Two days ago, MLB.com published their 30 award predictions for the 2021 season, selecting one member from each time who they think is most likely to bring home some hardware for their team this year. Here’s what they predicted for the Rockies:
While Ryan Rolison exploding onto the scene and claiming a Rookie of the Year trophy is a dream scenario for any Rockies fan, I personally felt this analysis overlooked some of the club’s other top players. No disrespect to Rolison, but I’m not sure his Rookie of the Year potential this year makes him the frontrunner for an award in Denver. It’s worth noting that the MLB.com article only counted MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year awards, meaning Tapia’s chase for a batting title or Story’s stellar defense won’t land them on this list. Regardless, here’s where I think the award potential lies on this Rockies team.
Trevor Story - MVP
There’s no doubt that Trevor Story is the face of this team following Nolan Arenado’s departure to St. Louis, but does that mean he has MVP potential? If you ask me, he absolutely does. Rockies players continue to be knocked down in MVP votes due to the friendly confines of Coors Field, but Story’s past three seasons have resulted in 8th, 12th, and 11th place finishes in the MVP race. Over that time, Story has firmly established himself as one of the best shortstops — and players — in the game by combining elite power, strong defense, and stellar speed (he led the NL in stolen bases in 2020).
Despite being one of the more underrated stars in baseball, Story could generate national buzz as an MVP candidate this year. This pick comes with the caveat that Story may not finish the season in Colorado, but for the time being he plays for the Rockies and I am making this list accordingly.
Germán Márquez - Cy Young
Cy Young awards and Rockies pitchers just don’t go hand in hand. Ubaldo Jiménez’s third place finish in 2010 and Kyle Freeland’s fourth place result in 2018 (more on that shortly) represent the closest any Rockie has been to touching the prestigious award. Germán Márquez has the potential to join that list in 2021. The National League is loaded with Cy Young caliber talent; the Dodgers alone have two or three strong candidates for the award, but Márquez has the talent to make a run at the throne. He led the league in innings pitched last year and is just two years removed from a 230-strikeout season in 2018 where he was fourth in the NL in K/9. If Márquez is able to piece it all together in 2021, he can establish his status as one of the best starters in the NL, if not the best.
Kyle Freeland - Cy Young
Am I nuts for giving two of my top three spots here to Rockies pitchers aiming for Cy Young awards given the history of pitchers struggling at Coors Field? Maybe. Is it crazy that neither one of those two slots are going to the team’s best pitcher from last season, Antonio Senzatela? Also, maybe! Freeland’s 2019 may have been a disaster but his bounce-back year in 2020 makes me believe he’s got a shot to return to his 2018 heights. His 2020 walk rate was lower than his 2018 number and if it wasn’t for an end of the year implosion in his final start against the Diamondbacks (6 ER in 2 1⁄3 IP), Freeland’s ERA would have been solidly in the mid threes. Freeland has shown his ability to get the job done at high altitude before and at just 27-years-old, he could be primed for another big season in 2021.
Brendan Rodgers - MVP
Cards on the table, I wanted to pick Rodgers for Rookie of the Year in this list. 2020 was such a bizarre season that I managed to lose track of the fact that he lost his status as a rookie, making him ineligible for that award. I still needed him in this list and the fact of the matter is, if you’re a number three overall pick in any season, you’ve got MVP potential. Rodgers’ status for Opening Day is uncertain due to the right hamstring injury he sustained in spring training, but as long as it doesn’t prove to be serious (which is how it seems for now), he’s got the talent to make noise this year. Second base is Rodgers’ to lose on this team and fans have long been ready to see their prized prospect piece it all together in the majors. With good health and a good imagination, it’s not out of the question that Rodgers could sneak his way into the MVP conversation.
Colton Welker - Rookie of the Year
Last week, I wrote about Colton Welker’s scorching hot spring training and whether or not he’s the real deal. This week, I’m bumping him up to Rookie of the Year candidate. Welker cooled off a little this last week but his slash line still sits at an impressive .346/.393/.577. Welker ranked fifth in the Purple Row preseason prospect rankings but Ryan Rolison is the only other player in the top five projected to make it to the bigs in 2021. If Welker is able to find consistent playing time with the Rockies this year and uses Coors Field to his advantage, he could very well find himself grabbing some Rookie of the Year attention by the time the season winds down.
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After having “nothing” going in his previous start, Germán Márquez struggled again in the first inning yesterday, but settled in after that. Following a two run first where he hit two batters, threw a wild pitch, and gave up two hits, Márquez found his groove finishing with a final stat line of five innings, three earned runs, and six strikeouts. Unfortunately, Lucas Gilbreath came in to start the sixth and gave up four runs while recording two outs. Once the Rockies lost the lead they were never able to get it back as the Giants finished the game with 15 hits and 11 runs.
Austin Gomber may be the frontrunner for the fifth spot in the Rockies rotation to start this season, but Chi Chi González is doing everything he can to make that decision tougher for Rockies pitching staff. On Tuesday, he went 3 2⁄3 innings allowing only a single run, bringing his spring training ERA to 3.72. González struggled to the tune of a 6.86 ERA in 2020, but it feels like he’s taken a big step forward this offseason. “Just the fact that I am putting the ball everywhere in the zone, not only just down. I feel like that is my biggest improvement.” If he can continue to perform well in spring training, he could find himself with an important role, either as the fifth starter or in the bullpen come Opening Day.
Well we all knew the Rockies season outlook was looking pretty grim, but a zero percent chance of making the playoffs? Come on Bleacher Report! Give us a little one percent so we can dream of somehow sneaking into the Wild Card game and then besting the Dodgers or Padres (I’m just assuming) in the one-game playoff. That seems possible, right? ...right?
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