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How good is the Rockies’ outfield defense?

Colorado Rockies news and links for Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Colorado Rockies have now played 42 games, or about a quarter of the season. With this in mind, it’s time to begin considering what we know about the Rockies so far.

I wanted to focus on the outfield given that this outfield is quite different from the 2022 version given that the Rockies have signed Jurickson Profar, sent Yonathan Daza to Albuquerque, promoted Brenton Doyle, and have a (knock on wood) healthy Kris Bryant.

Defensive Stats

For the defense, I went to Baseball Savant to check Outs Above Average (OAA). Because Randal Grichuk has only gotten healthy recently, I set the minimum attempts at 10 so that he would be included, but it’s worth noting that he’s still in small-sample-size territory.

To provide some contrast, the best outfielders in MLB currently have four OAA. Those players include Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Kiermaier, Luis Robert Jr., Julio Rodriguez, and Joey Weimar. Three players have an OAA of 3, and 22 players have an OAA of 2.

Here’s what we know about the Rockies as of the end of the Phillies series.

This able shows the Rockies’ outs above average scores. The graphic has the players’ headshots followed by the relevant data, which is discussed in more detail in this article.
Colorado Rockies Ranked by Outs Above Average
Baseball Savant

There are a few notable takeaways.

  • This is not a good defensive outfield — The Rockies’ outfielders have a cumulative OAA of -9, which is not good. To be fair, the outfield at Coors is an absolute beast, so being an effective defender there is challenging. That said, this Rockies outfield is not very good at it.
  • Brenton Doyle is making a difference — So far, Doyle has only spent 105.0 innings (14 games) in the outfield (all of them in center), and he has made the greatest contribution in terms of OAA. In fact, he is the only Rockies outfielder with a positive OAA. (As a comparison, Yonathan Daza, the player Doyle replaced, appeared in 25 games and 171 innings. He has accumulated a -1 OAA.) Actually, let’s watch him in action:
  • Jurickson Profar is not a good defender — Profar is, by far, the worst outfielder on the Rockies’ roster. His -5 OAA quantifies just how much he struggles in this position. So while we’ve seen some terrific catches, they are not representative of his overall defensive performance.
  • As a team, the Rockies are dead last as ranked by OAA — That’s right: they’re bad. As a team the Rockies have a -7 OAA (this total includes only qualified players, so it omits Harold Castro and Charlie Blackmon, whose numbers I included earlier). The next worst team? That would be the Cardinals with -5 OAA. In case you wondered, the best outfield is the Brewers (7 OAA) followed by the Dodgers (6 OAA).

In 2022, the Rockies were ranked 28th with a cumulative -19 OAA, better than only the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants. So the Rockies are on track to be worse defensively in 2023 than they were in 2022.

Offensive Stats

Perhaps it’s worth tolerating marginal outfield defense for improved offensive output. However, that has not been the case. After all, the Rockies went into the 2022 offseason knowing they needed to improve offensively. This was, presumably, the thinking behind these personnel changes.

So far, the results have not been promising.

  • The offense is not making up for marginal defense — Currently, the Rockies’ outfielders have a wRC+ of 88, which makes them 26th in MLB. They have hit 15 home runs (24th), stolen 7 bases (27th), and have a cumulative fWAR of 0.1 (28th). And those stolen bases? Six of them are the work of Brenton Doyle.
  • Not everything is bad — On a positive note, they are walking more with an 8.9% BB%, which is 16th in MLB. Given the Coors Effect, this seems like a positive move. On the other hand, this statistic is helped by the patience of Blackmon, Bryant, and Profar.

Final Thoughts

The season is only one-quarter over, so there’s time for all of this to change, but the early trajectory is not promising.

It’s worth making one additional note. Converted outfielder Nolan Jones is tearing the cover off the ball in Albuquerque. His current wRC+ is 172. Take this clip from Saturday:

Patrick Saunders reported last week that the Rockies are pleased with Jones’ offense but want him to get more work on his defense, both at third base and in the outfield, before bringing him to Denver, a move that is not “imminent.”

But take a minute to appreciate his defense:

If he can continue to be this effective, when the promotion happens, Jones will boost a marginal outfield.


Coors Field Attendance

According to ESPN, 531,623 have attended 19 games at Coors Field in 2023 (the end of the Phillies series). That number ranks 15th in baseball. The average Coors Field game attendance is 27,980. (Last week, the average attendance was 27,203.)

As a benchmark, in 2022, the average game attendance at Coors Field was 32,467.


Friendships Come and Go, and So Do Kris Bryants | FanGraphs

So far in 2023, the Rockies are benefiting from a healthy Kris Bryant. But as Michael Baumann points out, this is not the same KB we’ve seen. Bryant made a name for himself as a power hitter and versatile defender. He notes, “The point is, the Rockies signed a star third baseman with the ability to play all over the place and a big reputation as a power hitter, and now he’s playing exclusively in the outfield corners and he’s not hitting for power anymore.” After detailing Bryant’s lack of hard contact, Baumann suggests that perhaps Bryant is adjusting to a new phase of his career.

Which Teams Might Be Sellers at the Trade Deadline? |

Mark Feinsand surveyed potential sellers throughout MLB, and the Rockies made the shortlist. He highlights free-agent signings on one-year contracts, including Jurickson Profar, C.J. Cron, Randal Grichuk, Pierce Johnson, Brent Suter and Brad Hand. Historically, the Rockies have been resistant to parting with players, but Bill Schmidt showed in the offseason that he was ready to make trades. Will 2023 be different? We’ll know in July.


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