Heading into the season, FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections model tagged the Colorado Rockies to finish with a record of 68-94. The bleak outlook was not surprising, given the unknowns for Colorado heading into the regular season. Now, after one month of games, that projection has improved to a 71-91 record. Colorado’s 10-5 start certainly changed the narrative, however they certainly came back down to earth after a disastrous road series in Philadelphia.
Sitting two games over .500, the Rockies are on a better track than many expected heading into 2022. But they’re also not clicking on all cylinders, giving context to their record hovering around even heading into the second month of the season. With that in mind, let’s give some context to the situation by looking at five Rockies players and how their play so far has changed their outlook for 2022.
2022 ZiPS Pre-Season Projection: 128 G, .266/.348/.508, 26 HR, 1.6 fWAR
April Totals: 20 G, .299/.345/.662, 7 HR, 159 wRC+
Updated 2022 ZiPS Projection: 134 G, .270/.338/.544, 32 HR, 2.4 fWAR
FanGraphs already had a positive outlook on C.J. Cron heading into 2022. But after his hot first month, that sentiment has only grown in the projections. His bat cooled down during the last roadtrip — 5-for-27, one home run and eight strikeouts to no walks — but his overall numbers-to-date still remain among the best in the league.
He likely won’t remain in the upper crust of hitters in the league, and ZiPS reflects that. But his performance so far has already raised optimism in his final totals almost a full win. If Cron maintains his power stroke throughout the season, his expected final fWAR will only continue to rise.
2022 ZiPS Pre-Season Projection: 137 G, .283/.368/.512, 27 HR, 3.1 fWAR
April Totals: 15 G, .281/.338/.351, 0 HR, 89 wRC+
Updated 2022 ZiPS Projection: 135 G, .283/.362/.483, 22 HR, 1.2 fWAR
While the pop in Cron’s bat has been as-advertised, Kris Bryant has struggled the find the power in his swing in his first month in purple. With no home runs and just four extra-base hits so far, Bryant has certainly started slower than expected. While he hasn’t been terrible, the fact remains a .351 SLG resulting in an OPS of just .689 certainly isn’t what the Rockies are paying $18.6M for.
When you consider the delay in his preparation for the regular season after signing in mid-March and add in the fact that he just hit the 10-day IL with back soreness, Bryant’s slow start isn’t entirely surprising. But projections are buying stock in the decline after one month, dropping him nearly two full wins in his expected final totals. There’s enough history for the projections to still remain positive about Bryant, but after one month those expectations have already tempered to more of an “average” season performance.
2022 ZiPS Pre-Season Projection: 96 G, .255/.350/.428, 12 HR, 0.9 fWAR
April Totals: 19 G, .278/.352/.519, 4 HR, 138 wRC+
Updated 2022 ZiPS Projection: 107 G, .260/.350/.455, 16 HR, 0.9 fWAR
While Kris Bryant has not been spectacular to start his Rockies’ career, Connor Joe continues to thrive in Colorado and joined C.J. Cron in the discussion for MVP of the first month. In 79 plate appearances, Joe’s numbers sit firmly in the top-three across the board for all Rockies’ hitters.
But ZiPS is still skeptical. While there has been a modest bump in expected final stats, Joe’s performance hasn’t moved the needle enough for the projections to buy-in. One factor is the health concern, as he is expected to appear in just 107 games this season despite leading the team in plate appearances in the first month. It’s no secret Joe has had trouble staying on the field in the past, but if he can stay healthy moving forward in 2022 it may not be long until the projections catch up to the eye-test regarding Joe’s play.
2022 ZiPS Pre-Season Projection: 107 G, .281/.326/.471, 16 HR, 1.5 fWAR
April Totals: 14 G, .078/.172/.098, 0 HR, -25 wRC+
Updated 2022 ZiPS Projection: 109 G, .240/.294/.397, 13 HR, -0.1 fWAR
No player has been off to a tougher start than Brendan Rodgers. After finally stringing together a healthy stretch in 2021, the hype for a full-season breakout from Rodgers was a major talking point heading into this season. Unfortunately, a 4-for-51 April proves that has lulled much of that narrative.
Rodger’s tough start has been covered extensively and there is still much to do to right the ship. But ZiPS isn’t convinced he’ll get there. Some of his pop may come around, but overall his power and on-base has dropped enough to persuade the projections system that Rodger’s will actually be a negative contributor in 2022. After such a miserable beginning to the season, it will take a major turnaround to prove ZiPS wrong.
