Jon Gray has had a tumultuous tenure with the Rockies since being drafted in 2013. He was quickly anointed “ace” of the young staff and at times has lived up to that. At others, he has not. He struck out 16 Padres in 2016, but then was sent to Triple-A and ultimately left off the Rockies’ NLDS roster against the Brewers in 2018 after being rocked in the 2017 Wild Card Game in Arizona. In 2019, he bounced back and was one of the positive storylines in an otherwise negative season and he is looking to build on that in 2020.
Gray looks to build upon 2019 and take his seemingly reclaimed “ace” status one step further — a true leader of the staff. This quote that he told Thomas Harding really stood out to me:
“There is a sense of that, at least from the pitching staff,” Gray said. “Whenever I’m playing catch with somebody different and they’re showing me a breaking ball or something like that, I’m going to give them an honest opinion. That’s the best kind of leader I can be — be honest and accountable.”
I like that Gray is taking a bigger leadership role and helping some of the younger guys with something as simple as a game a catch. It makes me wonder how much that trip to Driveline in the 2018 offseason helped him and gave him more tools that he can share with his teammates. As the bright spot in 2019, we can only hope that he continues the positive momentum into 2020. Maybe this is the year that we truly find out if Jon Gray is an “ace” (but I won’t call him that so as to not jinx it).
Chi Chi González was another nice storyline during the 2019 season. The 28-year-old righty made his first Major League start since 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2017. He finished 2-6 with a 5.29 ERA, but in September in particular he showed off some electric stuff, going 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA down the stretch. Prior to that, he recorded his six losses and had an 8.07 ERA. Yikes.
González told Patrick Saunders that he has been working on the command of his changeup, which he said was the pitch that allowed him to perform as well as he did. His fastball velocity was also up from a year ago.
With a current “lock” of Jon Gray, German Márquez, and Kyle Freeland heading up the rotation, that leaves two spots open. Antonio Senzatela, Jeff Hoffman, Peter Lambert, and Chi Chi González will be fighting for the final spot. Tim Melville was outright to Triple-A and is also dealing with a rib injury that will keep him out 6-8 weeks. That will certainly be a position battle to keep an eye on this spring.
Besides pitching, first base remains a question mark for the Rockies in 2020. Ryan McMahon slid over to second base after Daniel Murphy was signed to a 2-year, $24 million deal. The first year for Murphy was ... not good. He only slashed .279/.328/.452 with 13 home runs, with the first Coors homer not coming until mid-July. Now, Murphy did suffer the finger injury during the second game of the season and just wasn’t quite the same after that, which was horribly disappointing. Thomas Harding reports that Daniel Murphy has lost some weight, so hopefully that helps.
Brendan Rodgers is the Rockies’ top prospect (No. 29 overall, per MLB Pipeline) and he, like many Rockies major leaguers, had an underwhelming 2019. He only played 25 games in the majors, but slashed .224/.272/.250 during that time frame. He also has yet to hit a big league home run (he hit nine in Albuquerque last year). In July, Rodgers announced through his private Instagram that he underwent labrum surgery and is could potentially start the season on the 60-day IL and not see major league action until May. Not great news for a top prospect.
However, Rodgers has been working with Keith Duggar and the Rockies’ training staff in hopes of not having to start the season on the 60-day IL. For a player who has been so highly regarded for so long, it will be interesting to see what he is able to do in 2020 if he’s able to see more action. The only question that remains is: where will he play? I guess only time will tell on that one.
Major League Baseball is at it again, officially releasing their rule changes for 2020. I feel like most of us already knew what they were (three-batter minimum anyone?) but it was good to see things a little more fleshed out. The highlights include:
- Three-batter minimum
- 26-man rosters (maximum of 13 pitchers)
- 28-man September rosters (maximum of 14 pitchers)
- Two-way player designation (i.e. Shohei Ohtani and Michael Lorenzen)
- Position players pitching
- Injured List and option periods
- Challenge time
I might be in the minority when I say that I’m actually a fan of the three-batter minimum because I can only watch Bruce Bochy make so many pitching changes in a game. I know he’s retired and all that now, but that stuff still haunts my nightmares sometimes. The roster limits, on the other hand, are not something I’m a fan of. When your team is out of it by September, it’s nice to be able to see a bunch of the Triple-A guys get action. You can leave more of your own thoughts below, but I wanted to interject my two cents!
PECOTA projections came out for all 30 MLB teams on Tuesday. Notably, the Rockies are projected to finish 77-85 and fourth in the NL West ahead of the rebuilding Giants. The Diamondbacks and Padres are both projected at 79 wins and the Dodgers are projected at 103. Ugh.
As for the National League as a whole? The Mets, Dodgers, and Reds (wait, what?) are all projected to be division winners with the Nationals and Cubs ending up as Wild Cards. All of those teams are projected to have 85+ wins. The whole league will most likely be a cluster until the very end like it has been for the last two years. The Rockies had some bad luck last year, finishing six games under their 2019 PECOTA projection so maybe this will be the year that they go on a run and make it back to the postseason? With the way things are going now I’m not super optimistic, but anything can happen in this crazy game.