As believable as the headline might be to some people out there... April Fool’s Day!
Okay, no more funny business — to the news!
Though they won’t be playing baseball on the moon anytime soon, the Rockies minor league affiliates have now all announced their rosters to begin the 2018 season on April 5th. The short season affiliates, Boise and Grand Junction, will begin their seasons in mid-June and remain in extended spring training in the meantime.
As expected, Brendan Rodgers (No. 1 PuRP) will begin the year at Double-A Hartford, and he’ll be joined by notable PuRPs such as Garrett Hampson (No. 9), Peter Lambert (No. 4), and Ryan Castellani (No. 6). The Yard Goats will definitely have a lot of talent to start the season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a few of these names graduate to Triple-A (or even the big leagues?) sometime this year.
And speaking of Triple-A, the Isotopes also appear to have a very stacked team going into 2018. To the chagrin of many, names of note to start the year in Albuquerque include MLB-ready David Dahl and Raimel Tapia, who find themselves stuck behind a logjam of outfielders currently playing for the Rockies — whether they should be or not can be a discussion for another Rockpile at another time.
Regardless, the ‘Topes also find themselves with a wealth of talent this year and should be ready to compete for the Pacific Coast League championship. Other key PuRPs who will join Dahl and Tapia include Tom Murphy (No. 11), Jordan Patterson (No. 14), Yency Almonte (No. 8), and Sam Howard (No. 10). Any of these names could also be capable depth options for the Rockies this year if the injury bug strikes.
Mike Macesich at Rox Pile is one of “the many” I mentioned above who don’t want to see MLB talent wasted in Triple-A, and argues that Raimel Tapia should be on the Rockies 25-man roster instead of Mike Tauchman. You can’t blame him — Tapia has a much higher ceiling than Tauchman long-term and, well, mas mucho swagger.
However, I still firmly plant myself in the camp that believes Tauchman is currently the better option coming off the bench for the Rockies. Tapia should eventually be a starting outfielder for the Rockies, but is still refining the many baseball-related skills he possesses, and needs regular at-bats while veterans like CarGo and Parra block his path.
No, I don’t think Tauchman is the better baseball player overall, but he had a superb spring, has proven he can compete in the majors, and his ceiling is probably a quality left-handed bench option with speed. He is in the role he should be, while Tapia coming off the bench would be a waste of potential, and his time is better spent refining his talent with regular at-bats in Triple-A until he’s ready to breakout in the big leagues.
On Saturday, the Rockies avoided a sweep and left Arizona with their first win of the season. Charlie Blackmon provided all the offense they needed by slugging two solo home runs. DJ LeMahieu doubled and Ian Desmond picked up another hit in two at-bats, but left the game in the 7th inning with right-knee soreness. Ryan McMahon took over at 1B and went 0-for-2, but if an injury lingers for Ian, could finally see some regular playing time for the Rockies.
Germán Márquez pitched five solid innings, gave up one unearned run on four hits, walked four, and struck out four. What stood out to me more, though, was the performance of the bullpen in a tight, one-run game. Chris Rusin, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee were lights out in bridging to Wade Davis, who earned his first save of the season with a perfect 9th inning. Wade made Ketel Marte and Nick Ahmed look silly on strikeouts, and I’m excited for this bullpen to continue making opponents dread coming to bat late in games this season.
In more somber news, Tyler Anderson’s debut on Friday was less-than-stellar — he recorded only seven outs while giving up seven runs on five hits and issuing four walks. In this post, Casey Light from Mile High Sports uses heat maps to take a closer look at Tyler’s pitch location from game 2 of the opening series against the Diamondbacks and compares it to how Anderson pounded the zone and was successful getting hitters out last year.
In looking at Tyler’s poor night, Bud Black also added, “The fastball command was really lacking,” and, “he’s been a pretty good strike thrower. So, that was uncharacteristic. I can’t explain it.” We’ll hope Anderson figures out how to get back into character, as he will need to find his command pitching as the #2 starter if the Rockies hope to contend in 2018.
Jake Shapiro broke down the opening series in Phoenix against the D-Backs and found three key truths that all Rockies fans will want to read. Personally, my favorite is that “baseball is in a spot where the home run is king and there isn’t even anyone else in the royal family,” and the Rockies will need Trevor Story and Carlos González to step up and hit 30 dingers each. While I see Trevor reaching that plateau, it’s probably more realistic to expect closer to 20 home runs from CarGo in what I’d still consider a bounce-back season.
The other 2⁄3 of his observations revolve around the bullpen, a topic I suspect will drive the Rockies’ narrative of being a successful ball club for a lot of the year. Jake’s not talking about any big free-agent signings, though, like Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, or Jake McGee. He drops some truth for two other names from the Super Bullpen that could both prove to be just as (or more) important to the Rockies making the Postseason again in 2018.