2022 ZiPS Pre-Season Projection: 15 GS, 79 IP, 73 K, 5.40 ERA, 0.2 fWAR
April Totals: 3 GS, 16 ⅓ IP, 13 K, 1.10 ERA, ERA - 26
Updated 2022 ZiPS Projection: 17 GS, 88 IP, 80 K, 4.45 ERA, 0.9 fWAR
While Rodgers has failed to meet high expectations, one player that has greatly exceeded modest expectations is Chad Kuhl. Heading into the season, it was assumed Kuhl would get a good look at being the fifth starter in the rotation but was certainly not a sure-thing. However, through three starts Kuhl has been on a different level than any other Colorado starter with a sparkling 1.10 ERA.
Kuhl’s superb April performance has made a believer of ZiPS...but only to an extent. While his expected final ERA has dropped over a full run and his fWAR has round to a full win, the probability in his ability to stick in the rotation all season is still iffy at best with his expected innings pitched rising only nine to 88. Rightfully, it will take more than three starts to make everyone a true believer. But if Kuhl can stay healthy and continue to succeed in the back of the rotation, it is easy to imagine Kuhl blowing well past his expected totals.
★ ★ ★
After seven years in the Colorado organization, Ben Bowden’s tenure with the Rockies has ended. After being placed on waivers earlier in the week, the 45th overall pick in the 2016 draft was picked up by the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday. After executing the claim, the left-handed reliever was optioned to Triple-A Durham.
Following MLB’s investigation of a domestic violence and sexual assault allegation, Trevor Bauer has been suspended for the remainder of the 2022 season and all of 2023. The suspension without pay will not include the 99 regular-season games that Bauer has already missed since being placed on administrative leave on July 2, 2021. Bauer has appealed the suspension.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
Frank Duncan struggles in 2022 continued on Friday evening, as the Isotopes fell at home to Sacramento. Duncan was unable to escape the second inning and finished after serving up a three-run homer to LaMonte Wade Jr. in the top of the second inning to bloat the score to 5-1. Wynton Bernard’s hot hitting continued with RBI doubles in the second and third innings and a two-run homer in the fifth, giving the Isotopes their first lead of the game with a 7-6 score heading into the sixth. The River Cats promptly posted five runs against Lucas Gilbreath in the top of the sixth however, putting the game out of reach. For the game, Bernard finished with five RBI and now sports a 1.407 OPS for the season.
Hartford fell to a game below .500, losing in Harrisburg for the second time this series. Noah Davis had a bumpy first inning, surrendering a two-run home run before settling in for a clean second inning. Unfortunately, Davis relapsed in the third, surrendering five runs in the inning, capped off by a three-run home run by K.J. Harrison. The Yard Goats offense woke up in the middle innings, kicked off by an inside-the-park home run by Brenton Doyle for the lone run in the fifth. In the sixth, Doyle struck again a two RBI triple as part of a four run inning to bring the score to 7-5. But that’s as close as Hartford would get before finally trading runs and settling on an 8-6 final.
Eddy Diaz got the Spokane offense off to a hot start on the road in Everett with a lead-off home run, highlighting a three run top of the first. The bats would cool down, going quiet the rest of the way except for an RBI single by Zac Veen in the fifth. But that was more than enough for starter Will Ethridge and the Indians’ bullpen. Ethridge twirled six scoreless inning, allowing just two hits and striking out five. While Everett couldn’t square-up Ethridge, they were able to cause traffic via six walks. But Ethridge was able to dance out of trouble despite throwing just 53 of his 97 pitches for strikes.
Fresno picked up their 11th victory of the season, beating Stockton on the road on Friday. Fresno scored in each of the first three inning, including back-to-back homers by Yanquiel Fernandez and Warming Bernabel in the third (Bernabel’s being the system’s second inside-the-park homer of the evening). Starter Brayan Castillo struck out eight in his start, but wasn’t able to make it out of the fifth because Stockton stuck around enough to post three runs against him, keeping the game close into the late innings. Entering the eighth with a 5-3 lead, Fresno broke it up with clutch hits by Zach Kokoska and Braiden Ward to stretch the lead to it’s eventual final score of 9-3.
★ ★ ★
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