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Rockies need a slugger to chase the HR crown

Colorado news and links for Friday, September 9, 2022

In the 30-year existence of the Colorado Rockies, the team has never had one of their players win the MLB home run crown.

As the baseball world watches in anticipation to see if Aaron Judge can break Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 homers this year, it showcases the thrill of home run chases. It brings in viewers beyond Yankees fans to see if Roger Maris’ 61-year-old record will fall. Through Thursday, Judge has 55 bombs, which puts him on pace to finish with 65 homers this year. That mark would also tie him for fourth the most overall with all three above him — Barry Bonds (73), Mark McGwire (70 and 65, and Sammy Sosa (66) — being very debatable record holders with asterisks that defined the Steroid Era. Taking out the asterisks and hitting the 65 HR mark could make some call Judge the single-season home run champ.

So why aren’t Rockies vying to be the yearly home run champion? The Rockies have had many great home run hitters, even winning six National League homer titles, but no Colorado slugger has even eclipsed the 50-homer mark. Players have hit at least 50 homers 11 times in the last 20 years since MLB implemented league-wide PED testing, but no Rockies. With the thin air in their favor, the Rockies haven’t been able to field a roster with a player able to truly take advantage of the altitude when it comes to making home run history.

Single Season Home Run Leaders since 1993

Year Top Rockie NL HR King AL HR King
Year Top Rockie NL HR King AL HR King
2022 (so far) C.J. Cron 26 Kyle Schwarber 36 Aaron Judge 55
2021 C.J. Cron 28 Fernando Tatís Jr. 42 Vlad Guerrero Jr. & Salvador Pérez 48
2020* Trevor Story 11 Marcell Ozuna 18 Luke Voit 22
2019 Nolan Arenado 41 Pete Alonso 53 Jorge Soler 48
2018 Nolan Arenado 38 Nolan Arenado 38 Khris Davis 48
2017 Arenado & Charlie Blackmon 37 Giancarlo Stanton 59 Aaron Judge 52
2016 Nolan Arenado 41 Arenado and Chris Carter 41 Mark Trumbo 47
2015 Nolan Arenado 42 Arenado and Harper 42 Chris Davis 47
2014 Corey Dickerson 24 Giancarlo Stanton 37 Nelson Cruz 40
2013 Carlos González 26 Pedro Álvarez & Paul Goldschmidt 36 Chris Davis 53
2012 Wilin Rosario 28 Ryan Braun 41 Miguel Cabrera 44
2011 Troy Tulowitzki 30 Matt Kemp 39 José Bautista 43
2010 Carlos González 34 Albert Pujos 42 José Bautista 54
2009 Troy Tulowitzki 32 Albert Pujos 47 Carlos Peña & Mark Teixeira 39
2008 Holliday & Brad Hawpe 25 Ryan Howard 48 Miguel Cabrera 37
2007 Matt Holliday 36 Prince Fielder 50 Alex Rodriguez 54
2006 Matt Holliday 34 Ryan Howard 58 David Ortiz 54
2005 Todd Helton 20 Andruw Jones 51 Alex Rodriguez 48
2004 Vinny Castilla 35 Adrián Beltré 48 Manny Ramirez 43
2003 Todd Helton 33 Jim Thome 47 Alex Rodriguez 47
2002 Todd Helton 30 Sammy Sosa 49 Alex Rodriguez 57
2001 Todd Helton 49 Barry Bonds 73 Alex Rodriguez 52
2000 Todd Helton 42 Sammy Sosa 50 Troy Glaus 47
1999 Larry Walker 37 Mark McGwire 65 Ken Griffey Jr. 48
1998 Vinny Castilla 46 Mark McGwire 70 Ken Griffey Jr. 56
1997 Larry Walker 49 Larry Walker 49 Ken Griffey Jr. 56
1996 Andrés Galarraga 47 Andrés Galarraga 47 Mark McGwire 52
1995* Dante Bichette 40 Dante Bichette 40 Albert Belle 50
1994* Andrés Galarraga 31 Matt Williams 43 Ken Griffey Jr. 40
1993 Charlie Hayes 25 Barry Bonds 46 Juan González 46
* shortened season

When looking back at team history, things started great in the pre-humidor days when Dante Bichette won the NL HR crown in the strike-shortened 1995 season with 40. Andrés Galarraga followed that with 47 in 1996 and Hall of Famer Larry Walker crushed 49 in his MVP campaign in 1997.

