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The Rockies have a plethora of outfield options

Rockies news and links for March 13, 2018

Carlos Gonzalez and the Value of Options | FanGraphs
The Colorado Rockies officially announced the signing of Carlos Gonzalez to a one year, $8 million deal on Monday. The re-signing of CarGo adds another depth option to the glut of outfielders in the Rox organization. Gonzalez is slated to play right field full time for the Rox in 2018, with Charlie Blackmon manning center. Between left field and first base, on the other hand, the Rockies have a surplus of Major League-caliber depth—and a lot of that depth will reside in Triple-A Albuquerque to begin the season.

Ian Desmond and Gerardo Parra will undoubtedly be a part of the Major League club. Desmond could be a factor at first base or left field, while Gerardo Parra is largely an outfielder who comes with some brief experience at first. Ryan McMahon seemed a sure bet to see a significant portion of time at first base this season, but Manager Bud Black says we shouldn’t be so sure just yet. Black told Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post that McMahon will be given a good look over the next couple weeks, as the team would like to make sure he can have success against better pitching before considering him a lock for the Opening Day roster.

Before CarGo’s signing, it seemed plausible that two of David Dahl, Raimel Tapia, and Mike Tauchman could find themselves on the roster. Now, however, it looks likely that only one will break camp in a big league uniform. After a slow start, Dahl has rebounded in recent Cactus League games. Conversely, Tapia has slowed down a bit after a quick start. Tauchman has been the most consistent hitter of the three this spring, but also has a consensus lower ceiling than Dahl or Tapia. Jordan Patterson has also seen time at first base and in the outfield this Spring, and has had success at the plate, but he appears to be the longest of long shots as he is blocked by all the outfield/first base caliber players available to the Rockies. One could make an argument that McMahon, Dahl, Tapia, Tauchman, and Patterson are all ready for roles in the big leagues, but they will not all be able to crack the Opening Day roster.

As the team’s utility player, Pat Valaika could see action in left field and first base as well, but his spot on the roster won’t affect that of any of the previously mentioned players.

The important thing to understand is that the Rockies do have an enviable number of options at their disposal. After the 2018 season, Gonzalez, Blackmon, Parra, and DJ LeMahieu will all be free agents. The young guys will still be here in 2019 ready to contribute. In fact, they’ll be here ready to contribute in the event of any unforeseen absences during the coming season as well. And it’s not as though performance won’t dictate playing time in 2018, either. Because the Rockies have the depth that they do, they can afford to sort themselves out, writes Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs.

No one is really “blocked” per se. Well, maybe Patterson is blocked, but the others are not.

For starters, CarGo is not anyone’s first choice to play against left-handed pitching. That will open some additional opportunities.

Then, there’s the history of how players get opportunities in the first place. 2016 saw Dahl get a chance to showcase his talent. 2017 gave Tapia that same opportunity. Dahl’s call-up came when the Rockies decided it was time to move on from Brandon Barnes, and Dahl ran away with the opportunity, earning a spot in the everyday lineup. Barnes hit .220/.250/.320 in 109 grueling plate appearances before he was designated for assignment. Even if Parra or Desmond get off to that kind of start, we could say with certainty that their contract situation would prevent a DFA. Tapia was largely the beneficiary of playing time due to injuries to Parra and Desmond. Whether it be injuries or poor performance, the Rockies will give opportunities to the players that give them the most opportunity to have success.

Of course, we shouldn’t assume that Desmond, Parra, or CarGo are going to have production 30-70% worse than league average. They are established big leaguers with past success- even recent success if you look at how CarGo finished the 2017 season. But if Dahl, Tapia, or any of the others represent a clear upgrade, they are going to be utilized. It may take longer to bench a poor performing player than fans would like, but I think the hook will be quicker than it has been in years past. The Rockies are clearly trying to be competitive this year- there will not be a situation where Barnes is allowed to flounder with a wRC+ of 33 at the big league level into July like he was in 2016.

As all of Sullivan’s pieces are, this article is well worth a full read. There is truly an immeasurable amount of value in having options at your disposal.

Carlos Gonzalez’s return to Rockies on one-year deal becomes official | The Denver Post ($)
Even before his signing was officially announced, CarGo was signing autographs for fans on Monday morning. Black says that Gonzalez has come into camp in great shape and is primed for big things in 2018. After CarGo meets with the media on Tuesday morning, Black expects to pencil him into the lineup very soon.

