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Could Rockies homer-happy lineup lead to more wins?

Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, April 1, 2022

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One week from today, Coors Field will host Opening Day. For the first time since 2019, there will be fans in LoDo to usher in a new season.

That alone is enough to be excited about, but an upgraded roster thanks to free agency signings, a trade, and hopes that young players will improve has created even more optimism. Sure, putting together a winning record in the NL West is still a tall order. However, the Rockies 2022 roster should be better than the 2021 squad, especially when it comes to home runs.

Rockies Homers By Year By Position

Year P C 1B 2B 3B SS LF CF RF PH DH Total Rank
Year P C 1B 2B 3B SS LF CF RF PH DH Total Rank
2021 1 28 29 20 22 26 14 18 14 10 1 182 T-21st
2020* 0 2 7 7 9 12 7 3 6 1 9 63 22nd
2019 1 9 23 17 47 35 16 26 37 1 0 224 15th
2018 1 15 20 17 40 37 17 29 24 8 2 210 8th
2017 2 5 36 8 39 30 10 37 18 6 1 192 21st
Ave. 1.25 14.25 27 15.5 37 32 14.25 27.5 23.75 6.25 1 202
*2020 was shortened to 60 games and was not included in the position averages.

The Rockies finished tied for 21st in home runs in the league in 2021 with 182, 22nd in COVID-shortened 2020 with 63, and 15th in 2019 with 224. Even though the overall finish was low last season, the increase at catcher and first base were a welcome addition. The Rockies need to up their homer game in 2022 and there is every expectation to think that will happen. The shortstop position might contribute less, but that could be canceled out by the DH. It’s the outfield power that’s going to make a big difference.

Predictions are impossible any way you look at them, but they are even worse with so many variables. Injuries happen. MLB does weird things with baseballs. Spin rates change depending on sticky stuff regulation. This season, every MLB stadium will store baseballs in a humidor, which could lower homer totals. Even with all that, the National League will have more homers across the board now that professional hitters are replacing professional pitchers.

The Rockies may lead the way with potential power up and down the lineup, outside of José Iglesias. He won’t hit homers like Trevor Story, but Kris Bryant and Randal Grichuk will make up for that. Despite losing Nolan Arenado going into 2021 and Story going into 2022, I think this roster can get back into the top 15 if not top 10 in homers in MLB.

It wouldn’t be an unprecedented leap, as the Rockies went from No. 21 to No. 8 from the 2017 to 2018 season. In 2017, Arenado and Charlie Blackmon each hit 37, Mark Reynolds added 30, and Story hit 24, while three other Rockies hit double digits (Carlos González hit 14, Pat Valaika hit 13, and Gerardo Parra hit 10).

In 2018, Arenado hit 38, Story hit 37, Blackmon hit 29, Ian Desmond added a new 22, CarGo came in at 16, which was the same as newcomer David Dahl, while DJ LaMahieu and Chris Iannetta hit 15 and 11, respectively. There was one more Rockie in double digits, but several Rockies hit more than they did before. It wasn’t a big change, but it made a big difference.

In 2022, there are bigger changes. The Rockies could go from nine players in double digits with home runs to 12. This season, if the projected starters (assuming Connor Joe gets the nod) and the next three of the bench – Sam Hilliard, Garrett Hampson, and Dom Nuñez – hit the same amount of homers they did last year, the Rockies will total 196, which is 14 more than last season. It’s fair to say that the Rockies should hit at least that much with the DH, but this is also not factoring in every player or projections of young players with full seasons. FanGraphs’ 2022 Pre-Season ZiPS projections put those 12 players at 210 homers, which is 28 more than last season.

Rockies Home Run Projections and Possibilities

Player ZiPS* 2021 Career High 162 Game Ave.**
Player ZiPS* 2021 Career High 162 Game Ave.**
C.J. Cron 26 28 30 29
Randal Grichuk 26 22 31 29
Ryan McMahon 24 23 24 22
Sam Hilliard 24 14 14 30
Kris Bryant 23 25 39 31
Brendan Rodgers 16 15 15 18
Charlie Blackmon 16 13 37 24
Alan Trejo 13 1 1 6
Connor Joe 12 8 8 18
Elias Díaz 12 18 18 14
Dom Nuñez 12 10 10 10
Garrett Hampson 12 11 11 12
Colton Welker 10 0 0 0
José Iglesias 7 9 11 7
Yonathan Daza 5 2 2 2
Totals 238 199 251 252
•From FanGraphs 2022 Pre-Season Projections **Baseball Reference’s attempt to condense each batter’s career into a single season’s worth of stats. It’s calculated by taking the number of career games played, dividing it by 162, and then dividing the career totals by that factor.

If we total every hitter on the current 40-man roster, which could change by Opening Day, then we would then need to add Alan Trejo, Colton Welker, and Yonathan Daza. That would bring the ZiPS projections up to 238, since they have Trejo hitting 13, Welker adding 10, and Daza chipping in two.

The number of homers in MLB yo-yos yearly. Only time will tell if the winds are blowing out for homers in 2022. Even if the league isn’t seeing numbers like the record-setting Year of Homers in 2019, here’s hoping the Rockies homers are up and wins with them. Winning eight more games than they did in 2021 would give the Rockies their first winning record since 2018.

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Kiszla: Is the Rockies’ $182 million bet on Kris Bryant enough to win back trust of lovesick Colorado baseball fans? | Denver Post ($)

After running into a heartbroken Cubs fan, who’s still depressed after witnessing his team be blown up and Kris Bryant traded to the Giants and then signed by the Rockies, outside Salt River Fields, Mark Kiszla makes an interesting comparison between Bryant and Rockies fans: They both have been burned and they both are “looking for a reason to fall in love with baseball again in Colorado.” This column has some great quotes from Bryant that definitely could inspire a Rockies fan to put themselves back out there again.

Injuries & Roster Moves: Bowden, Sheffield sent down | MLB.com

Two players with significant time with the Rockies last season, LHP Ben Bowden and RHP Jordan Sheffield, were optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on Thursday. The bullpen is crowded and neither was doing well in spring training as Sheffield gave up eight runs in 2 13 innings on Wednesday and Bowden has a 6.00 ERA in three appearances. Sheffield made 30 appearances over 29 13 innings in 2021 with a 3.38 ERA. He went on the 60-day IL on June 20 with a right lat strain and didn’t come back to the Rockies until Sept. 4. Bowden pitched 35 23 innings over 39 appearances in 2021, but ended the year with a 6.56 ERA. His departure leaves Lucas Gilbreath as the only lefty remaining in the Rockies bullpen.

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Spring Training: San Francisco Giants 13, Colorado Rockies 2

The Giants roughed up Chad Kuhl on Thursday as he gave up homers to Tommy La Stella and Brandon Crawford and walked three Giants in the first inning before getting pulled from the game. With spring training rules, he was allowed to re-enter in the second when he gave up two more runs. He finished with a scoreless inning in the third and left with three strikeouts. Kuhl told MLB.com’s Thomas Harding that he is not worried about the game because he was trying a new hand position in his windup. In 5 13 innings over two appearances this spring, he's got a 13.50 ERA. Ashton Goudeau then pitched two scoreless innings before giving up two runs in the sixth. Chad Smith gave up another homer as part of a four-run seventh and Justin Lawrence gave up two more runs to conclude a rough day on the mound for the Rockies. The Giants left 16 runners on base, so it could have been worse. Yonathan Daza and Randal Grichuk each had two hits and drove in a run to lead the Rockies offense, which only managed seven hits.

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