Seventeen years passed before another Rockie would top the NL leaderboards. Nolan Arenado shared the title with Bryce Harper in 2015 with 42 and then shared it with Chris Carter the next season with 41. In 2018, Arenado earned NL home run titleholder with 38 homers. That means from 2015-2018, Rockies fans were treated to three NL HR leader hunts and two playoff runs. While I enjoyed those seasons immensely, I didn’t truly appreciate them until realizing the chances of either race dried up when the Rockies shipped Arenado to St. Louis.

Since Arenado left, and ignoring COVID-shortened 2020, the Rockies have been led by C.J. Cron in the home run department with 28 homers in 2021 and 26 this season. FanGraphs projections put him at 31 by the end of the season. While Cron, 32, has certainly been a delightfully surprising boost in power, it’s not enough. Charlie Blackmon, 36, is currently in second place with 16 homers on the team.

The Rockies made offseason moves to add more homers in trading for Randal Grichuk and signing Kris Bryant. Grichuk, 31, has 15 this season, which is third best on the team, but shows a decline from his career-best 31 in 2019. Bryant, 30, has only played 42 games this year with various injuries. Even if Bryant can bounce back with a healthy 2023 campaign, his 39-homer season of 2016 is likely an outlier. If he can hit 30 dingers, it will be a huge success.

Right now, the Rockies top home run threats are all on the wrong side of 30 to be counting on power surges. After 24 homers in 2019 and 23 last season, 27-year-old Ryan McMahon has significantly dropped off as he’s fourth on the team this year with 13. The rosters of late equate to home run droughts compared to Rockies squads of the past.

Can you imagine having another year like 2015 when Arenado and Carlos González combined for 82 homers? Or 1997 when Walker had 49, Galarraga had 41, and Vinny Castilla had 40? Or 1996 when Galarraga connected for 47 and Ellis Burks and Castilla each added another 40?

Even if the baseballs and the players have changed since then, having a power-hitting duo or trio to compete in the leaderboards shouldn’t be out of the question. It should be the expectation. The Rockies need to get back to the days of having someone in the home run title chase. Even more, they need a crew of sluggers to fire up the fountains in the next version of the Blake Street Bombers.

If the Rockies are going to change course, they need younger players in their prime to be part of the new Blake Street Bombers. In other words, Michael Toglia and Elehuris Montero have to be a big part of how they get there.

Toglia, the Rockies 2019 first-round draft pick, combined for 20 homers for High-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford in 2021 and hit 30 this season for the Yard Goats and Triple-A Albuquerque. The 24-year-old switch hitter has two homers in 32 at-bats this season. Montero, the 24-year-old who came over in the Arenado trade, hit 28 homers last season for the Yard Goats and Isotopes. This season, he hit 15 homers for Albuquerque before being called up to the big leagues where he’s hit five homers in 128 at-bats. His promising swing suggests his ratio of one homer per 25.6 at-bats has a good chance of shrinking.

While the young duo’s power potential is high, they also play at positions where Cron, Blackmon, and McMahon currently reside. This logjam is problematic because the biggest home run hitters could be competing for the same spots in 2023. Toglia’s versatility of playing first and right field and Montero’s of playing third and first will help, but the Rockies may need to get creative in constructing a roster in 2023 that hits more homers and hopefully favors the young to build a powerful future moving forward.

Someday in the near future, maybe a Colorado Rockie could pass the 50-homer threshold.

