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Ryan McMahon is better than you think

The third baseman has arisen to be one of the game’s elite defenders and a presence in Colorado’s lineup

Welcome to the 2023 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2023. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

★ ★ ★

No. 2, Ryan McMahon: 2.59 rWAR

Look, we both know that the Rockies haven’t exactly lit the world on fire in the wins department over the last few seasons. The point of the Ranking the Rockies series, though, is to highlight the players that have made an impact on the team each season, and few have been as consistent as Ryan McMahon.

Once a highly-touted prospect, McMahon has blossomed into arguably one of the premier third basemen in MLB today. That kind of defensive utility was thought to have left Denver forever after the departure of the Sandblaster-that-shall-not-be-named, but McMahon has filled that role splendidly. While the Rockies search for consistent answers at their infield positions, none have been as lockdown as his.

Now it’s true that “RyMac” is a wizard on defense, but he’s also been one of Colorado’s more impressive power threats as well. 2023 marked his third-straight season with at least 20 home runs, and he would have his fourth-straight if we discount the COVID-shortened 2020 season. The Rockies have been somewhat sapped of power recently, being near the bottom of MLB in long balls the last few seasons, so they won’t say no to having that kind of pop in the upper half of their lineup. He could stand to up the average — .254 being his career high — but the ability to knock in runs is something Colorado can’t overlook.

That’s the thing though — the Rockies are going to have to figure out where exactly McMahon fits in long-term. As much of this series has explored, the youth movement is in full swing in Denver and the Rockies are looking to determine who is going to stick around for the long haul. McMahon is about to enter the third of a six-year deal with Colorado and to this point has been one of their strongest players overall, but his position as the everyday starter could potentially be in flux starting next season.

Toronto Blue Jays v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

As we discussed in March of this year, Elehuris Montero makes sense to get looks at the hot corner, but he didn’t end up getting many starts there and was primarily used as a first baseman and designated hitter. At this point it’s not really clear where Colorado’s front office sees him contributing to the team in the long run, so I’d say it’s a near-certainty that McMahon will be tagged as the starting third baseman on Opening Day.

At the same time, Colorado does have options coming up in their minor league system. Those of you that have followed our Purple Row Prospect rankings will recognize names like Sterlin Thompson and Warming Bernabel, and these two are likely to crack the Major Leagues in the next few seasons. McMahon will need to improve upon — or at the very least retain — his current level of production in order to stave off their incursion.

For now, the Rockies have an elite glove and solid bat at third base. That’ll do for now, and at 28 years of age, McMahon still has time to up his game to an even higher level. His skillset alone won’t be enough to get Colorado to the playoffs, but he is a valuable leadership presence to the newly-arriving youngsters getting their first taste of MLB action.

“RyMac” is still a fan-favorite piece with a ceiling that hasn’t yet been reached, and I’m excited to see what he does in 2024.