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There feels like more at stake than just wins in Kris Bryant’s return

Colorado Rockies news and links for Saturday, June 18, 2022

The Colorado Rockies outfield production has not been good in 2022. So far this season, only Yonathan Daza and Connor Joe have posted a wRC+ above league average and the group collectively has been good for a .707 OPS and 87 wRC+ in 1,187 plate appearances heading into Friday. This is on-par with the lineup’s struggles as a whole, so seeing a group representing one-third of the lineup posting mediocre figures is no big surprise.

But coming off a historically bad outfield performance in 2021, changes were needed to expect a better outcome in 2022. So, in March the Rockies’ brass decided to put 182 million reasons on the line by signing Kris Bryant to a seven-year pact. While Bryant has a background of defensive versatility, the deal signified a direct targeting to improve the outfield as it didn’t take long to announce he would primarily play left field for Colorado.

To say the relationship has gotten off to an uninspiring start would be an understatement. A lower-back injury has kept Bryant off the field for much of the season, limiting him to only 17 games played as we approach the third week of June. That’s 47 games missed so far; roughly 30% of the season.

COL 2022 OF production

Stat Rockies League Rank
Stat Rockies League Rank
FB% 31.6% 27th
GB% 48.6% 29th
Barrel% 5.1% T-25th
HH% 32.4% 26th
AVG E.V. 86.2 mph 28th
wRC+ 87 25th

The outfield – and lineup as a whole – is clearly in need of a sustainable boost. And Kris Bryant is nearing his return, so the prescription for an ailing outfield offense is obvious. But how the team fares in Bryant’s return will be worth keeping a close-eye on for multiple reasons.

Obviously, how it affects the on-field product will be first and foremost. All June Colorado has been flirting with officially falling out of the Wild Card race. After a three-game sweep against Cleveland, the Rockies fell to a season-worst ten games under-.500 and nine games back for the sixth seed in the National League with five teams ahead of them. Realistically, they are out of it already, but there’s enough time remaining to allow a remote chance of fortunes changing if things go their way.

It starts with a healthy, productive Bryant resulting in significantly more victories. And winning cures all in sports. Colorado signed Bryant to be their new star, and continuous star production in the middle of the lineup could absolutely change the narrative for this Rockies’ season. An outfield of Bryant and Daza with one of Charlie Blackmon and Connor Joe in right field and the other serving at DH is the optimal setup for Bud Black’s lineup as things stand, so getting Bryant back in the lineup is presumably key in righting the ship.

But if Bryant is slow to produce in his return (which would not be all that surprising given the amount of time he’s missed), then the team’s recent woes would seemingly only become exacerbated. The near-term troubles of Bryant not being the catalyst to change would be tough to watch but, when you consider Colorado’s antagonistic relationship history with their keystone players, the long-term ramifications of a struggling Bryant could be concerning.

We are still on the ground floor of a long-term tenure between Bryant and the Rockies, one that is designed to carry into the next chapter of team history. But that’s not to say there aren’t expectations for him to improve the team’s outlook in the immediate, as well.

And so far, Kris Bryant has not done that. The injury bug has sapped much of Bryant’s initial impressions with Colorado, so there is reasoning. But the heads atop the Colorado Rockies have a reputation for alienating some of its biggest names, and Bryant is the newest, biggest name.

Maybe the new touch by GM Bill Schmidt is all it takes to stop that from happening again. But if it’s a problem that goes beyond his control, then a first season largely mired in injuries and lack of production by Bryant could end up showing a lot of true, familiar, colors from the organization.

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Rockies’ Kris Bryant on track to return next weekend at Minnesota | Denver Post

As Kris Bryant continues to progress in his rehab, a timeline is now forming for his return. The target is now for Bryant to return for Colorado’s road series against the Minnesota Twins next weekend. Bud Black confirmed the timeline but warned that they’ll be keeping an eye in his progress over the next five-to-seven days before committing to the return.

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On the Farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes, Salt Lake Bees

Postponed: Rain. Make-up scheduled as part of double-header on 6/18.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 4, Akron RubberDucks 2

Mitchell Kilkenny got the start for Hartford, allowing one run over three innings while recording four strikeouts. He departed with the game tied at one, giving way to Noah Gotsis who tossed four innings of one-run ball himself. That lone run came in the sixth inning, putting Hartford behind briefly before a two-run home run by Daniel Montano and RBI single from Willie MacIver in the bottom half of the inning put the Yard Goats ahead for good. Gavin Hollowell tossed a scoreless ninth to pick up his eighth save of the year.

High-A: Hillsboro Hops 12, Spokane Indians 3

The Hops bats were not kind to Spokane pitching on Friday. Starter Will Ethridge allowed one run in the first two innings, but was touched for two two-run home runs after. The first came in the third, putting the Indians down 3-2, and the second in the fifth to extend the lead to 5-3. Ethridge departed in the fifth and the bullpen was unable to keep the game close, surrendering seven runs over the final four innings to turn the game into a blowout. Drew Romo had two hits and Zac Veen scored two runs in the loss.

Low-A: San Jose Giants 3, Fresno Grizzlies 1

The Grizzlies lost a close one to San Jose on the road. Brayan Castillo threw well again, allowing one unearned run on two hits in five innings. He departed with the score tied at one, but unfortunately the offense was unable to mount any pressure as Fresno went scoreless after the first inning. Fresno tallied just four hits in the game and only one went for extra-bases, a Juan Guerrero double in the third. The two teams combined to strand 34 runners on base.

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