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Freeland named Roberto Clemente Award Nominee |

Shortly after Kyle Freeland was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in 2014, with help from his Grand Junction “host mom,” Carmen Brown, Freeland started volunteering with Special Olympics. He’s been doing it ever since and his service earned him the Rockies 2022 Roberto Clemente Award Nomination, which was announced on Thursday. Already dedicated to a cause, and guided by the example set for him by Ian Desmond, a five-time Roberto Clemente Award Nominee, Freeland has only increased his commitments since 2018. He holds raffle fundraisers where winners can land unique souvenirs to benefit Special Olympics Colorado and participates in events like the Special Olympics Colorado fantasy camp with Lucas Gilbreath on July 31. Freeland is one of 16 first-time nominees for the award that “annually recognizes the MLB player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.” Fans are encouraged to vote now through Oct. 5 and the winner of the fan vote will count as one in the panel that selects the MLB-wide winner. Roberto Clemente Day will be held on Sept. 15 with video tributes played at ballparks and shared on social media

Rockies’ Germán Márquez amid up-and-down season: “My best is yet to come” | Denver Post ($)

We all have witnessed this incredibly challenging season for 2021 All-Star Germán Márquez. Patrick Saunders highlights why Márquez and the Rockies coaches think that he’s turned a page to finish the season on a better note and regain his success on the mound heading into 2023. Saunders notes the big developments that have led to Márquez posting a 3.55 ERA and a .223 average against in his last six starts despite giving up six runs in his last Coors Field start on Aug. 23 as more command of his fastball and changing the grip on his knuckle curveball that’s resulted in more depth. It’s always good to remember Márquez is still only 27 years old.

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On the Farm

Triple-A: El Paso Chihuahuas 9, Albuquerque Isotopes 4

Brandon Dixon hit a grand slam for El Paso’s second homer of the night as part of a five-run eighth inning that broke open a 4-4 tie in the Isotopes loss on Thursday night. Despite falling behind 3-0 in the second inning, Alburquerque clawed back with three runs in the sixth when Wynton Bernard scored on a wild pitch and two more Isotope runs were walked in. Even though the Chihuahuas regained a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh, Sam Hilliard tied it up with a solo homer, his eighth of the year. Bernard and D.J. Peterson both finished the night with two hits. Zach Neal had a decent start, giving up three runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts before Matt Dennis was hit hard in the eighth and took the loss.

Double-A: Somerset Patriots 7, Hartford Yard Goats 5

Brenton Doyle hit his 20th homer of the season, but it wasn’t enough as the Yard Goats dropped their third-straight game on Thursday. Trailing 5-2 after three and half innings, Hartford rallied back to tie the game first with Doyle’s homer in the fourth inning, then with an RBI double by Daniel Montano and run-scoring single by Grant Lavigne in the fifth. But it was Somerset who got the final rally with four singles to score two runs off Blair Calvo in the ninth inning. Montano and Hunter Stovall each totaled two hits, including a two-run double for Stovall.

High-A: Tri-City Dust Devils 4, Spokane Indians 2

Chris McMahon threw five solid innings, surrendering only one run on seven hits with one strikeout and no walks, but the Dust Devils put up a three-run seventh inning to down the Indians. Colin Simpson had an RBI single, Ronaiker Palma got a sac grounder RBI, and Trevor Boone and Braiden Ward each hit a double in the losing effort with Boone posting two of Spokane’s seven hits.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 4, San Jose Giants 3

Jordan Beck’s hit a solo homer in the sixth inning to tie the game and then hit an RBI single in the seventh inning that turned out to be the game-winner as Fresno notched the only Rockies farm team victory on Thursday. Yanquiel Fernandez also homered for the Grizzlies and Benny Montgomery scored on a wild pitch to account for the rest of Fresno’s offense. Montgomery went 2-for-5 in the contest, while Fernandez recorded his 21st homer and 109th RBI of the season and Beck went 2-for-4. After Brayan Castillo gave up three runs, only two earned, in the first 3 23 innings, four Fresno relievers shut down the Giants for the remainder of the game.

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