In a pleasant surprise, the Colorado Rockies have been noticeably active so far this off-season. On the field, they have trimmed some fat off the roster by outrighting Wynton Bernard, Ty Blach and Helcris Olivares. They also waived Dom Nuñez and Ryan Vilade, losing them to the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates, respectively. Along the way, they also flipped Sam Hilliard to the Atlanta Braves for reliever Dylan Spain. All sensible moves for players that didn’t seem to have a role with the team moving forward.
But the organization churn extends beyond the roster. After parting ways with hitting coach Dave Magadan and long-time organization coach Stu Cole, the Rockies promoted Warren Schaeffer to his first MLB coaching gig and scooped Hensley Meulens from the New York Yankees to fill the hitting coach vacancy. On the surface these are understandable coaching additions, signifying another step in the right direction for the franchise.
The work is not done, as we await decisions on 40-man roster additions before the team dives into the market for pitching help and possibly an answer in center field. They are expected to continue adding, however, and whom they choose to acquire for these holes in the roster will be worth discussing when the time comes.
But the work to fill the positions off the field isn’t done, either. While the coaching staff seems to be set with the additions of Schaeffer and Meulens, there is still one department that is a burning question at the center of the organization: analytics.
After Nick Groke and Ken Rosenthal published their bombshell column in the The Athletic in March 2021, the “department of analytics and laundry” is a meme ownership is never going to live down, epitomizing the organization struggles since the playoff seasons of 2017 and 2018. It was a point of embarrassment for the franchise, one they figured they addressed with the hiring of Scott Van Lenten in September of that year to spearhead a new focus in that area.
It didn’t last long, however, as Van Lenten and the Rockies parted ways just five months later. The organization once again went suspiciously quiet on the subject and continued with business as usual until August, when they promoted from within and appointed former video coordinator Brian Jones to the position.
And that’s been it for the attempt to construct a modern analytics department. The front office directory tells the story of a department existing with less than a dozen individuals, tasked with catching the Rockies up in an area they have lagged behind in for years (if not decades).
It’s not a complete picture, as job postings are still active for the department. But it’s fair to scrutinize the notion that the department being just a hiring or two away from being complete, especially when you inspect more sophisticated organizations like Tampa Bay investing into operations considerably more robust than Colorado’s.
The Rockies have started making tough decisions, and done so in a reasonable manner. That’s a good thing, and they should get credit where it’s due. But there’s also an elephant in the room that they seemingly don’t want to acknowledge. Until they do, it’s hard not to continue taking every decision with a grain of salt.
★ ★ ★
Pebble Report: 2022 Arizona Fall League
The Salt River Rafters’ season concluded on Thursday, dropping two of their last three games and finished in last place with a season record of 12-18. Their final loss came against the Glendale Desert Dogs who finished as AFL runner-up with their loss to the Surprise Saguaros in the AFL Championship on Saturday.
The Colorado bats showed well over the course of the season. Zac Veen posted a league-high 16 stolen bases and BB-to-K of 15-to-8 on his way to Offensive Player of the Year honors. His .888 OPS was second to Grant Lavigne, whose .965 mark ranked in the top-10 of the league while his 10 extra-base hits tied for the fifth most. Warming Bernabel scuffled in his first taste of the AFL with a .111/.155/.185 line in 54 AB, but that wasn’t too surprising considering he was two years younger than the average player-age. Lastly, Braxton Fulford split time behind the plate with three other catchers, collecting two doubles and three stolen bases.
The news on the pitching side was less promising. Blair Calvo’s 10 appearances ranked near the top of all AFL pitchers, but he struggled to avoid damage with a 18 hits and seven walks surrendered in nine innings. Fineas Del Bonta-Smith showed better in his nine appearances, tallying 18 punch-outs in 16 2⁄3 innings. Stephen Jones was not as fortunate in his nine games, issuing 10 BB to go with 10 K and 17 hits in 10 IP. Finally, Peter Lambert made three starts in rehab stint with the Rafters, posting nine strikeouts to just one walk in seven innings before shutting down for the season half way through the fall.
AFL Hitters (Season)
AFL Pitchers (Season)
|Fineas Del Bonta-Smith||9/2||16.2||16/12||18||7|
★ ★ ★
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