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Tom Murphy and other potential difference makers for the Rockies

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Who are the guys who could push the Rockies over the hump in 2019?

The Colorado Rockies have a chance to make 2019 a really fun season. We can reasonably think about things like another playoff appearance or even a division title. In order for that to happen, they will need players to step up and make a difference up and down the roster in different roles.

We know the obvious names who need to do well for the Rockies to succeed: Nolan Arenado, Kyle Freeland, etc. This a discussion about some other players to consider when you think of the guys who could help push the Rockies over the top. Let’s talk about them.

Tom Murphy

Hey, it’s me, the guy who predicted Tom Murphy would be cut and subject to waivers at the end of Spring Training. All the slugging catcher has done in the meantime is mash the ball, apparently making the most of what might be his last chance to make an impression. The most recent example came Sunday on an impressive opposite field shot.

The first reason Murphy would boost the Rockies is obvious: their catchers were very bad on offense last season. Yes, there is a reasonable argument to be made that Chris Iannetta and Tony Wolters did other things well enough that the position was not necessarily a weakness despite those offensive shortcomings. But there’s also a reason that Murphy has been a top prospect in the organization for so long. The boost any team gets from a catcher hitting for power, something like 20 home runs, is significant. Murphy has that power and has shown it as he has crushed the minor leagues.

Murphy would also simplify the front office’s life if he forced his way onto the team. Because Wolters has minor league options left, that would be a way to keep three competent catchers when the team will surely need at least that many over the course of the season.

That might make it seem obvious that Murphy should just make the Opening Day roster, but given Wolters’ importance to the team in every area other than offense, Murphy will have to earn it. If he does, he could be a big difference maker for the 2019 Rockies.

Mike Dunn

You remember Boone Logan. He was a well-paid member of the Colorado Rockies for three seasons. He was very bad for two of those seasons. Then, for the third season, he wasn’t bad anymore. He was actually very good.

You can try to explain that turnaround by discussing tweaks in mechanics or improved health or any of the usual reasons that explain drastic turnarounds for relievers. All we know for sure is it happened for Logan and many other bullpen guys over the years for many other teams. There’s no reason it can’t happen for Dunn.

And what if it does? First of all, the Rockies will reap some value from what has otherwise been a dreadful three-year, $19 million contract. But more importantly, it will provide some much-needed flexibility when it comes to the many question marks for left-handed pitching out of the Colorado bullpen.

Dunn has worked seven scoreless innings this spring [Insert qualifier about Spring Training stats here], but if he’s right it could do a lot of things to bolster this pitching staff. It would take the pressure off Jake McGee and even free him up for setup work if he’s back on track. It would allow the Rockies to use Chris Rusin as a jack-of-all-trades instead of for left-handed match-ups.

Relievers come and go and constantly break your heart, even the LOOGYs (or is it especially the LOOGYs?). Without overstating Dunn’s importance, if he truly bounces back he could make a significant difference. It would also be a great story, as Patrick Saunders wrote about recently.

Raimel Tapia

If he bounces Desmond from the starting lineup. Sorry that I’m not sorry. He and Daniel Murphy can split a gift card or something.

Ian Desmond

OK listen. I know what I just said. And I know a 20/20 season can feel like empty calories if you’re relying on an otherwise bad player for too much production. Don’t the 2018 Rockies know it too?

But what if that 20/20 season feels more like gravy because you’ve lengthened out the rest of the lineup? If that’s the case and Desmond’s legs hold up in center field, he could make a difference. Really, he could.

Jon Gray

Another case where we don’t need to spend a lot of time because we know the situation here. The ace stuff is there. The explanation for why it hasn’t consistently translated is unknown, despite extensive efforts by various armchair psychologists.

While Gray was struggling in 2018, Freeland and German Márquez were establishing themselves as top-of-the-rotation guys. That means Gray will try to get back on track in the middle of the rotation. If he does, that has the makings of a division winning rotation.

Ryan McMahon

It’s been interesting to think of McMahon’s trajectory with the organization as the battle for the second base job plays out. He and Garrett Hampson are both highly regarded, but McMahon is the one who profiles as a potential middle-of-the-order bat, with power to all fields and other things scouts say. Once Brendan Rodgers wasn’t going to be the guy, McMahon became the option with more upside.

Hampson might do well as the starter, but I think he fits even better as a reserve with his speed and ability to play the infield and outfield. He would still play a lot and the Rockies could see what McMahon can do in the everyday lineup. In that case both of them could be difference makers, but McMahon is the one who might start to draw a lot of attention if given the opportunity.