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DJ LeMahieu shows what happens when a Rockies player leaves Coors Field

Rockies news and links for September 21, 2019

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Is DJ LeMahieu finally reversing Coors Field’s “hitter friendly” reputation for the Rockies? | The Athletic ($)
Coors Field is the most hitter-friendly park in all of Major League Baseball. That’s a well-agreed upon fact and it is backed up by data. It’s no longer the “moonball” of Mile High Stadium or pre-humidor Coors Field. In fact, when Baseball Prospectus released their park ratings from the 2018 season, they only had Coors Field at 104, with 100 being league average. This was still the highest in all of baseball, but it was only one point ahead of Great American Ball Park.

Of course, the narrative surrounding Colorado Rockies players being a product of Coors Field is not one just held by those who are of an uneducated opinion that playing a mile above sea level turns you into a hitting deity. There are home-road splits that show how much better some hitters are at Coors. And FanGraphs’ wRC+ has become one of the more mainstream advanced statistics. This stat is based on park factors that for the past five years have the Rockies at 115, ahead of the Texas Rangers, who come in second at 109. This is why I’m a big fan of the relatively new DRC+ metric from Baseball Prospectus, which unlike wRC+ takes each event at a per-plate appearance level.

While we can look at all these technical examples of the true talent of a Rockies player, it’s also nice when we can see a real example of a player thriving upon leaving the team to be sure. (Un)fortunately, this season has given us one of the cruelest examples of a player having post-Rockies success.

DJ LeMahieu signed on with the New York Yankees this offseason and entering Friday’s action has hit .329/.377/.518 with career highs in home runs (25) and runs batted in (97). His previous career highs were 15 and 66, respectively.

And according to a new tool recently released on Baseball Savant called Statcast Swing Take, LeMahieu has been one of the very few players in baseball in 2019 who has produced a positive value on pitches in the heart of the strike zone, “shadow” pitches, “chase” pitches and “waste” pitches. Not even Mike Trout has done that, though Nolan Arenado is another freak of nature who has.

We’ve also seen former Coors product Corey Dickerson hit .304/.341/.565 this season between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies. And former Rockies’ farmhand Mike Tauchman, also now of the Yankees, has put together a .277/.361/.504 line.

As LeMahieu told Nick Groke of The Athletic, “I’m just happy I don’t have to answer any more questions about Coors Field.”

Welcome to a new generation for the Colorado Rockies in center field | BSN Denver ($)
We are likely looking at the Rockies’ center fielder of the present and future in David Dahl. Rockies’ Manager Bud Black has said the 25-year-old will be at the top of the team’s depth chart in the middle of the outfield when he returns for the 2020 season. However, there are some concerns about the wear and tear the most difficult outfield in baseball will take on the oft-injured Dahl.

There are some other options. Sam Hilliard could use some more plate appearances before fully we judge his abilities at the major league level, but he certainly has some pop. Garrett Hampson has shown the ability to play a capable defensive center field. Raimel Tapia has shown flashes of both offense and defense but doesn’t look like a starter.

Any of the above options come back to one particular theme—the Rockies will be going young at center field in the future. Ian Desmond was penciled in up the middle to begin 2019, but that doesn’t appear to be something the team will consider in the future. And speaking of Desmond, it has been another year of crushing left-handed pitching for the 34-year-old (a .293/.352/.605 line). If used properly (as in, only against southpaws and maybe against the San Diego Padres too), he could still provide value to the Rockies in 2020. “If played in the right way,” writes Drew Creasman of BSN Denver, “he can be an asset.”