstop defense led him to end the 2017 season with a very respectable 2.6 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.

It’s no secret that Story has a problem with strikeouts. A 31.3% strikeout percentage in 2016 was cause for skepticism, but a 34.4% rate in 2017 was cause for concern. That mark represented the third worst in all of baseball, after Chris Davis and Joey Gallo. Compounded with a decreased hard-hit percentage and a decreased line drive rate from the previous season, Story found himself struggling to get in the right mindset to have success. Luckily, he has teammates like Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon to talk hitting with, and conversations with them played a key role in Story’s second-half turnaround. Rockies General Manager Jeff Bridich also lauded Story’s ability to play Gold-Glove caliber defense at shortstop despite the struggles he was having at the dish.

“You’re only as good as the pitches you swing at,” Story says. The talent of 2016 certainly appeared in flashes in 2017, and Story ended the year with a solid .457 slugging percentage and .219 isolated power percentage. If Story can go to the plate with the right mindset in terms of pitch selection, there’s reason to believe he could be primed for significant improvements in 2018. At MLB.com, Thomas Harding has compiled quotes from Story, Arenado, Blackmon, and Bridich about Story’s 2017 season and progression. Harding also gives us a look at a few heat maps that indicate when Story’s approach at the plate is at its best.

Colorado Rockies: Looking at the Tony Wolters situation | Rox Pile
While Story is entrenched at the shortstop position, things may be more up for grabs for the Rockies in the catching department. On December 8, 2017, the Rockies signed free agent Chris Ianetta [sic] to a two-year, $8.5 million deal to seemingly be the primary catcher for the team in 2018. Iannetta has had a career filled with up-and-down seasons, including those he originally spent with the Rockies from 2006-2011. Iannetta spent 2017 with the division-rival Diamondbacks and had one of his good years, hitting 17 home runs with a .254/.354/.511 slash. However, that home run total was the most Iannetta put up in a season since a career-high 18 with the 2008 Rockies, and from 2015-2016, Iannetta combined to hit an uninspiring .199/.298/.332. Iannetta has proven himself to be a solid defender, but a Rockies team that struggled mightily to receive offensive output from its catchers in 2017 will need their new catcher to put up numbers much closer to last year’s than those of the previous two. As a team, Rockies backstops posted a league-worst 48 wRC+ in the first half of 2017, and Jonathan Lucroy was ultimately acquired at the trade deadline to improve the position. For what it’s worth, Steamer projects Iannetta to hit a solid .255/.352/.455 in 2018.

The catcher who most prominently factored into those first half numbers was Tony Wolters. Among batters with at least 250 plate appearances, Wolters had the worst isolated power percentage in all of baseball in 2017, at .044. Wolters collected only nine extra-base hits in 266 plate appearances, none of which were home runs. Fielding metrics are torn on Wolters’ defense, but there is certainly some upside to his ability behind the plate. Wolters had a much more palatable 2016 season, one which the Rockies will surely like to see return for the coming year. Rox Pile’s Olivia Greene posits that Wolters will have such a breakout that he will become the primary catcher for the Rockies by the All-Star Break in 2018. Of course, it won’t only be Iannetta standing in the way of that ultimately happening. Tom Murphy will be 27 in April and his prospect status is starting to wear off. Murphy hit an abysmal .042/.115/.083 in a small sample of 26 plate appearances in 2017, but had much more promising showings in brief cups of coffee with the big-league club in both 2015 and ‘16. He will certainly factor into the mix in Spring Training and there’s always the outside chance of a Lucroy reunion, as he remains a member of the stagnant free agent market.

Colorado Rockies should sign Logan Morrison to boost offense | Rox Pile
The first base market remains ripe with free agents. Aside from the exorbitantly expensive Eric Hosmer, Logan Morrison is a name that would come at a much more relaxed cost. MLB Trade Rumors pegged Morrison, who hit 38 home runs for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017, for a three-year, $36 million contract. The Rockies currently have high ceiling youngster Ryan McMahon penciled in to see most of the duties at first base in 2018, but JD Jensen of Rox Pile thinks the team might be wise to explore Morrison.

Rockies, all other MLB teams, extending protective netting at ballparks | The Denver Post
It’s an initiative long overdue for all teams in Major League Baseball, but on Thursday, it was announced that the Rockies and all 29 other teams will be expanding the protective netting behind home plate for the coming season. In 2014, a study by Bloomberg News showed that “1,750 fans are injured each year by foul balls or broken bats that fly into the stands.” Along with this information, the incident last season in which a 105-mph foul ball off the bat of New York Yankees infielder Todd Frazier injured a child, has led to the implementation of expanded netting finally coming to fruition.

BSN Rockies Podcast: Rox weigh in on pace of play | BSN Rockies
The need for expanded netting remains far from the only issue impacting Major League Baseball this offseason. In the latest BSN Rockies podcast, Drew Creasman has compiled audio of Arenado, Blackmon, and Bridich discussing Commissioner Rob Manfred’s desires to speed up the game. For his part, Arenado doesn’t see an issue with the pace of play- people come to the ballpark to spend the day there, right? Spoken like a true baseball fan, Nolan.

Additionally, there is the issue of what exactly is causing the slow offseason (more on this below). While some point to the possibility or collusion among baseball owners or greediness of the players, Creasman thinks the cause lies with baseball’s general managers. Using the analogy of a significant multi-year deal for a player like Hosmer, Creasman argues that if the deal turns out to be disastrous, the owners will get to keep their jobs, the player will get to keep the money on his contract, and the general manager will be the one getting fired. As a result, GMs may be warier of handing out such contracts. On the other hand, one could argue that it is more than purely coincidental that every GM decided to abide by this method during the same offseason without some sort of collusion involved. Suffice to say, there are a ton of different opinions to be had on this topic.

Pace of the Offseason

Players are getting pretty dang upset about the lack of free agent signings | NBC Sports
Players signed and unsigned are not happy with how the offseason has transpired thus far. Earlier this week, player representatives floated the idea of everyone refusing to show up to Spring Training until the mandatory reporting date of February 24, even though pitchers and catchers report for clubs between February 12-14. The union informed them that this would be “an unlawful strike,” so “the players dropped the idea.”

In a tweet, Brodie Van Wagenen, Co-Head of CAA Baseball, said that players are “outraged,” and the disconnect between players and owners is reaching levels not seen since the labor stoppage of 1994. A new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be necessary after 2021, and all sides involved are sure to not be short-sighted about the future this time around.