Opening Day is less than two weeks away. That means the Rockies are now letting pitchers hit in Spring Training games, and some lineups are starting to look curiously close to what they’ll look like when the games start counting. Nobody is worried about Nolan Arenado’s .219 batting average, but there are quite a few other players whose performances may affect where they’ll start the 2019 regular season. Let’s take a look a the Good and the Bad of that, as well as other happenings around baseball.
Raimel Tapia has 13 more Spring Training plate appearances than he had during the 2018 regular season — 40 to 27(!). He hasn’t hit that well, with a slash line of .237/..268/.395, but I consider the hefty number of plate appearances a good sign that the Rockies see him as a part of the team in 2019. He’ll likely be the fourth outfielder, and he sort of has to be on the team because he’s out of options, so this is sort of a Good with a caveat, but we don’t have a Tepid category so this is where he goes.
We talked about Jon Gray last week, and he still fits here. Gray has now struck out 14 batters and walked just one in 12 2⁄3 innings pitched. On the one hand, I want nothing less than Gray re-igniting that aimless “is he an ace?” debate; but on the other hand, I want him to give us a good reason to have it.
The other guys on top of the Rockies’ rotation, German Márquez and Kyle Freeland, are also spending their Spring Trainings striking dudes out. Márquez has struck out 13 in eight innings, Freeland 12 in nine.
Pat Valaika has been on a mini hot streak during Spring Training, which has caused some to think of him as something of a possible regular season contributor — maybe even someone to play Mark Reynolds out of a job. Why is he in The Bad then? It’s because he has an on base percentage better than his batting average, which means that, in 36 spring plate appearances, Valaika has more sacrifices (1) than walks (0). Unless you’re so optimistic that Valaika can actually hold a .300 batting average during the regular season (which still wouldn’t be good without taking any walks), this is clearly bad. The moment Valaika was hitting .400 with power was a classic Spring Training ruse.
Mark Reynolds, however, isn’t really doing much to claim that job either. While he’s doing the opposite of Valaika and is walking a lot — Reynolds is batting .143 and still has a higher OBP than Valaika — he’s also getting close to a state of Perfect Mark Reynolds. That is, a super low batting average, enough walks to claim playability, and a ton of strikeouts (10 in 35 PAs). It may not be enough to make the team.
Speaking of not making the team, I was really hoping that Brendan Rodgers would have the type of spring to force the Rockies to make a hard decision at second base. He’s not. Rodgers has only one extra base hit in 35 plate appearances, and he’s clearly headed to Triple-A for more seasoning to start 2019.
Another moment of bad came with the rollout of a sartorial decision. Here’s a uniform change for the Rockies in 2019:
Rockies changing from pinstriped pants to plain white with their two home alternate uniforms this year. Old versions on left, new on right. pic.twitter.com/fUzdCpHDhr— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) March 14, 2019
Now, before we get into this, let’s explain what this is and what this isn’t. This is a change that will only affect the pants only at home and only with the purple and black alternate jerseys. Also, the pants will still have purple piping. Still though: These are bad.
The reason is simple. The change is taking something fun and interesting — baseball is the only context wherein pinstripes are a good choice — and made it boring. And the Rockies purple pinstripes are iconic and unique to the team. These just get the Rockies’ uniforms slightly closer to everyone else’s. It’s too bad, because the last change the Rockies made, the new purple, was great.
What else is good
I’m starting to make plans for my trip to Colorado for the home opener. This has become a yearly pilgrimage for me, and it doubles as a visit to Coors Field for a few games and visiting friends and family. This year, I’m attending the Saturday game with a good friend I haven’t seen in a few years. We became friends around 2007 and watched game 163 together at the Old Chicago in downtown Colorado Springs. I feel a bit bad for the people who watched the game literally anywhere else, as it was an amazing community experience with one long-time friend and a whole bunch of fleeting ones (boisterous Padres fan very much excluded).
What was good for you this week?