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Late-round draft pick Sam Hilliard proving his worth for the Rockies

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Rockies news and links for May 25, 2018

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Minor League Matters: Six prospects who were found on the third day of the draft | The Athletic ($)
Sam Hilliard (PuRP No. 17) was a 15th round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies back in 2015, on the third day of the draft. While some players drafted on the third day go on to productive Major League Baseball careers, it certainly isn’t the norm. However, Hilliard’s numbers in the minors suggest that he may be on the fast track to competing at the game’s highest level.

The 24-year-old Hilliard has hit at every level of the minors, and is coming off a season in which he slashed .300/.360/.487 for the Class-A Advanced Lancaster JetHawks. To begin 2018, Hilliard is posting a .315/.383/.456 slash for the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats entering Friday’s action. The biggest knock on Hilliard is a strikeout rate that has sat between 25 and 30% over the past few seasons, but he does have the ability to draw a walk and hit for power.

Hilliard jumped up in the PuRPs rankings big time after a mid-season ranking of 28, and the outfielder could soon make another jump— up to the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes. In the preseason PuRPs rankings, Purple Row’s Jeff Aberle listed Hilliard’s MLB ETA as 2019.

Emily Waldon and Melissa Lockard of The Athletic note the impressive performances of Hilliard, as well as that of other late round draft picks in an excellent article for The Athletic.

The Rockies are winning with starting pitching. Seriously. | The Athletic ($)
When your team has the worst wRC+ in all of baseball, the only way you can be in first place in your division is with pitching. And the pitching has been there for the Rockies in 2018. 2017 was already a year that showed marked improvements for the Rockies’ pitching staff, but they’ve seen even more improvements to begin 2018— more strikeouts, fewer walks, a lower batting average against, a lower WHIP, and a better ERA.

Freeland hosts field day at elementary school | Rockies.com
MLB.com’s Thomas Harding details Rockies starter Kyle Freeland’s recent trip to Castro Elementary School, where he hosted a field day. Harding also provides injury updates on relievers Carlos Estevez and Zac Rosscup. Estevez evidently stained his UCL while getting up from sitting on the bench in the dugout, while Rosscup had to have a wart removed. Estevez hopes to begin playing catch soon, while Rosscup’s finger is currently prohibiting him from throwing his slider.

BSN Rockies Podcast: Measuring game-calling, slumps, and “winning” with Manny Randhawa | BSN Denver
In the latest episode of the BSN Rockies podcast, Drew Creasman is joined by Manny Randhawa to discuss several topics, one of which is how to measure game-calling from catchers. Baseball Prospectus’ WARP captures pitch framing numbers that are not calculated by FanGraph’s WAR, but catchers played a critical role in the mental aspect of the game as well, which is not easy to quantify.

Jason Hirsh, on Colorado’s offensive woes: ‘I think across the board, it’s not just the Rockies’ | Mile High Sports
Former Rockie Jason Hirsh believes that the Rockies’ offensive struggles are just a representation of baseball’s overarching strikeout “problem.” While the Rox do rank 8th in baseball in strikeout percentage, I disagree with Hirsh on this being the problem for the Rockies’ offense. Several teams with similar K% rankings have produced much better offensive numbers than the Rockies overall.

Why the Rockies should sign Hanley Ramirez | Mile High Sports
The Boston Red Sox designated their first baseman, Hanley Ramirez, for assignment on Friday. Naturally, speculation was sparked about the Rockies as a potential landing spot. Rockies first basemen currently own the worst wRC+ in baseball, and only the Seattle Mariners have a lower fWAR at first. Ramirez has not been excellent in 2018, as evidenced by a .254/.313/.395 slash, but those numbers are still 47% closer to league average than Desmond, according to wRC+.

Colorado Rockies: Would you choose home runs or batting average? | Rox Pile
Rox Pile’s Quinn Ritzdorf questions whether the Rockies should focus on home runs or batting average. The Rox currently rank 10th in baseball in home runs, but only 27th in batting average. The best teams seem to be in the higher end of both categories. Personally, I’d settle for a league leading OBP, a statistic in which the Rockies currently rank 25th.

Juiced: MLB admits baseballs contribute to home run surge, but contradicts other reports | Mile High Sports
We now know for a fact that the baseballs are different than they were prior to the 2015 All-Star break, but we still don’t know why. Some MLB pitchers began questioning if the ball was juiced in 2017, when there were a record 1.26 home runs hit per nine innings. The home run numbers have trended down a bit this year, but are still significantly higher than they were in 2014.