It took 31 seasons, but the Colorado Rockies officially concluded their first triple-digit loss season on Sunday, winning 3-2 in a bizarre fashion against the Minnesota Twins to finish the year with a 59-103 record. The outcome was about as miserable as expected as their Pythagorean W-L was 60-102 based on their negative-236 run differential.
While the management and the coaching staff contend that the loss total is just a number, there is still significance in the figure if only because it represents easily the worst record in the National League in 2023 and third-worst record overall. That poor of a performance deserves a deep evaluation. There will be plenty of time to dissect the year during the off-season, but for now let’s take a moment to go over three key takeaways from the 2023 season.
The hobbled rotation
If the Rockies received full seasons out of Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela would they have been spared from the hundred-loss moniker? Maybe, if that means anything.
There’s little doubt that the performance of the team as a whole was lackluster in 2023, but season-ending injuries to Márquez and Senzatela compounded the problems facing the organization. Beyond the two stalwarts, Ryan Feltner missed much of the year after being hit by a line-drive and Austin Gomber was shut down in August with another back injury.
Gomber and Feltner should be expected back for the start of the 2024 season, but Márquez and Senzatela are long-shots to return before August...if at all. The rotation only had two starters accrue 85 or more innings in 2023 and will desperately need multiple, quality MLB reinforcements added this off-season if the organization is serious about trying to remain competitive in 2024.
Ezequiel Tovar, Nolan Jones and the start of the youth movement
You don’t get to 103 losses without much of the storylines being negative. This is largely true for the 2023 Rockies but there was some silver-lining in the way of prospects coming-up to the big leagues and making an impact.
Ezequiel Tovar was the poster-child for this youth-movement, briefly debuting in 2022 before getting the Opening Day nod at shortstop in 2023. He went circuit-to-circuit, playing 152 games and finishing with a respectable 56 XBH and 11 SB. The offensive output was not exceptional by any means – indicated by his .700 OPS and 78 OPS+ – however his glovework was as he finished with 12 defensive runs-saved, third most of any shortstop in the league.
While Tovar’s performance was encouraging, Nolan Jones’ first season in Colorado was truly remarkable. Posting a 20/20 season in just 106 games, Jones compiled a .931 OPS in 367 at-bats and finished light-years ahead of his teammates as the club’s most lethal hitter with a 136 OPS+. To boot, he also chipped in a ridiculous 18 assists in the outfield, quickly garnering a reputation for having one of the strongest outfield arms in the league.
While other graduated prospects like Brenton Doyle and Elehuris Montero certainly had their moments along the way, the performances of Jones and Tovar provided the most promise in the future of the organization. There are still plenty of needs left on the roster, however starting to see the future not only arrive but make a significant impact was an important step forward for the organization.
It’s hard not to see Kris Bryant as an albatross at this point
Alan Trejo, Elehuris Montero and Harold Castro all played in more games than Kris Bryant. Jake Bird and Chase Anderson threw more innings than Bryant played games. C.J. Cron finished with more home runs as a Rockie this season than Bryant, Jurickson Profar had more RBI and Randall Grichuk more hits.
Those last three were veterans on expiring contracts that did not make it to the end of the season and were not expected to be a part of the future, anyways. But Bryant is with five-years and $131MM remaining on his contract.
Fair or unfair, injuries and mediocre performance have cast serious doubt on Bryant’s future projections. Once an elite hitter, Bryant has managed a .260/.336/.407 line and just 22 HR in 122 games with Colorado over two seasons. His outfield range has dropped significantly, likely casting him primarily to 1B moving forward, restricting the defensive versatility he was originally lauded for.
In Bryant, the Rockies have yet to receive the middle-of-the-order impact hitter they were expecting and are seeing his athleticism erode, non-ideally fast-tracking his future position as designated hitter. Unless he is able to stay on the field and start making a significant turnaround with his production at the plate, there is little reason to believe that Bryant will ever be close to the cornerstone piece Colorado management signed him to be.
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Charlie Blackmon, already on “Mount Rushmore of Rockies,” gets chance to pad Colorado legacy in 2024 | The Denver Post
Kyle Newman gives a detailed accounting on why Charlie Blackmon is already an all-time great in Colorado Rockies franchise history, the impact he has made through multiple levels of the organization and how important it was in the front office to bring him back for 2024.
In case you missed it, our own Joelle Milholm put together an excellent piece on Friday over-viewing some of the recent work at The Denver Post while highlighting the fragility of the industry that has led to such coverage becoming less and less common.
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