Welcome to the 2019 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2019. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 6, Charlie Blackmon: 2.3 rWAR
Like a fine wine, Charlie Blackmon gets better with age. Or at least he has stayed a consistent power threat at the plate ever since turning 30.
However, beyond the offensive ability and the luscious beard, we have Blackmon’s defense, which was not aged as well — more like a cheap IPA. Simply by being moved from center field to right in 2019, he wasn’t as detrimental in terms of defensive value, but he was still arguably the worst outfielder in the National League. According to Ultimate Zone Rating, Blackmon was at -10.6 (worst in the league) and Outs About Average pegged him at -9, which was better than only Kyle Schwarber.
This defense was on full display in the first homestand of the regular season as the Colorado Rockies embarrassed themselves on Sunday Night Baseball against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, Blackmon’s contributions to the Rockies’ offense have been of vital importance. From 2016-2019, Blackmon ranks first in the NL in triples, batting average and runs scored, third in home runs, fourth in slugging percentage, OPS and wOBA, fifth in doubles and eighth in Win Probability Added. We’re talking about one of the best hitters in the National League here.
After showing out in 2017 with 37 home runs and a .331 batting average, Blackmon took a step back in both departments in 2018, leading to concerns about a possible decline in his performance. He had just turned 32 after all.
In 2019, however, Blackmon showed he had plenty left in the tank, putting up a batting line of .314/.364/.576, with 32 dingers. His slugging percentage, homer and RBI (86) totals were the second best of his career after his otherworldly 2017 campaign.
With the Rockies facing a clogged payroll, Blackmon saw his name pop up in trade rumors around the deadline in 2019.
When Jeff Bridich, Dick Monfort and Bud Black held a media briefing after the end of the season, Monfort mentioned a trade deadline deal that was nixed. This is just my speculation, but it’s easy to imagine it may have involved Blackmon.
It’s easy to envision Blackmon thriving in an American League environment because his defensive ability makes him an ideal designated hitter. And while trading Blackmon would free up payroll space for the Rox, it would also be the move of a rebuilding team. If the Rockies are looking to be competitive in 2020, they can’t afford to trade Blackmon because it’s difficult to envision his replacement being a more valuable hitter than the four-time All-Star.