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The Rockies may have already missed their best chance to upgrade at CF (plus AFL Pebble Report)

Colorado Rockies news and links for Saturday, October 10, 2022

Just before the Colorado Rockies’ 2022 season mercifully came to an end, General Manager Bill Schmidt held a press conference, providing his thoughts to the media about the season and what’s ahead. While some information was better than nothing, his quotes mostly equated to the same jargon the organization uses to convince itself it’s doing the right things to build a winner.

But there was an interesting segment of Schmidt’s presser where he provided some insight into the front office’s off-season plans. Per Thomas Harding, Schmidt acknowledged he wants to improve the lineup, pointing to upgrades in center field and the lead-off spot as the most obvious holes to fill.

Center field has been a problem for Colorado for a long time now, as the team hasn’t seen an impactful season from that position since 2017. While Yonathan Daza posted a respectable season in 2022, it is encouraging to hear that the organization may finally be prioritizing an upgrade at the position.

But it’s not going to be easy.

The pickings for a bona fide regular on the free agent market are sparse, with Brandon Nimmo being thrown around as the most likely candidate. Nimmo is coming off a career year with the Mets, but has some pretty serious red flags on his resume with injuries chewing up a significant amount of games in three of his last five full seasons and a career UZR/150 of -3.4 in center field.

After watching the first year of Kris Bryant’s mega-deal fizzle due to injury and under-performance, it’s hard to imagine the Rockies will be eager to risk repeating the same mistake with a large payday for Nimmo. There are lower-cost options like Kevin Keiermaier as well, but they are a big step down from Nimmo and are unlikely to be a solution. So, browsing the trade market is the next logical step. After all, Schmidt himself said the team could be willing to deal from any facet of the organization for the right player.

Based on Schmidt’s previous quotes, that ‘right player’ is a top-of-the-lineup hitter that can handle center field. And because Colorado is already sitting on a projected payroll around $160 million for 2023, cost is certainly a factor. Add in the reality of Colorado’s window of contention being tied to players that have either barely reached the majors or are still years away and you can essentially boil-down the available pool to per-aribitration eligible players with high upside.

Pre-arb regulars that can handle center field and stick in the top of the lineup with their bat is something every team wants, and teams that already have it aren’t keen on parting with those pieces. But it’s not impossible.

In fact, that exact type of player was already dealt when the Los Angeles Angels 2022 deadline fire sale included sending Brandon Marsh to the Philadelphia Phillies. The price wasn’t cheap, as Philadelphia parted with a blue-chip catcher in Logan O’Hoppe in the deal. But the Phillies had a player in mind similar to the one on Schmidt’s wish list and used just one asset to get it.

Brandon Marsh 2022

Stat w/ LAA Marsh PHI
Stat w/ LAA Marsh PHI
GP 93 41
AVG .226 .288
SLG .284 .319
OBP .353 .455
wRC+ 79 114

After escaping the purgatory that is the Los Angeles Angels, Marsh immediately started contributing offensively in Philadelphia. Over 41 games Marsh saw huge leaps in all three categories of his slash line, resulting in an OPS jump of nearly 140 points. His defense, one of the biggest reasons for the trade from the Phillies’ perspective, also held up as an at-least average center fielder.

But it was only 41 games, so who can say if this Marsh is the same one Philadelphia will get moving forward? His elite sprint-speed and torrid minor league stats projected Marsh to be an impact hitter at the top of the order, but the former top-100 prospect never reached his potential with the Angels, so maybe they will end up looking smart for moving on from him.

But the look they gave him lasted only 163 games, essentially just one season, so the chances are just as good they’ll end up regretting giving up on him too soon. There will be plenty of time to tell as Marsh’s first arbitration-eligible season will be 2025 and he won’t reach free agency until 2028.

As a fan of the game, it will be interesting to see how that plays out. But as a follower of the Rockies, it’s a point of frustration. This is a player Colorado realistically could have acquired who could potentially be an exact fit for what they are looking for. But when the opportunity presented itself the organization stood idly by, being the only team to not make a trade at the deadline.

Philadelphia acted when the moment called for it and was willing to take a risk acquiring their guy. Now, apparently, the Rockies are finally ready to try to find a Marsh of their own, hinting they may be willing to release the grip on their prospect hug to do it. Better late than never, I guess.

★ ★ ★

Pebble Report: 2022 Arizona Fall League

The Salt River Rafters kicked off their season on a sour note, dropping all six games they played in the first week. Pitching and defense was the core of the problem, as their 61 runs allowed was 15 runs higher than the next closest team. This led the Rafters to be the only team with a negative run differential, sitting at an ugly -26.

Two Rockies hurlers appeared in game action — Finneas Del-Bonta Smith and Stephen Jones — and fared poorly, combining to allow 11 earned runs on 14 hits in seven innings pitched. Each gave up seven hits apiece while Jones struggled with his command, walking six in his three innings.

Warming Bernabel (No. 9 PuRP) and Braxton Fulford made modest first impressions at the dish, but Colorado’s two other hitters were much more impactful. Grant Lavigne (No. 19 PuRP) collected six hits in 12 AB, leading the Rafters with three doubles in three games played. Meanwhile, Zac Veen (No. 2 PuRP) went 6-for-12 in four games played, recording a double of his own to go with his first home run of the season. He swiped a league-leading four bases and his 1.421 OPS was the highest total for any AFL hitter with Lavigne’s 1.154 marking the next-best figure.

Top 30 PuRP List

AFL Hitters (Season)

Warming Bernabel 3/25 1 4 0 0
Braxton Fulford 3/15 0 5 1 0
Grant Lavigne 10/25 0 4 4 1
Zac Veen 13/26 1 2 7 8

AFL Pitchers (Season)

Blair Calvo 4/0 4.1 6/6 2 2
Fineas Del Bonta-Smith 3/0 6.1 10/9 6 3
Stephen Jones 3/0 4.1 6/6 3 7
Peter Lambert 2/2 4.0 7/7 4 1

★ ★ ★

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