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The Rockies’ lineup is a logjam of their own making

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, June 23rd, 2022

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Colorado Rockies have a logjam in multiple places and it’s entirely of their own making.

This has been a persisting theme dating back years with this organization — multiple players having nowhere to get consistent playing time because they’re being blocked by someone else. This leads to wasted options, wasted money, wasted time, and players missing out on opportunities at a time when they need them the most.

Raimel Tapia (now a Blue Jay) and Yonathan Daza had all their options spent before they received consistent playing time in a crowded outfield. Brendan Rodgers was expected to take over for DJ LeMahieu at second base... until the team inexplicably signed Daniel Murphy to play first and had Ryan McMahon play second instead.

On the farm, top prospect Elehuris Montero (no. 5 PuRP) has already been recalled three times and optioned twice, yet has only 13 at-bats to his name. After tearing it up with Triple-A Albuquerque, Sean Bouchard was called up to the big league club... and has been rewarded with just four plate appearances since June 16th.

And to top it all off, the Rockies’ expensive superstar signing in Kris Bryant has played just 17 games due to injuries after signing a seven year, $182 million contract and it’s difficult to tell where he fits in when he returns.

One of the biggest wrenches thrown into the Rockies’ roster construction right now is shortstop José Iglesias. The Rockies signed Iglesias to a one year, $5 million deal this offseason as a temporary stop-gap with the departure of Trevor Story. With Ezequiel Tovar (no. 6 PuRP) waiting in the wings — and potentially a call up as early as this year — Iglesias would generally be rendered expendable... And therein lies the problem.

Iglesias’ lackluster glove work — a -6 DRS has him as one of the worst defensive shortstops in the league — has been a source of frustration, but the way he handles a bat has him treading water for a positive WAR (0.2 rWAR/0.3 fWAR). He’s not only been one of the Rockies’ best hitters, but one of the best hitters in the National League. Iglesias’ team-leading .304 batting average among qualified batters is good for 15th best in MLB and 7th best in the National League. Among qualified batters his .349 on-base percentage is second best on the team and top 25 in the National League.

Iglesias is also one of the few Rockies batters finding success on the road. His .374 average away from Coors Field is the third best mark in the majors and best on the Rockies by a significant margin. Iglesias leads the team in road AVG, OBP, and SLG. The next-most successful road hitter is Charlie Blackmon with a .261 average.

If the Rockies are as adamant about contenting as they say, logically they can’t bench one of their best hitters in José Iglesias. Realistically the Rockies are already 30-39 and 13 games back in their division. Since the Rockies are likely to be sellers at the deadline, it would benefit them to move Iglesias as soon as possible while his value is highest. Not only would dealing him net the Rockies a prospect or two, but it immediately clears a logjam.

Trading Iglesias would allow for an immediate and simple reshuffle of the Rockies lineup. Brendan Rodgers (or Ezequiel Tovar in an ideal world) would slot into shortstop, and the Rockies can move Ryan McMahon back to a position he’s proven adept at manning in second base. Now there’s room at the hot corner for Elehuris Montero to play his natural position, and the Rockies would still have flexibility to move players around the infield to fill gaps or cover off-days.

Outfielder Randal Grichuk is also proving somewhat of a road block. When the Rockies signed Kris Bryant and traded away Raimel Tapia it was an odd choice to bring another outfielder into a very crowded group. The team essentially replaced the ground-ball prone Tapia with fly-ball hitter in Grichuk. However, things haven’t quite worked out that way. Grichuk might have hit seven home runs, but his whopping 54.0% ground ball rate isn’t just a career high by over 11%, it’s also the eighth-highest GB% in the league. That’s not what you want for a team that already has the highest GB% in the league and the second highest number of double plays grounded into.

If a contending team thinks they can fix Grichuk’s ground ball rate and tap into his power, he would make another appealing candidate to deal before the deadline. Sweetening the deal is the fact that the Blue Jays are retaining part of his contract. Grichuk’s departure would open up the lineup for even more reshuffling, especially with the return of Kris Bryant on the horizon.

At the beginning of the season, Bryant was the Rockies’ primary left fielder, with Randal Grichuk in center and Charlie Blackmon in right. 69 games into the season and Charlie Blackmon has moved to being the team’s primary DH, with Grichuk in right field and Connor Joe playing significant time in left field. Yonathan Daza meanwhile has made the every day center field job his by slashing .330/.385/.386 in 176 at-bats and providing solid defense. Removing Grichuk from the equation keeps Daza in center while allowing Connor Joe to move into right field, which then opens left field up for Bryant to return. This would also give the Rockies more space to play Sean Bouchard in various roles.

