We’ve almost reached the end. The 2021 Colorado Rockies season was a circus before the first game was even played, and the team’s inability to contend was a foregone conclusion from the start. Like any season, there have been a few pleasant surprises along the way. The areas of dirt at first base and catcher, which looked salted to the point where nothing may grow ever again, have appeared to show signs of life this season and the starting pitching continues to be more of an asset than a detriment.
But with the good had to come the bad. Aside from maybe the bullpen (which is a volatile annual experiment for most teams), nothing has been as bad for the Rockies than the production from their outfield this season.
There have been nine players to appear in the Colorado outfield this season. Charlie Blackmon, Garrett Hampson and Raimel Tapia have been the conventional starters, each appearing in 130 or more games. Yonathan Daza, Sam Hilliard and Connor Joe construct the next tier in playing time, with each appearing in 60 or more games (Daza with over 100). Finally, Rio Ruiz, Chris Owings and Ryan Vilade round out the list, each appearing in less than 30 games.
Aside from an impressive 63 games from Connor Joe and an unsustainable hot few weeks by Chris Owings to start the season, this group has underperformed mightily. Joe produced a 116 wRC+ in 63 games, but after that Charlie Blackmon’s 94 wRC+ is the closest to league average while accruing more than 50 plate appearances. Behind Chuck, Raimel Tapia’s 78 wRC+ marks the next closest attempt.
Unsurprisingly, this underwhelming group performance results in the Rockies producing one of the worst outfields offensively in baseball this season, especially in the power department.
Rockies 2021 OF Rankings
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The Rockies outfield production sits at or near the bottom of both the National League and Major League rankings in power and overall production. Their 53 homers, .138 isolated power (ISO) and -39.0 offensive runs above average (OFF) all rank worst in the National League and barely rank above the doldrums of the American League.
The team clearly prioritized defense over offense, and this is represented well by the group’s 7.0 defensive runs above average (DEF). That mark is third in all of baseball and an overall positive sign, but the work with the leather is not enough to compensate for the ineffectiveness of the bats. The group’s 83 wRC+ marks the worst in baseball and results in team sitting in the bottom third of baseball in WAR.
Obviously, it’s been a bad year. But when you take a step back and take a look at the history of the franchise, there’s a strong argument to be made that this is the worst outfield we’ve ever seen. When evaluating the worst seasons by a Rockies’ collective outfield, this recent crew has many similarities to the Rockies’ team you’d most want to avoid being compared to.
Rockies 2021 vs 1993 OF Comparion
That’s right, the 2021 Rockies outfield is making a strong case to be worse than the expansion 1993 squad. Dante Bichette was a member of that inaugural roster and his 69 extra-base hits and 117 wRC+ went a long way towards making that team respectable. The start of Bichette’s prime, along with Jerald Clark, Alex Cole, Chris Jones and the last 26 games of Dale Murphy’s career, produced roughly the equivalent of the Colorado Rockies 2021 offense.
Those newborn Rockies lost 95 games, tied for the third most in franchise history. But they still had more potency in the outfield than the current squad, which is flirting with the first sub-.400 slugging percentage in franchise history. Surprisingly, the only Rockies’ outfield to hit fewer home runs than the current squad was the 2011 Rockies which featured Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith, Ryan Spilborghs and a rookie Charlie Blackmon. That 2011 squad lost 89 games.
The 2021 Rockies won’t eclipse either of those loss totals, but that is not a victory. The Rockies offense has been on a steady decline in recent years, especially in the power department. The possible (or probable) departures of Trevor Story and C.J. Cron this off-season will only make matters worse. But the outfield is a glaring issue at the forefront of many of the team’s offensive woes. There are reinforcements on the horizon like recent top picks Zac Veen and Benny Montgomery, but there are no warranties with prospects and they are still years away. The upper levels of the minors are thin as well, leaving us with a picture of an underperforming, tangled cast until the next big wave arrives. If the organization does not do more to address the situation in the near-term, we may not see an above-average outfield in Colorado for quite some time.
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Rockies pitchers are starting to conquer fan-filled Coors Field, but it’s not enough | The Athletic ($)
The Rockies offensive woes hindered what was a strong season by the starting pitching staff, especially at home. Despite a late season swoon by Germán Márquez, Nick Groke points to the starters putting up their best walk rate at Coors Field (7.6%) and sixth-best ever ERA (4.66) as signs that the Rockies have built pitching that succeeds above sea-level. Unfortunately there was little support around the staff, especially on the road, that factored heavily into the Rockies posting a losing season in 2021. There are positive takeaways from the the team’s performance at home this season, but there is still much work to be done to right the ship and turn the organization back into a contender.
Numerous highly-touted prospects from the lower levels of the Rockies’ farm system will be participating in the upcoming instructional league season. Recent first round picks Zac Veen and Benny Montgomery will be in attendance, as will Arizona Complex League standouts Adael Amador, Warming Bernabel and Yanquiel Fernandez. On the mound, high octane lefty Helcris Olivarez headlines a group that includes recent draft picks Joe Rock, McCade Brown and Jaden Hill. Hill is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, but has began the throwing portion of his rehabilitation.
On the farm
The Isotopes earned a victory in extra-innings in their third-to-last game of the season. After the scored was deadlocked at zero through the first six innings, Taylor Snyder got Albuquerque on the board first with a solo shot in the seventh inning. The River Cats quickly answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame, tyng up the score. It would stay that way until the ninth, when Elehuris Montero and Chris Rabago each went yard to give the Isotopes a two run lead with three outs to get.
Unfortunately Justin Lawrence couldn’t shut the door, surrendering two runs to even the score again and send the game into extras. In the tenth, Montero and Snyder each drew bases-loaded walks while Greg Bird added a sacrifice fly and Alan Trejo drove in one more with an infield single to give the visitors a four run advantage. Logan Cozart delivered a clean final inning to secure the victory.
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