CarGo officially back, ‘poised to have good year’ |’s Thomas Harding further details Black’s comments about the expectation of a rebound for CarGo. Even amid a tough 2017, Black noticed that pitchers were being a bit tentative when pitching to CarGo, seemingly expecting his bat to ignite at any moment. Harding also details a potential batting order, noting an expected 3-4 punch of CarGo-Arenado against righties, and a 4-5 of Story-CarGo against tougher lefties.

Colorado Rockies: Questions after the signing of Carlos Gonzalez | Rox Pile
One could make an argument for Tauchman earning a role on the Major League club, simply because he profiles better as a fourth/fifth outfielder type than others he is competing with. The Rockies would probably rather see Dahl and Tapia get regular at-bats in Triple-A than sit on the bench in the Majors.

Q&A: Charlie Blackmon on the problem with park-adjusted numbers, Statcast and the Rockies’ outfield | The Denver Post ($)
Blackmon used to get mad about advanced statistics- now he has just stopped caring. Blackmon does not get the most favorable reviews for his glovework, but the Rockies’ All-Star center fielder will tell you that he is confident in his abilities. Ultimately, Blackmon believes that players get paid for offense.

By Blackmon’s Beard! ‘Chuck Nazty’ won’t change his minute-to-minute approach | Mile High Sports
As for his beard, Blackmon expects to “let it ride.” In an interview on Afternoon Drive with Goodman and Shapiro, Blackmon described his facial features, as well as the “sting” of getting knocked out of the postseason after just one game, as Colorado was in the National League Wild Card Game in 2017.

Colorado Rockies: Why former Rockies are rejecting offers | Rox Pile
After rejecting a three year, $52 million contract offer from the Rockies, closer Greg Holland remains a free agent. Recently, it was revealed that the Rockies also made an offer to catcher Jonathan Lucroy for three years and $21 million. After rejecting that contract, Lucroy recently signed on with the Athletics for one year and $6.5 million. Rox Pile’s Olivia Greene details why these players might be rejecting their initial offers.

Rockies should dive back into free agent pool to bolster pitching staff for one year | Mile High Sports
Aniello Piro of Mile High Sports opines that the Rockies should take advantage of the one-year deals that free agents are settling for on this year’s market. The Minnesota Twins have benefited by getting Logan Morrison and Lance Lynn for one-year deals, and Mike Moustakas and Lucroy have been made similar victims of the offseason. With Holland and Alex Cobb remaining in free agency, it’s very possible that a one-year contract could be reasonable for both, deals that the Rockies may want to consider.

Marquez banking on revamped changeup |
Harding has notes on several Rockies players. German Marquez has a revamped changeup as he looks to reach his goal of one day becoming a “No. 1 pitcher;” Black has high praise for Chris Iannetta’s swing; Valaika is unfortunately not near game-ready in his recovery from an oblique injury; and Carlos Estevez is making progress in his oblique injury recovery and could return soon.

Fiery Kyle Freeland feels settled, smooth entering second season | Mile High Sports
Kyle Freeland says he is feeling “settled” entering his sophomore campaign. In an interview on Afternoon Drive, Freeland recollects his near no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox in 2017, and his increased confidence level heading into 2018. The Denver native will work to limit his walks in the new season. With 63 base on balls allowed in 156 innings in 2017, free passes weren’t a huge issue for Freeland, but he could stand to limit them a bit- especially if he continues to have a below-average strikeout rate.

Spring Training recap
In Monday’s 4-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Rockies sent only two pitchers to the hill, and they both did a solid job. Getting the start, Chad Bettis allowed 2 runs in 5 innings, striking out 4, while issuing no walks. Antonio Senzatela pitched the final four innings, allowing only one baserunner- a single to Christian Walker in the 9th inning. Senzatela has lowered his Spring ERA to 2.08, and he is working to make it difficult for the Rockies to leave him off the Opening Day 25-man roster.

On offense, McMahon and Trevor Story both hit doubles. What else is new? The talented infielders are hitting .356 and .435 in Cactus League action, respectively. As leadoff man, Tauchman reached base twice, while Desmond hit a line drive double with an exit velocity of 107 mph in his first at-bat, a good sign that there is some life in his bat this Spring. Parra reached base in all three of his plate appearances- he has now walked in three of his first five plate appearances this Spring.