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Sam Hilliard has to play every day

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Potential, potential, potential. It seems we all get caught up on it when it comes to baseball players, huh? Every team, every organization, has multiple uber-talented athletes who are one small adjustments from blossoming. Sam Hilliard is that guy for the Rockies.

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I’ve been high on Hilliard for a while. As good as athletes today are, he’s just on another level, even for modern standards. How many 6’ 5”, 235 lbs centerfielders you know of? Even better, how many athletes of that size you know who can run at upwards of 29 ft/s? How many guys who can run like the wind can also hit a baseball at nearly 115 MPH? Or who have an absolute hose for an arm? Did I mention Hilliard can do all of these things? And did I mention he’s been looking very confident at the plate as of late?

Hilliard has always been an interesting profile. He didn’t become a full-time position player until his final year of college, and that power-speed combination, raw talent, bat speed, etc, is what made Hilliard an intriguing prospect, and what made him successful in the Minors despite his lack of experience. It’s been more of a mixed bag in the Majors, of course. He’s had some very high highs (a 1.006 OPS in his small 2019 cup of coffee, a 1.059 OPS so far this July), but also some extremely low lows (a strikeout rate of almost 37% in 2020, an OPS below .500 in April of this season).

For a team with more immediate ambitions to contend, Hilliard would probably be in Triple-A or seeing sparing action in the Majors, because he’s still unproven, despite his massive tools. But for a team like the Rockies? I’d argue every game that Hilliard doesn’t start (short of rest or injury) is a massive failure for the organization. We know what Daza is. We know what Hampson is. We know what Tapia is. But Hilliard’s incredible tools and relative lack of experience (only 266 MLB PA’s to his name) demand playing time. I say stick him in CF, live with the K’s, live with the cold streaks, even live with the occasional poor routes in the outfield, and see if he can figure it out. There’s too much potential here for the organization not to give him a shot.

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Fire Up the Machine: How Teams Are Teaching Hitting in a Pitcher’s World | Fangraphs

Not Rockies related, but a really interesting glimpse into how hitting development across the Majors has changed in recent years, and how teams are trying to counter pitchers having the best stuff they’ve ever had on average.

Rockies Peter Lambert making big strides coming back from Tommy John surgery | Denver Post ($)

I still remember Peter Lambert’s first MLB start: seven innings of one-run ball at Wrigley Field, game in which he struck out nine and walked just one. Things haven’t been smooth for him since, but he’s making good progress on his road back from the dread Tommy John surgery. Will we see him back in the Majors in 2021?

On The Farm

A high-scoring game at El Paso in which the ‘Topes pulled away with five runs in the final two innings. Five different Isotope hitters hit the ball out of the park, countering Ryan Castellani’s poor start (5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HR) and the bullpen allowing four more runs over the next four innings. Taylor Motter homered and walked, keeping his OPS at 1.250. In other words, he’s hitting like early-00’s Bonds at Triple-A. Albuquerque split the series in El Paso and will get a day off today, with their next contest coming at home against Salt Lake. The Isotopes are 30-41 on the season.

I can’t remember the last time I saw a steal of home in a Major League game, and there were two in this game at Hartford. Two! In the same inning, no less! The Yard Goats also hit four home runs in this game, with Elehuris Montero (nº 9 Rockies prospect) chipping in with his 18th of the season. Starter Nate Harris got hit hard (5.0 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 0 K, 1 HR), but he was picked up by his offense and also by Matt Dennis, who got the win in relief after tossing 3.2 hitless innings. The Yard Goats improved to 23-49 and Montero, by the way, is currently slashing .279/.368/.547 at Double-A while being two years younger than the average player at his level.

Nº 27 PuRP Mitchell Kilkenny had a miserable start: he faced eight batters and retired only two of them, giving up a walk and five hits, being pulled before getting out of the first and tagged with four earned runs in total. Moisés Ceja came on in relief and tossed four scoreless innings after, providing enough room for the Indians bats to come to life, and come to life they did. Led by nº 4 PuRP Michael Toglia, who went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer), and on the back of a four-run bottom of the 7th, Spokane scored eight runs in total, holding on for a 8-6 victory that puts them at 34-39 on the season.

A low-scoring ballgame that saw the Grizzlies narrowly lose against the Storm. Starter Anderson Amarista was solid enough to keep the team in the game (6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 0 HR), but Fresno couldn’t quite score enough, not helped by a 2-for-10 team performance with RISP. Nº 8 PuRP Drew Romo had himself a nice game, though, going 2-for-4, stealing a base, and even picking off a baserunner. The Grizzlies, now 48-25, find themselves in a rare little slump, as this represents the team’s third straight loss. Their division lead is now down to just one game.

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