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Rockies hoping for results from Ian Desmond’s new swing

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Rockies news and links for March 20, 2018

Ian Desmond’s modified swing beginning to yield better timing and results | Mile High Sports
Ian Desmond’s first year with the Colorado Rockies was a struggle. He set career lows in WAR, slugging percentage, ISO, and wRC+. With a career-low 20.8% fly-ball percentage and a career-high 62.7% ground-ball percentage, Desmond was an outlier in a year when players were hitting the ball out of the park at astonishing rates. That ground-ball percentage was the highest in all of baseball in 2017 for players with at least 300 plate appearances, and would have led MLB in 2015 and 2016 as well. Looking further back, that ground-ball percentage is the 10th worst in the past ten years, as was written in FanGraphs’ preseason player profile on Desmond.

Desmond does have power, with four seasons of 20+ home runs on his résumé. This would look more impressive if Desmond’s main position was still shortstop, rather than first base, but it would still be a welcome sight following an underwhelming 2017. Desmond also has some wheels, as each of his 20-homer seasons were accompanied by 20 stolen bases.

So, how do we get the 20/20 Desmond of 2012-2014 and 2016 back, or even see him use Coors Field to his advantage to reach or exceed his career high of 25 home runs in 2018?

The first step is to admit we have a problem. And Desmond admitted that he hit the ball on the ground way too much in 2017, as chronicled by Aniello Piro of Mile High Sports. Desmond cites this as a timing issue because he wasn’t finding “the barrel.” To help Desmond feel more comfortable at the plate, he and the Rockies are going to switch up his batting stance, by starting his hands lower on the bat. This is intended to help Desmond get the bat on the ball in “a more direct manner,” writes Piro, “as opposed to having to travel from higher up.”

Desmond won’t be using this swing for the first time, however. The swing was a big part of his success in 2014, he says. After the Nationals clinched the best record in the league, full-time players, including Desmond, got a few more days off to rest up a bit before the postseason and then had a bit of a layoff after the regular season ended before the beginning of the National League Division Series. When Desmond returned, he struggled in the postseason and abandoned the swing altogether, despite the success he had to end the regular season.

I looked up Desmond’s stats from August 7 until the end of the 2014 season, which seems to be the time frame Desmond is talking about for his success. In that stretch, he hit .280/.351/.464 with 7 home runs, good for a 129 wRC+ over the span of 188 plate appearances. If we extrapolate those numbers to a full season, we would be talking 35 homers. He also had 14 stolen bases in that roughly month-and-a-quarter sample. A 30+ home run season is by no means a prediction on my end, but it is a feasibility of Desmond’s capabilities if things are clicking right.

Desmond has shown better results as of late after a rough start to Cactus League play this Spring, and for Desmond, he says the biggest positive takeaway he has had is that he “feel[s] natural.”

Colorado Rockies: Answering 4 big questions coming into 2018 | Rox Pile
Rox Pile’s JD Jensen predicts the biggest surprise and disappointment for the 2018 Rockies, the possibility of buying or selling at the trade deadline, and expectations for season standings.

The biggest disappointment prediction is interesting as it is presumed Opening Day starter Jon Gray. Jensen doesn’t think Gray will have a poor year, but perhaps not the one that fans are expecting. I think I would agree with this assessment. I think it’s more likely that German Marquez or Tyler Anderson will have truly “ace” caliber seasons, but we still can expect more of what we’ve been seeing from Gray, which won’t be a bad thing at all.

Colorado Rockies: Potential roster quibbles heading into the season | Rox Pile
Noah Yingling of Rox Pile predicts the Opening Day 25-man roster, and then offers his own take on what it should look like.

With Carlos Estevez recently suffering a setback in his oblique strain recovery, it would seem Scott Oberg is assured a spot in the bullpen. The eighth man in the ‘pen is likely to be Zac Rosscup, Antonio Senzatela, or Jairo Diaz. RosterResource is currently projecting Rosscup, but with a solid Spring performance and his ability to work as a long reliever, Senzatela is certainly making it a tough decision for the Rockies.

Here’s the worst prediction for the Colorado Rockies for 2018 | Rox Pile
ESPN is predicting between 67 and 87 wins for the Rockies in 2018. You’d think with a larger range, there would be less room for error in a win-loss record prediction, but I’m not sure that’s the case here. This prediction puts the Rockies on par with ESPN’s prognostication for the Cincinnati Reds.

I personally have the Rockies penciled in for 88 wins in 2018, but scenarios of underperformance or overperformance are well within my realm of reality. Still, shifting to a range of between 77 and 97 wins would make far more sense to me.

Starting prospect duo you should get to know | Rockies.com
Yency Almonte (PuRP No. 8) and Sam Howard (PuRP No. 10) were reassigned to minor league camp after rough outings on Sunday, but these youngsters will be players to watch, as they could make an impact in MLB soon. While they may have different styles- Almonte has a power fastball/slider combination, while Howard will rely more on finesse- they both have very high ceilings.

Black eager to see Bettis at full strength | Rockies.com
While we have room to be excited about the influx of young pitching talent, we must not forget about the veteran Chad Bettis, who is the eldest member of the rotation, despite having not yet reached his 29th birthday. Since he first arrived in Colorado, Rockies Manager Bud Black has heard nothing but positive reviews about Bettis’ ability, and is eager to see what a full season of Bettis at full strength will translate to.

Ranking All 30 Of MLB’s Ballparks: First To Worst | Forbes
Forbes released their rankings of MLB’s ballparks from best to worst on Monday, and Coors Field came in #6! All four National League West teams not named the Arizona Diamondbacks had their home stadiums make it into the top 10. AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, came in at number one, while the Tampa Bay Rays’ Tropicana Field came in last place.

I’ve seen one game at the Trop and I enjoyed my experience, FWIW, but I have yet to meet a living specimen that shares that opinion.

Rolando Fernandez developed Rockies’ Latin program from ground up | The Denver Post ($)
Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post shares what Rolando Fernandez, the Rockies’ vice president of international scouting and development, has been up to. Fernandez has played an instrumental role in making all the Rockies’ Latin American players feel at home in the United States. Saunders shares the very interesting story of Fernandez’s relationship with Senzatela, who the Rockies have been looking to sign since he was 15.