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2019 offensive projections: Where will the Rockies be better, worse?

The projections offer mixed signals for the 2019 offense

Back in November when Rockies General Manager Jeff Bridich said, “This team is not going to look the same in two or three months as it does right now,” the assumption was that the Rockies would scour the free-agent market for hitters. But almost three months later, it’s clear we were imposing our own hopes on Bridich’s words. As’s Thomas Harding explained on Friday, the changes will come more through subtraction (LeMahieu, Parra, Holliday, González) than addition (Daniel Murphy and some relatively inexperienced young players who’ve come up through the Rockies’ farm system).

Harding cites David Dahl along with Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, and Pat Valaika, who’s not a new-comer but had a miserable 2018, as “the players asked to step up.” (Waiting in the wings: Brendan Rodgers, and missing from the list: Raimel Tapia and Noel Cuevas; whether this is oversight or something more remains to be seen.) For years, Rockies Twitter has begged Bridich to “let the kids play,” and apparently that’s about to happen. At the 2019 Hot Stove Event for season ticket holders this past weekend, Bud Black said that the younger players on the roster “will get more opportunities.”

With this in mind, consider the numbers. It’s difficult to make a sound comparison between the 2018 Rockies with the probable 2019 Rockies because the younger players simply didn’t get enough playing time to provide meaningful data. But here’s an attempt to compare the two teams based on FanGraphs 2018 wRC+ and 2019 Steamer projections:

Comparison of 2018 Rockies and Steamer-Projected 2019 Rockies Based on wRC+

Position 2018 wRC+ 2019 Steamer Projected wRC+
Position 2018 wRC+ 2019 Steamer Projected wRC+
First Base Desmond 81 D. Murphy 115
Second Base LeMahieu 86 McMahon/Hampson 92/94
Shortstop Story 127 Story 111
Third Base Arenado 132 Arenado 124
Left Field Parra 80 Blackmon 111
Center Field Blackmon 116 Desmond 94
Right Field Gonzalez 96 Dahl 95
Catcher Iannetta/Wolters 84/45 Iannetta/Wolters 98/70
—- —- —- —- —-
Bench Cuevas 40 Cuevas 78
Bench Tapia 78 Tapia 84
Bench Valaika 9 Valaika 68
Bench Dahl 109
Bench Hampson 108
Bench McMahon 68

Based on the projected offensive numbers, the probable 2019 Rockies do have more offense than the 2018 Rockies even though Arenado, Story, and Blackmon aren’t projected to be quite as good in 2019 as they were in 2018. Murphy marks a clear improvement over Desmond at first base, Blackmon is better than Parra, and Dahl brings a better bat than González. Based on projections, McMahon and Hampson should be an offensive improvement over LeMahieu (and I think Steamer is conservative in assessing their potential).

It’s not all rosy, though. In center field, Desmond provides significantly less offense than Blackmon; Dahl’s health is always a concern; and the bench is problematic. Although projected to improve, Tapia and Cuevas have low wRC+ ratings. That said, Tapia has shown potential, and both may improve with consistent playing time. But should Dahl or Blackmon be injured, the Rockies’ offense will take a hit based on current numbers, though Tapia and Cuevas are better than Valaika. Even with a significant projected improvement, he is by far the lowest-rated offensive player on the team. Granted, this could change — he was solid in 2017 and Bridich’s comments to Tracy Ringolsby reaffirm the Rockies’ confidence in Valaika — but this is not a deep team.

After comparing the Rockies’ wRC+ with their projected wRC+, I came to feel both better and worse about the probable 2019 Rockies. In terms of offense, they are better — though not as good as they could have been with a few judicious free-agent signings. And the unknown factor is how the less-experienced players will fare at the MLB level.

(And FYI: Bryce Harper — projected wRC+ of 148 — remains available. Just saying.)