Elehuris Montero and Sean Bouchard - 2022 Triple-A

Player G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
Player G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
Elehuris Montero 53 239 208 35 68 8 1 13 43 19 51 .327 .395 .563
Sean Bouchard 37 165 139 34 47 7 4 11 34 22 36 .338 .430 .684

Regardless of what the Rockies do, it is clear that the team’s lineup logjam is of their own making and they need to do something about it as soon as possible. Elehuris Montero has shown that there is very little left to prove in Triple-A yet is barely being afforded playing time. So far this season he has been recalled three times and optioned twice, but has only logged 13 major-league at-bats (with one appearance as a pinch runner). As one of the Rockies’ top prospects—and a huge part of the Nolan Arenado trade—it’s frustrating to watch him ride the pine when he should be logging every day playing time.

Similarly, Sean Bouchard earned his opportunity with the big league team after an explosive first few months in Triple-A Albuquerque. He was called up when Garrett Hampson went on the IL only to start just one game and get five plate appearances so far. He’s even shown strong plate discipline by drawing walks in two of them.

The Rockies are mired in what will likely be yet another losing season after a disastrous May fall from grace. In the likely event that they are unable to turn things around and contend, the Rockies need to start making decisions to eliminate logjams and get those who need it playing time. Players like Montero can’t just ride the bus back and forth from Albuquerque all season.

★ ★ ★

Tony Locey’s bulldog mentality paying off | Rox Pile

Big righty Tony Locey is one of my favorite Rockies prospects, and recently was named the Northwest League Pitcher of the Week for June 13-19. Kevin Henry over at Rox Pile discusses the mentality that helps Locey find success.

“I love to compete in everything I do, whether that’s on or off the field,” Locey said. “It’s about a winning mentality. I’ve been around a lot of great teams. I won two state championships in high school. I grew up winning and that’s what I love to do.”

★ ★ ★

On the Farm

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 4, Modesto Nuts 2

The Fresno Grizzlies have clinched both their division and a playoff berth for the first half of the season with a 4-2 win over Modesto. Case Williams had a strong bounceback performance from his last outing, going five complete innings and allowing just two earned runs on five hits and one walk. He struck out four. The Grizzlies bullpen held the Nuts scoreless and hitless for the next four innings. Luis Amoroso pitched two hitless innings with one strikeout and Felix Ramires worked one hitless inning with two strikeouts. Juan Mejia allowed a leadoff single in the ninth, but then set down the next three to earn his fourth save of the season. Warming Bernabel and Benjamin Sems each plated two runs in 1-for-3 nights at the plate. Zach Kokoska, Yanquiel Fernandez, and Adael Amador all had hits, with Amador’s being a double.

High-A: Spokane Indians 9, Everett AquaSox 8 (F/10)

Tony Locey pitched a solid 5 23 innings of work while allowing five runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks. The Indians had errors from Bladimir Restituyo and Christopher Navarro. Adam McKillican pitched 1 13 scoreless innings with two strikeouts. Robinson Hernandez gave up three earned runs in 23 of an inning and is credited with the blown save. Austin Kitchen kept the AquaSox off the board for the final 2 13 innings with two strikeouts. Zac Veen returned to the lineup tonight with a 1-for-3 effort, walking twice and hitting his first triple of the season. Julio Carreras was 2-for-4 with five RBI and also hit a triple, while Grant Lavigne was 2-for-4 with a double.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 9, Somerset Patriots 5 (F/10)

Though he didn’t earn the QS, Hartford starting pitcher Karl Kauffmann pitched a solid six innings while striking out four batters. He gave up four earned runs on seven hits and three walks. PJ Poulin worked two innings and struck out two, but did allow the then-game tying run that had reached via an Aaron Schunk throwing error. Will Gaddis and Gavin Hollowell both pitched scoreless innings to close things out. The Yard Goats were 6-for-14 with RISP on offense. Ezequiel Tovar went 3-for-6 while Jimmy Herron went 2-for-6 with a double. Tyler Hill drove in the game winning run with a single in the 10th inning. Daniel Montaño had another excellent game, going 3-for-6 with five RsBI and a three run home run in the 10th to seal the win for the Yard Goats.

Triple-A: Las Vegas Aviators 8, Albuquerque Isotopes 7

The Isotopes mounted a comeback effort against the Aviators but came up short. Zach Neal pitched 4 23 innings in his start, allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks. Nick Kennedy finished the fifth inning with a strikeout. Ty Blach struggled in his first rehab appearance with the Isotopes, pitching 1 23 innings while giving up four runs on six hits, including a home run. JD Hammer finished his 13 of an inning with a strikeout and Nate Griep worked a scoreless frame with two strikeouts. Offensively, Ryan Vilade continued his hot streak with a 2-for-4 night, while DJ Peterson, Coco Montes, and Jonathan Morales all hot home runs. Morales went 2-for-4, as did Peterson. The Isotopes had a real chance to come from behind in this one. Down 8-4 in the bottom of the ninth, former Rockies pitcher Ryan Castellani walked three batters and recorded just one out. Carlos Pérez knocked a bases-clearing double down the left field line to plate three runs. The Aviators brought in a new pitcher, who promptly hit two straight batters to load the bases. Unfortunately, Jonathan Morales hit into a double play to end the game.

★ ★ ★

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