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Some Rockies options for an NL DH

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Monday, November 1, 2021

The 2021 major league season is rapidly reaching its conclusion. The Astros fended off elimination last night, but the Braves will have another two chances to clinch their first title since the Smoltz-Glavine-Maddux led team in 1995. That ‘95 season was not only notable as the Braves beat the Rockies in the Division Series, but also because it was the first season that even featured a Division Series. The playoff format was changed after the World Series-less, strike-shortened 1994 season, and since then, season format and rules changes have become more and more common.

The most inevitable future change these days seems to be the adoption of the universal DH. The players want it, the fans want it, what’s not to love? The Commissioner’s Office has continually drug their feet on this issue, adopting policy on a year-by-year basis, but the overall feeling in National League ballparks is that it is coming sooner rather than later. If it is implemented for the 2022 season, it adds another lineup slot and question to the Rockies roster. Do the Rockies look internally or externally for the new DH? Let’s take a look at some candidates.

Internal Options

The Rockies sent seven players to the plate as the DH during interleague play in 2021.

Colorado Rockies Designated Hitters, 2021

Player G GS wRC+ (All Positions) DRS (All Positions)
Player G GS wRC+ (All Positions) DRS (All Positions)
CJ Cron 3 3 127 3
Connor Joe 3 3 116 4
Charlie Blackmon 1 1 94 -3
Sam Hilliard 1 0 85 -1
Taylor Motter 1 1 -3 1
Chris Owings 1 1 158 -2
Trevor Story 1 1 100 9
Fangraphs

Some of these players are no longer with the Rockies and some others will likely also not be on the Rockies by Spring Training. Of the remainders, Cron, Joe, and Blackmon seem like the logical choices to take a day off of fielding. Blackmon’s fielding was better than it has been in years in 2021, but the 35 year old is likely not increasing his range in the outfield. Connor Joe ended the year on the IL with a hamstring strain. He provided positive output on the offensive and defensive sides on the ball in 2021, and the flexibility of the DH could give him another way to sneak into the lineup in 2022. Finally, the recently resigned CJ Cron spent most of his time at first base in the past season, but could easy move to DH to give him a day off fielding with Ryan McMahon (and others) able to fill in at first.

External Options

Coors Field has a long history of reinvigorating hitters’ careers. CJ Cron, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer are all recent examples of Rockies free agent signings who played lesser demanding defensively demanding positions and then just raked at the plate. The DH would give the Rockies another option to bring in a player (hopefully) like those three. Nelson Cruz is the most established and traditional DH about to hit the open market. Despite turning 41 in 2021, he hit for a wRC+ of 122 between time with the Twins and Rays. He’ll likely fetch a large price tag on the market, especially relative to his age, but would be an established option. Some potentially cheaper options fitting the bill of older player trying to revitalize his hitting would be Tommy Pham (2021 wRC+ of 102, career wRC+ of 122) or Ryan Zimmerman (2021 wRC+ of 97, career wRC+ of 116).

Another interesting but trivial note in this discussion is not for something coming in, but something going away. If the universal DH is implemented in 2022, it will leave the 2021 NL Silver Slugger Award recipient for pitchers as the last to receive it. The Rockies Germán Márquez is on the short list for the award this year, so if he does come home with the hardware, he’ll also likely become an answer to a question in trivia nights around the country.

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What’s next for Sam Hilliard after emotional 2021? | Roxpile.com

Hilliard spent time between AAA and the majors this summer, setting career highs in home runs and RBIs. He later lost his father to ALS in September, and then put together an emotional and teary performance against the Nationals. He’s shown he has the tools to be a star, but he’ll need to take another step forward if he’s able to play consistent time for the Rockies in 2022. If the Rockies don’t go shopping for a free agent DH, he could potentially fill a hole in the outfield, but if they do add someone new, it will increase the pressure on him to take advantage of his opportunities.

Major League Baseball considers dramatic change with “robot umpires” | CBS News

Along with the universal DH, the potential for robot umpires has been gaining more and more momentum. With all the tracking data available to fans, human umpires are subject of greater scrutiny, and it’s being constantly documented. The technology seems like it’s still a ways from being adopted in the MLB, if it is at all, but it’s already been tested in the Atlantic League, and the big leagues are apparently considering it. Would it make a difference? Personally, I doubt that the robot umps would decrease fans constant feelings of getting the short end of balls and strikes calls, the fans ire would just be targeted at something else.

On the Farm: Arizona Fall League Edition

The AFL had a league-wide off day on Sunday. The Rockies representatives on the Salt River Rafters will return to play today, hosting the Glendale Desert Dogs at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

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