Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 19, Sam Hilliard: 0.6 rWAR
Sam Hilliard was part of the many players the Rockies used in the outfield this season, appearing in 81 games. The 27-year-old more than doubled his big league experience this season, compiling 238 plate appearances. Hilliard jumped between Triple-A Albuquerque and Denver, being optioned and recalled four times throughout the year. On July 16, the Rockies recalled Hilliard one last time, and he stayed with the club for the remainder of the year.
Hilliard started the season with the Rockies and spent the first month in Denver, but after only four hits in 37 at-bats, he was sent down to the Isotopes. While in Triple-A, Hilliard played 53 games, slashing .239/.324/.874 and hitting 14 home runs during his time in Albuquerque.
Throughout his time with the Rockies in 2021, Hilliard had many peaks and valleys to his productions. When he was on a hot streak, Hilliard seemed to be hitting balls over the wall every night, but also struggled mightily to put the ball in play during a slump. In his 238 plate appearances, he hit 14 home runs and struck out 87 times. Over the last two season at the MLB level, Hilliard had a strikeout percentage at 36%, which is significantly higher than the 24% league-wide. Hilliard’s overall numbers at the big-league level were .215/.294/.757 and 23 walks. His season was defined by the high strikeout rates and long ball potential.
Hilliard was had many instances of getting the clutch home run to get the Rockies back in the game or get the go ahead run. On July 23, Hilliard hit a towering home run to right field (plus a beautiful bat flip), helping the Rockies come back and beat the Dodgers in LA.
Perhaps the most important home run of the year came on September 20 against the Nationals. It was the first game back after the passing of his father Jim from ALS. Hilliard sent a ball to deep right-center field to give the Rockies lead. As he crossed home plate, Hilliard looked to the sky in an emotional tribute to his father.
This past Sunday, Sam Hilliard’s father passed away after a battle with ALS.— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 18, 2021
Tonight, he homered for the lead in the 6th ❤️ pic.twitter.com/HIwaib9maO
Hilliard and his family work tirelessly to promote research for ALS through their foundation, Team Hilliard. His family helped with the first celebration of Lou Gehrig’s Day this season. In September, Sam Bradfield interviewed Hilliard in more depth about Lou Gehrig’s Day and his season. If you want to support the Team Hilliard foundation, you can find more information here: Team Hilliard Website, Twitter, and Instagram.
The Rockies have many players that will be fighting for playing time in the outfield in 2022. Sam Hilliard has the pop and power that has the ability to boost the Rockies lineup and outfield production. The positives for the year were the homers and the ability to walk, but Hilliard will have to really cut down the strikeout rate to be a long term option for the Rockies’ outfield.