Riley Pint and Brendan Rodgers—it’s all their fault. Systematically speaking, that is. Even though Rodgers has been coming to life lately, his major league career overall has been off to a tough start. There’s still time for him to flourish, so nothing is written in stone yet, but it’s fair to say there has been some frustration with his development.
The book on Pint seems to be complete, however. The announcement of Pint’s retirement on Tuesday came as a shock to many, however his career up to this point had been considerably more underwhelming than Rodgers’. While Rodgers has struggled to find himself at the big league level, his minor league track record was phenomenal. Pint, on the other hand, had struggled mightily in the minors ever since being drafted and was never able to advance past the High-A level.
Both were top overall picks by the Rockies in their respective draft classes and were expected to be reliable major league contributors for the team by this point in their careers. It has not panned out as planned and the Rockies are in trouble when it comes to making up for the loss of anticipated production.
There are generally three ways of acquiring talent in the major leagues: the amateur draft, free agency and through trades with other teams. The Rockies are historically one of the least active trade partners on the market, and have been burned so hard by bad major league free agent signings in their history that the front office seems to have shellshock when it comes to that path. They do produce some international free agent success stories, but those are infrequent and take time to develop through minor league ranks. So that leaves acquiring talent through the amateur draft as the team’s main strategy. Mining this gold vein is the pride of the Rockies and, if you listen to ownership, it is what they do best.
This sentiment is not entirely inaccurate. After all, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story, Jon Gray, Ryan McMahon and Kyle Freeland are all homegrown talents that constitute the core of the franchise. They are all first or second round picks, and building around those high picks is a solid foundation for any franchise. Nolan Arenado, the departed Rockies star, had filled a prominent role with that group as well. Arenado is gone, of course, but his time in Colorado still fits the profile of a high-round draft pick for the franchise to build around.
This proclivity for developing star talent is what keeps the Rockies afloat. But how do they compare to their counterparts in the NL West when it comes to pumping out high end talent with early picks? With Charlie Blackmon being the longest tenured Rockies player, let’s use his draft year of 2008 as a starting point.
NL West draft rounds 1-2 since 2008
Looking at players drafted in the first round, second round, or with supplemental or competitive balance picks sandwiched in between since 2008, the Rockies have produced 20 major league players and 127.9 career bWAR from these picks. That is 50.1 bWAR higher than the next closest, the San Francisco Giants.
Buster Posey, Corey Seager, Trevor Bauer and Trea Turner, to name a few, construct the majority of the value from the other franchises in the division, so it’s not to say the other franchises have failed in their drafts.
But the Rockies have simply produced significantly more in this stretch. Nolan Arenado’s career 42.1 bWAR is the largest contributor to this figure, but the previously mentioned core of Blackmon, Story, Gray, McMahon and Freeland heavily figure into that total as well. Those five players have accounted for over half of the accrued total with 69.6 bWAR between them. If you lump Arenado back into that mix, that is 87% of the production from every pick before the third round since 2008.
That, along with Germán Márquez who was acquired via trade (more on that later), was the group that got the Rockies to back-to-back playoff appearances in 2017 and 2018. It was the backbone for the franchise and produced a legitimate window of contention for the organization.
The biggest downfall for those teams, however, was the lack of support surrounding that core. Free agency pieces such as Ian Desmond, Daniel Murphy and “the Super Bullpen” were all brought in to fill the supporting cast role and we all know how that turned out. But what about the rest of the farm system? After all, the draft has been 50 rounds long except for 2020, so what has the other 48 rounds produced since 2008?
NL West draft rounds 3-50 since 2008
This is where the good feelings end. While the Rockies have had great success early in the draft, they have fallen flat after that point.
Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, Paul Goldschmidt, Adam Eaton, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are all names you’re probably familiar with. Well, they were all products of picks after the the second round by NL West clubs not located in Colorado.
As for the Rockies, they not only accumulated the second-lowest bWAR in that time, but also produced the least amount of major league players and games played of later-round picks who signed. Their 27.1 bWAR total is mostly supported by Corey Dickerson’s 13.9 career mark. But Dickerson only spent three seasons in Colorado before being traded to Tampa Bay in the deal that netted Márquez. Of his career total, only 4.4 of it came in a Rockies uniform.
Scott Oberg is the real crown of the group, a 10th-round pick in 2012 with a 4.8 bWAR. The next highest on the list? Mike Tauchman at 3.5 and Tom Murphy at 2.5. However, both put together a negative value while in Colorado before being traded and finding success elsewhere.
Colorado is a homegrown team and is dedicated to drafting and developing. The problem is, their history suggests they don’t find much success doing that once you get outside the top 100 prospects in a draft. They just saw a recent top pick in Pint walk away from the game and another’s future is still in question in Rodgers. Story and Gray will likely be gone soon, so the organization will need to find ways to replace that production. To do so, history tells us the majority of the current crop of top picks developing in the minors need to become hits in the majors because the franchise is either unwilling or unable to be competitive otherwise.
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The 2021 season has been tough for the Colorado Rockies so far, but Kyle Newman of The Denver Post explains how much bigger the struggle has been for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Sitting last in the NL West and trailing the Rockies by 5.5 games, Newman breaks down how the D-Backs have fared worse than the Rockies both offensively and on the mound, are mired in a 19 game road losing streak and are a prime example of how things could be worse in Colorado. The Rockies are currently 6-4 against Arizona with nine more games remaining against their southwest foe.
Following the departure of Nolan Arenado in the offseason, regression seemed inevitable for the Rockies’ offense in 2021 and Jules Posner takes a deep dive in to just how bad it’s been. The Rockies sport the league’s worst offense in terms of wRC+ and, more concerning, have the sixth worst wRC+ at home this season.
Slow starts and low power outputs by Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon are the first major signs to point out, according to Posner. The hot start by Ryan McMahon has also tapered off in the past 14 days, where he has produced a .238/.306/.310 slash line for a 58 wRC+. Lastly, the struggles to take steps forward by younger hitters Raimel Tapia, Brendan Rodgers and Garrett Hampson are also concerning points to look at when examining how poorly the offense has gone this season.
On the farm
Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 9, Salt Lake Bees 7
The Albuquerque Isotopes secured their ninth win of the season thanks to a strong bullpen performance. Jesus Tinoco, Joe Harvey, Chad Smith and Justin Lawrence combined to allow just one run over four innings with Lawrence securing the ninth. The lone run surrender was a solo shot off Harvey in the seventh; it was his first run given up this season. Greg Bird had two hits, including his sixth home run of the season in the ninth inning. Wynton Bernard collected three hits, raising his OPS to .904 for the season.
The rain washed away any chance for a Yard Goats comeback as they fell to the Reading Fightin Phils in five innings. A solo home run by Taylor Snyder got Hartford a 1-0 lead in the fourth but Reading put up three consecutive hits, a sacrifice fly, a hit by pitch and walk to take a the lead with the bases loaded in the fifth before the tarp was brought out.
After posting a 0.76 WHIP over six starts at Fresno Will Ethridge made his Spokane debut on Friday. It was...not a successful one as he surrender seven runs over four innings. Will McIver collected two hits and two walks on the day. He has recorded a hit in eight of his last ten games and has drawn at least one walk in each of his last five games.
Sam Weatherly had his worst start of the season on Friday. In 1 2⁄3 innings, Weatherly allowed six earned runs while allowing three walks and six hits. The outing ended a three game streak that saw Weatherly throw five innings or more while allowing less than three runs while striking out at least seven. Eddy Diaz and Ezequiel Tovar each collected three hits in the losing effort.
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