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A prolonged second half slump may put Connor Joe’s future in question

The fan-favorite hitter struggled in the latter half of 2022, and new faces put his roster spot in jeopardy

Welcome to the 2022 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2022. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 12, Connor Joe: 0.9 rWAR

“Joe! Joe! Joe!”

The chorus of Coors Field faithful made that simple chant one of the most fun aspects of seeing home games in 2021. The San Diego native endeared himself to Rockies fans through his grit on the field and his genuinely inspiring story off of it. After an initial full season that saw him slash .285/.379/.469 to go along with eight home runs, there was reason to believe that Connor Joe could be taking steps towards being a regular contributor to the big league squad in his sophomore season.

Joe made a strong case for himself in spring. Playing in 14 games, the 30-year-old slashed an incredible .412/.500/.647 that all but forced manager Bud Black to include him on the 2022 Opening Day Roster. He kept things rolling into the regular season, recording a hit in 16 of his first 20 games. Four of those hits were homers, including this blast in extra innings that helped the Rockies collect a road victory over the Texas Rangers.

(He homered off of former Rockie Greg Holland here. That’s not relevant to the story, I just wanted to include it).

Joe hit .272 in April, and showed extra-base pop that amounted to five doubles, four home runs, and a triple in that month alone. He also walked ten times in that month, which led the team and helped spark one of the league’s best offenses to open the season. That’s a nice start.

The good vibes continued into April, wherein Joe recorded a very similar slash line through 24 games. The power numbers started to dissipate - just one double and no homers, but hey, two triples! However, manager Bud Black believed in Joe’s ability as he tied for the second-most games played that month. Joe, the picture of consistency, did much the same in June.

It’s worth going over these months in detail because they show just how well Joe played in the season’s initial half. Pre-All Star break, he finished hitting .262/.367/.382 with 16 doubles, four triples, and five home runs to go along with 23 RBI. His 49 walks led the Rockies - only Ryan McMahon’s 41 were even close - and his .367 on-base percentage would have led the team if he’d qualified. These were not overpowering stats, but they were very solid and kept Joe as an every day face in the lineup.

July, though, precipitated a demonstrable step backwards. Joe hit just .162 that month, easily his worst hitting month of the season to that point. Six doubles and another triple eased the sting some, but there was reason to be concerned. Those concerns were founded further in August, a stretch that saw the 30-year-old hitter go just 6-for-41 in his 14 appearances. One double and one home run were the sole highlights of the utterly forgettable month, and things got no better in September as he played in just seven games and again proved largely ineffectual with the bat. What had started off as so promising a season for Joe ended on a disparaging note.

That note may well bring his future with Colorado into question. Joe has played the majority of his career as either an outfielder, first baseman, or designated hitter - all of which are largely claimed as other players have made stronger cases for playing time recently.

First base will be manned by either C.J. Cron or Michael Toglia. If an injury or trade occurs Joe could be a reasonable option as a replacement, but Elehuris Montero may make more sense as a player that the Rockies would like to see mature and improve as he’s still just 24.

The outfield currently boasts names such as Kris Bryant, Randal Grichuk, Charlie Blackmon, Sean Bouchard, and Yonathan Daza - all are likely to get starts ahead of Joe. DH is probably the spot that he owns the best chance to fill, but even there the Rockies have more proven options such as Blackmon and Montero.

Joe’s likeliest home on the roster would be that of a bench role, similar to the one he filled in 2021. Even there it’s unclear, though - Garrett Hampson has more versatility (boasting elite speed and the ability to play every position other than pitcher and catcher), and Colorado recently traded for utility man and former top prospect Nolan Jones from Cleveland. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility that Joe could wrench a roster spot away from one of those two, but it won’t be easy.

His greatest asset remains his strike zone recognition and ability to get on base. Baseball Savant puts Joe’s walk percentage and chase rate within MLB’s elites, and his arm strength is nothing to sneeze at either. The biggest hurdle will be convincing Colorado’s coaching staff that his fairly-limited skillset is worth investing time in. He may be able to as, at a glance, Hampson and Jones’ tools seem to imply more of a redundancy than Joe’s. It’s hard to say, though - the Rockies may value their speed and utility over his on-base skills. Time will tell.

It’s a shame that Joe’s story in Colorado may be nearing its end so soon after it began. At 30 years old, he is at a point in his career that may be somewhat of a crossroads. He’ll need to show out early and often if he is to retain a spot on an ever-changing Rockies roster. If this is the end, though, we can appreciate the fun he brought to this season’s first half and for his incredibly brave story away from the game.

And the chant. We’ll always have the chant.