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Rockies have a need for speed

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Rockies news and links for Friday, March 12, 2021

Some of the most fun storylines that come out of spring training are the goals that players set for themselves. For the Rockies, many of those center around speed and that could be a key factor in jumpstarting the offense in 2021.

For Trevor Story, he wants to join the 30/30 club: “I felt like I was on a good pace last year. Obviously, we didn’t play enough games, but that’s always been on my radar to do that.”

Brendan Rodgers made a surprising statement: “My goal is to have 20 bags in this year. I’m an above-average runner. I definitely need to continue to pick (Trevor) Story’s and (Garrett) Hampson’s and other baserunners’ brains about what they look for. I definitely want to challenge myself on the basepaths this year and get me some bags because I know how much that helps the team.”

In the first spring training of 2020, Raimel Tapia said he was aiming for 30 stolen bases: “This year, I really want to improve on the bases, and I look to steal 30 bases.” In the shortened season, he had eight in 60 games, which equates to 21.6 in a full season.

Led by Story, who topped the NL with 15 stolen bags in 2020, the Rockies ranked seventh in stolen bases for a team with 42 in the 60-game season. Since finishing 25th in the MLB in stolen bases with 59 in 2017, the Rockies have been swiping more with 95 bases in 2018 (tied for eighth in the MLB) and 71 in 2019 (which was 14th best).

While the competition for the starting lineup and final roster is still playing out, however it shakes out, the 2021 Rockies will be fast. The MLB average speed for a player is 27 feet per second and the Rockies have six players above that mark: Garrett Hampson clocks in at 29.6 ft/s, Sam Hilliard at 29.4 ft/s, Story at 28.9 ft/s, Tapia at 28.2 ft/s, Josh Fuentes at 27.7 ft/s, and Rodgers at 27.5 ft/s.

As long as it’s done wisely, and not just in a stat-grabbing maneuver, the Rockies could really benefit from moving baserunners. First, however, they have to get on base to be able to steal them. In 2020, the Rockies ranked 25th in on-base percentage (.311), 15th in runs (275), RBI (264) and total bases (833), and 17th in grounding into double plays with 0.68 per game. If the Rockies can improve their on-base percentage, having more men in scoring position and more guys in motion could help the Rockies move up from the middle of the pack.

As Bud Black told the Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders, “They can use their legs to steal bases, to go first-to-third, and to present pressure to the opposing defense. Running the bases hard, and running the bases aggressively, will help us.”

FanGraphs projections don’t put the Rockies nearly as high as their individual goals with Story leading the pack at 24. If 2020 was multiplied to be a regular season, Story would have had 40 stolen bases and 29.7 homers. In 2018, Story smashed 37 homers with 27 stolen bases. It’s certainly possible for Story to join the 30/30 club.

Tapia is projected to swipe 14 and if he hits .321/.369/.402 again as he did in 2020, he’ll have a lot of opportunities to steal. Hampson’s projection is at 11. He had 15 stolen bases in 105 games in 2019. Hilliard, who stole 20 bases in four consecutive seasons in the minors, is projected at 10. He leads the team in spring training with three bags already. FanGraphs also puts Charlie Blackmon at six, Rodgers at five, Ryan McMahon at four, and Fuentes, Yonathan Daza, and Dom Nunez all at three.

It’s hard to imagine anyone cracking the 43 stolen bases Blackmon got in 2015, but with more speed from more players this year, hopefully, more stolen bases could lead to more runs, and maybe even more wins.

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Cubs 8, Rockies 6: Almonte eyes ‘pen; Nuñez selective | MLB.com

Even though Dereck Rodríguez was hit hard, giving up five runs on five hits including two homers from Joc Pederson, Yency Almonte, Lucas Gilbreath, Ben Bowden, and Brian Gonzalez all pitched scoreless innings in relief. With his fastball and slider on the money, Almonte threw a six-pitch, perfect fourth inning. Gilbreath posted two strikeouts and only gave up one hit, while Bowden pitched a hitless frame with one strikeout.

Dom Nuñez connected for a two-run homer against Cubs ace Kyle Hendricks. Josh Fuentes, who just can’t stop hitting, went 3-for-3 and scored a run, and CJ Cron went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

On the downside, Helcris Olivarez struggled with control, hitting one batter, walking three others, and giving up one run in one inning.

Germán Márquez will get the start for the Rockies against the San Francisco Giants on Friday and Scott Oberg is expected to see his first action of spring training.

Rockies outfield prospect Jameson Hannah turning heads in first big-league spring training | Denver Post ($)

Coming to Colorado with Robert Stephenson in the trade that sent Jeff Hoffman to the Reds, Jameson Hannah is now making the most of his time at spring training, his first at the big-league level, with the Rockies. Having just been drafted by Oakland in 2018, he has yet to play above Single-A and didn’t see any action in 2020. This spring, the 23-year-old outfielder, has gone 3-for-6 in six games with one three-run homer, four RBI, two runs, one walk, and one strikeout. He’s also made some good plays in the field and has shown impressive speed.

As Kyle Newman notes, Hannah has “a swing modeled after Ken Griffey Jr. and a defensive style modeled after Jackie Bradley Jr.” Hannah won’t make the Opening Day roster, but if he keeps up this performance, he could end up leapfrogging Double-A Hartford or at least see some time in Triple-A Albuquerque this season.

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