With positions players now reporting to Spring Training along with the pitchers and catchers who have been on site since last week, let’s take a look at the storylines that will surround the players and coaching staff heading into March.
How much longer will Trevor Story wear a Rockies uniform?
The 2021 season is the last of which Trevor Story falls under team control before he is eligible for free agency. The front office has been clear about its intention to sign Story to a long-term deal at some point this season. The next month will be telling as Spring Training tends to be a time where many contract extensions are signed (it was during the early days of Spring Training in 2019 when Nolan Arenado’s contract extension was officially announced). There are plenty of reasons to doubt that Story will sign an extension with the Rockies, however, largely due to the team’s recent trade of superstar Nolan Arenado and current direction of the team.
Nolan Arenado trade fallout
The Rockies didn’t get a whole lot from the St. Louis Cardinals in return for Arenado, but if one player is expected to make an impact in 2021 it will be left-hander Austin Gomber. While there’s nothing fair about it, his performance this season will have to be exceptional to satisfy Rockies fans. He fared quite well in a small sample last season, logging 29 innings and carrying an ERA of 1.86 and FIP of 3.54. Can he perform at this level for a full season and while also making Coors Field his home? It’s possible, but he will be challenged by the likes of Ryan Castellani and Dereck Rodríguez over the next few weeks for the final spot in the pitching rotation.
The pressure is also on Ryan McMahon. Not only is he taking over at third base for Arenado, but he’s also been a breakout candidate over the last few years and has been hampered by strikeout issues and inconsistency at the plate. With all eyes on him now, this would be great timing to take his game to the next level. The short season was not kind to McMahon, and his BABIP of 0.286 in 2020 (well below his average over the 2018 and 2019 seasons) indicates he should at least bounce back over the course of a full 2021 season.
Battle at first base
With the signing of CJ Cron last week, it certainly looks like there is an open competition for first base, despite a solid September by Josh Fuentes last season. Cron failed to get to the plate much in 2020 due to injuries, but mashed a total of 55 home runs with the Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, respectively. Cron played his college ball at the University of Utah and has expressed that he’s looking forward to hitting in a high altitude environment once again.
Excited for the opportunity to play up in the mountains again! Spring Training begins shortly and I am looking forward to putting on the @Rockies threads! Let’s go!— C.J. Cron (@CCron24) February 15, 2021
Greg Bird was signed to a Minor League contract a few weeks ago to bring in yet a third contender for first base. Bird bats from the left side of the plate offering a platoon option to pair with either Fuentes or Cron should he make a good impression in Spring Training. His best season was in 2015 with the New York Yankees when he slashed .261/.343/.529 with 11 home runs in 178 plate appearances.
What is going on with the Rockies?
This general inquiry has had a lot of appeal since the Arenado trade a few weeks ago. The baseball world has been left puzzled by the Rockies front office and ownership collectively, and until an intelligible direction for the team becomes clear, expectations for the team will remain low and a heap of criticism will be headed towards the team’s decision-makers. It’s a compelling reason to follow the team through both Spring Training and the regular season.
★ ★ ★
Joe Posnanski of The Athletic breaks down the Rockies as a franchise, summarizing the highlights of their brief existence. An obvious undertone of the piece is the success of Rockies’ teams at the plate and their underwhelming performance on the mound. Posnanski does say this of Coors Field: “on one of those bright, crisp Denver afternoons, man, it’s hard to find a better place in America to watch baseball.” I certainly can’t argue with that.
After consuming the release of multiple season predictions over the past few weeks, it’s no surprise that the Rockies begin the season at the bottom of mlb.com’s power rankings. Coming in at number 29, the good news is there is a lot of room to move up over the course of the season.
★ ★ ★
Please keep in mind our Purple Row Community Guidelines when you’re commenting. Thanks!