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The conundrum that is Garrett Hampson

His defensive is exceptional; the offense is another matter

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.

★ ★ ★

No. 17, Garrett Hampson: 0.7 rWAR

The 2021 off-season finds Garrett Hampson at a pivotal moment. On one hand, Hampson has emerged as an excellent centerfielder; on the other, he continues to struggle at the plate. This raises an obvious question: What does this mean for Garrett Hampson’s future with the Colorado Rockies?

Defensive Brilliance

In terms of Statcast’s Outfield Catch Probability, Hampson was the 15th-best outfielder in baseball, earning an Outs Above Average score of 7. (The best outfielder in baseball by this measure was Manuel Margot with an OAA of 15. The closest Rockie is Raimel Tapia, ranked 30th with an OAA of 3.) Hampson, it turns out, is a very good outfielder, which is especially valuable at Coors Field.

See for yourself.

FanGraph’s Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) is less enthusiastic about Hampson’s outfielding skills, giving him a DRS of 0. Be that as it may, Hampson was the Rockies’ best defensive outfielder in 2021. He also provided versatility since he played second and occasionally shortstop as well.

Offensive Struggles

In 2021, the Rockies were unable to hit for power, earning a wRC+ of 82, the lowest in baseball. Yes, the team that plays half its games at Coors Field had a lower wRC+ than the Pirates, Rangers, and Marlins. While clearly the Rockies’ offensive problems were not the result of only one player, Hampson did not provide much offensive help, earning a wRC+ of 65 — the same as that of Germán Márquez. Hampson slashed .234/.289/.380. Perhaps most notable was his strikeout rate. His K% was 23.9% while his BB% was 6.7%. TLDR: Hampson does not consistently get on base.

No one doubts Hampson’s elite speed (29.9 ft/second), but being fast doesn’t help much if a player is more apt to strike out than make it to first.

Hampson did hit 11 home runs, 8th most on the Rockies. In fact, let’s take a second to enjoy his very cool two-homer game against the Phillies:

Hampson said of his struggles at the plate, “The best players in the game, they slump, too. But you don’t realize it because they can get themselves out of it quicker than younger players, or other players in the league. I’m learning about that and trying to take each day as a new day, no matter what has happened.”

All of this is true. However, Hampson has been with the Rockies since 2018 and now has 1053 plate appearances. In other words, we are seeing who Garrett Hampson is as a hitter. His career wRC+ is 67 — 2018 is an outlier of 109 — and the results so far have not been promising, especially for a team as desperate for offense as the Rockies and a player whose game depends upon getting on base.

Some Speculation

That’s what we know about Garrett Hampson so far. The question, then, is what does this mean going forward? Connor Joe provides competition for Hampson’s utility role, and although he lacks Hampson’s speed, in 2021, Joe had a wRC+ of 116 and did well hitting in the lead-off spot.

The Rockies’ outfield has become a crowded place: Connor Joe, Raimel Tapia, Sam Hilliard, Yonathan Daza, Charlie Blackmon, and Garrett Hampson. (Hilliard, it’s worth noting, is playing Winter League Baseball in an effort to continue working on his swing.) Yes, the designated hitter is probably coming to the National League, but that does little to address the Rockies’ offensive problems: an outfield with too many players and not enough power.

If I were a gambling person, I’d wager that at least one of these players (and possibly two) will not be with the Rockies in 2022. Will the Rockies choose Hampson’s defense and try to find the offense someplace else, or will they value power over defense? An elite center fielder at Coors Field is significant. But is it enough?

I like Garrett Hampson a lot — in addition to the speed and defense, he’s the only Rockie whose walk-up music is performed by a woman, Rhianna’s “Desperado.” The question is if it will still be playing at Coors Field.