As an appetizer for this Sunday Rockpile, here’s a little #NolanBeingNolan from Saturday’s matchup against the Milwaukee Brewers:
Mmm, tasty. Now on to the news.
While David Dahl and Raimel Tapia (and let’s be honest, Mike Tauchman) are battling this spring to make the big league club as back-up outfielders, they also share something else uniquely in common — the blessing of Carlos González.
In this article from Thomas Harding, both Dahl and Tapia share their experiences with CarGo acting as a mentor to them. Some valuable tidbits include how CarGo admits Dahl reminds him of a younger version of himself (I think we’re all on board with that coming true), and that both young outfielders can’t help but smile when González is mentioned.
Also, while his defense has come under some scrutiny, Tapia describes how CarGo took extra time to help him work on his transition to right field and improve his play-making abilities, giving him more and more confidence. What is abundantly clear is CarGo’s encouragement has meant the world to these two rising stars, and the Rockies will be better for it not only this season, but for many more to come.
Kevin Henry at Rox Pile recently spent a week following the Rockies at work in Arizona, and in this post he shares his biggest impressions and most valuable takeaways from his time with them during spring training.
Topics range from the Rockies’ youth movement and their positive growth and new experiences training with the big league club, Gerardo Parra’s value, and also the arbitrary nature of spring training stats and reading into them for conclusions (hint: don’t do it).
What I found most interesting from this post, though, is one of Kevin’s takeaways matches a “hot take” of my own — one of the most important players making a big impression so far this spring is a young outfielder getting much less attention than others. Check it out yourself, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see this lefty’s name on the Opening Day roster and making an impact off the bench for the Rockies all season.
Thomas Harding returns with a great article highlighting Tony Wolters, his mentality entering the season following a disappointing 2017, and what makes him such a unique asset to this ball club — his transition from infield to catcher.
It’s no secret Tony had a tough year at the plate last season, slashing .240/.341/.284 for a 49 wRC+ and .044 ISO. And while he dropped from an above-average 5 DRS in 2016 to a just below-average -1 DRS in 2017, he still threw out 38.9 percent of runners attempting to steal against him — sixth-best in the National League. Tony has the athleticism and tools to be a great complimentary catcher to Chris Iannetta.
Bud Black agrees that he is getting better still, and is impressed by the work Tony is putting in to take that next step forward. Because of that, and especially if his bat rebounds to something resembling his 2016 form (a respectable .259/.327/.395, for a back-up), I believe Tony has the inside track to make the Opening Day roster over Tom Murphy.
The first round of spring training transactions occurred on Saturday morning as the Rockies begin sorting out who will make the 25-man roster and who will benefit the most from more playing time in the minor leagues.
Some highlights include possible depth-option Zach Jemiola returning to Triple-A Albuquerque, Jesus Tinoco being sent to Hartford to make his Double-A debut with the Yard Goats, and Yonathan Daza (No. 19 PuRP) joining him to build on his strong spring showing (.389/.421/.611 in 18 AB). With continued success in 2018, Daza may solidify himself as an OF depth-option for the Rockies as a RHB in a sea of lefties.
Poor Jonathan Lucroy — another victim of the crumbling free-agent market this offseason. As Bob Nightengale of USA Today points out, Lucroy rejected a lucrative three-year, $21M offer from the Rockies in November, taking his chances that a better offer would surface. Not long after, the Rox signed Chris Iannetta and haven’t looked back, while Lucroy settled for a one-year, $6.5M deal with the Athletics — his fourth team in three years.
Personally, I’m thrilled the Rockies signed Iannetta instead. Lucroy was a great hitter for us last year, slashing .310/.429/.437 for a 115 OPS+ in 142 AB, but lacked some boom in his stick as he only hit 2 HR for a mediocre .127 ISO. Chris is a strong RHB who slashed .254/.354/.511 last season for a nearly identical 114 OPS+, but had the added benefit of slugging 17 HR (though in a larger sample size of 272 AB) and a solid .257 ISO. The Rockies needed to add a power bat to their lineup in 2018, and Chris will fill that role better than Lucroy would.