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Trading Brendan Rodgers could be for the best (plus AFL Pebble Report)

Colorado Rockies news and links for Monday, October 24, 2022

After years of waiting for the former third overall pick Brendan Rodgers to become an established big leaguer, Colorado Rockies fans finally saw a glimpse of his potential in 2021 and were eager to see him reach the next level in 2022. However, it’s safe to say that the 2022 season could not have gotten off to a worse start at the plate for Rodgers. Over his first 21 games, Rodgers slashed a horrific .165/.221/.241 resulting in a comically low 15 wRC+.

This extremely sluggish start was just one of the numerous ailments the Rockies suffered during the season. But Rodgers did eventually come around, posting a .283/.343/.438 line after his horrendous first month while appearing in a career-high 137 games.

He was one of the few bright spots of the 2022 season, Colorado’s fourth straight losing campaign. His production with the bat translated to him being a top-10 second baseman in the league while playing defense at a Gold Glove worthy level. Finally, the evolution of Rodgers from prospect to above-average regular was a reality.

Brendan Rodgers 2022

Stat Rodgers 2B Rank
Stat Rodgers 2B Rank
Innings 1168.1 3rd
Hard Hit % 35.3% 1st
OPS .733 7th
fWAR 1.7 11th
UZR/150 5.7 2nd
DRS 22 1st

But in the end, where did it get the Rockies? Rodgers was good, but the team still posted an abysmal 68-94 record. Could a better start at the plate from him change the Rockies fortunes? Sure, but not enough to put the team back in the playoff picture.

The truth is there were too many broken facets of the Colorado Rockies organization outside of Rodgers that led to the team’s demise.

Foremost was the lost debut season of Kris Bryant, depriving the club of its likely best hitter for the vast majority of the season. While his absence negatively affected the team’s overall record, it also reinforced that the supporting cast wasn’t enough to compete for a winning record without Bryant carrying a majority of the load.

The lineup mostly absent Bryant came out to a 13.2 fWAR for the season – a bottom-third figure that barely surpassed the Washington Nationals and Kansas City Royals – and a well below-average 86 wRC+ which came in 26th.

On top of the woeful offense, the team featured a starting rotation that leaned too heavily on Kyle Freeland, Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela – only to see all but Freeland suffer disastrous results – backed by a very thin and ineffective pool of depth behind them, culminating in the 27th overall SP bWAR (-3.4) and a second-lowest average game score of 46. Throw in a defense that was ultimately average at-best and horrendous in stretches (their .983 FLD% tying for the fourth lowest in baseball) and it equates to a roster that was simply nowhere near competitive.

The worst part is it would not be surprising to see Colorado run out a product much the same next season, with only ancillary changes along the way. You may be able to squint hard enough and see how the team could significantly improve with a similar roster over the next two years. But that is all dependent on too many “ifs” working out with Bryant, the rotation and immediate contributions by prospects on both the major league roster and farm system. It’s plan with the best-case scenario playing out and any setbacks along the way plausibly leading to the organization’s fifth, sixth and possibly seventh straight losing seasons.

Those possible fifth, sixth and seventh straight losing seasons could also be the last three years of Rodgers on the roster, as 2023 will mark the first of his three arbitration-eligible seasons before being able to test free agency.

But, instead of hoping to strike pay dirt sometime in the next three years with Rodgers employed, the front office could elect to move him and acquire multiple pre-arb players that could better align with the state of the organization.

The prospect pool is currently heavy on position-player talent and, with Ezequiel Tovar likely entrenched at shortstop, existing infield prospects like Adael Amador, Julio Carreras or even Warming Bernabel could capably fill his spot at second base in time. The pitching crop, however, has less luster to it and has suffered major setbacks in recent seasons with injuries hampering top arms like Peter Lambert, Chris McMahon, Helcris Oliveraz and Ryan Rolison.

With the current group of pitching prospects facing serious questions about their long-term outlook, the Rockies would be wise to add to that group to help balance the talent flowing to the major league team when their time comes. Selling high on veteran pieces like C.J. Cron and Daniel Bard would seem like the easiest path to accomplishing that, but the club has already shown how little they care for that idea with the infamous Range Rover quote.

So maybe hanging the “available” sign on Brendan Rodgers is worth exploring? Not with the intention of wanting to sell, but because it could be the best piece that won’t be under team-control when the next window of contention opens. It would hurt the product on the field in the short-term, but may fetch the kind of high-end talent that could make a significant difference when the Rockies next compete for a playoff spot.

There may be another level for Rodgers to reach in the next three seasons, and the ceiling on that level is All-Star level production at a relatively affordable cost. But there is also a floor of a top-10 second baseman, something he proved in the 2022 season. There’s genuine value in that, value that contending teams looking to upgrade at second base would pay to acquire.

For Colorado, moving that production away is a risk, but not as big a risk as holding on to it without contending for most — if not all — of his remaining season. For that reason alone, seeing what you can get for him to improve the odds of the next contending Rockies team is a reasonable option that needs to seriously be considered by the front office this off-season.

★ ★ ★

Pebble Report: 2022 Arizona Fall League

After another week that featured a triple-header, Rockies prospects have continued to find their footing in the AFL. Zac Veen continues his torrid streak, going 5-fo-18 (.278) with a double, an RBI, a strikeout and a walk. He also recorded five (!) more stolen bases to up his AFL-leading total to 13.

Grant Lavigne also continued his hot streak, going 4-for-11 (.363) in three games with a double, a triple, five RBI, two walks and three strikeouts. Warming Bernabel went 0-for-8 in his two appearances, striking out just once. Braxton Fulford played just one game as a DH for the Rafters in the Phoenix Municipal Stadium Tripleheader. Fulford went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a strikeout.

As far as pitchers go, Peter Lambert showed better this week. He started a single game and pitched three perfect innings and struck out five batters. Fineas Del Bonta-Smith threw 1 23 innings and allowed one run on two hits while striking out two. But the other relievers didn’t fare as well. Stephen Jones also went 1 23 innings, allowing four runs on two hits while walking three and striking out one... not ideal. Blair Calvo only appeared for 23 of an inning, and he also allowed three runs on two hits while hitting one batter, walking a pair, and striking out another pair.

AFL Hitters (Season)

Warming Bernabel 6/54 1 11 3 1
Braxton Fulford 6/37 0 11 4 3
Grant Lavigne 20/61 1 17 8 3
Zac Veen 27/81 1 8 15 16

AFL Pitchers (Season)

Blair Calvo 10/0 9.0 15/14 9 7
Fineas Del Bonta-Smith 9/2 16.2 16/12 18 7
Stephen Jones 9/0 10.0 13/13 10 10
Peter Lambert 3/3 7.0 7/7 9 1

★ ★ ★

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