The delay to the start of the 2020 season provided many opportunities for teams and those who cover baseball to get creative in reporting the MLB season that was supposed to occur. Here at Purple Row, we hosted our own season simulation using MLB The Show accompanied by Ben Kouchnerkavich’s play-by-play. At baseball-reference.com, another simulation using Out of the Park Baseball (OOTP) was used to simulate each day’s scheduled games with full box score reports, standings, etc. available on the site as it would if the season had been played out for real.
These simulation tools (or games) haven’t gone away and are regularly used for applications such as the recent Fangraphs Live twitch stream where Ben Clemens went back in time and drafted Mike Trout for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2009 amateur draft. I find these “what-if” scenarios quite appealing (reminiscent of Biff in Back to the Future 2) and it made me consider if the Rockies could use the OOTP time machine to change one draft pick, what pick would it be and how much of a difference would it really make?
The Mike Trout pick is an obvious one, but it’s intriguing because my logic would lead me to look at the worst picks the Rockies have made rather than the best players in the draft as a way of getting the most improvement. In 2009, the Rockies selected Tyler Matzek with the 11th overall pick. Replacing Matzek’s career bWAR of 3.7 (2.6 with the Rockies) with Trout’s 74.6 is an enormous gain of 70.9 wins. If the measuring stick is the most cumulative bWAR gained, this is the best way to go.
There are still many opportunities for improvement with recent draft picks. In 2010, the Rockies selected Kyle Parker with the 26th pick. Imagine if they instead took a chance on a young high-school shortstop (at the time) by the name of J.T. Realmuto. Catcher has been a big hole for the Rockies for a while and Realmuto has emerged as the best backstop in MLB accruing 19.8 bWAR over his first six big league seasons. Parker, on the other hand, mustered a mere 138 plate appearances in his short career with the Rockies.
The best use of a hypothetical draft pick swap might be to take a more surgical approach and look at changing the outcomes of specific games. In the 2018 season, the Rockies lost the NL West division tiebreaker to the Los Angeles Dodgers in large part because of Walker Buehler’s dominance on the mound. But, suppose in lieu of Brendan Rodgers, the Rockies had drafted Buehler with the third overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. There’s a good chance that game goes differently and the Rockies emerge victorious and bring home their first NL West title.
There are a lot of fun narratives that we could play out and I would love to see what our readers think about this topic. Please share your ideal Rockies draft pick mulligan in the comment section.
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In a place like Coors Field, there are a lot of memorable hitting performances. Thomas Harding takes on the impossible task of identifying the five most captivating single-game lines from Rockies’ hitters. Tops on the list is probably familiar to all Rockies fans: Nolan Arenado’s walk-off home run to complete the cycle on Father’s Day in 2017 (the powder blue uniforms in the highlights are a dead giveaway). Two other cycles made the list with Carlos Gonzalez against the Cubs in 2010 and Mike Lansing in 2000 where he recorded the cycle in record-setting time in the fourth inning. All performances in the list were from home games at Coors Field, as they should be.
The Colorado Rockies’ history began in 1993 as an expansion team along with the Florida (now Miami) Marlins. The decision to expand may have been partly motivated by MLB to increase revenue as it was suffering through difficult financial times after the owners settled with the players to pay $280 million in damages for collusion. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, similar financial troubles preceded (in the form of a strike) the addition of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998. Logic might then lead us to suppose that MLB would be incentivized to consider expanding baseball again, with estimated price tags in the neighborhood of $1 billion for new franchises. The idea, however, is unpopular among many of the 30 current teams dealing with their own financial struggles as they are opposed to reducing their share of “central revenue” by splitting the pot with even more teams. Rosenthal provides a thorough breakdown in which he reports that “the pandemic has pushed back the timeline rather than condensed it, and the owners were never that close to approving expansion, anyway.”
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