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How good is the Rockies’ infield defense?

Colorado Rockies news and links for Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Last week, I examined the effectiveness of the Rockies’ outfield, arriving at the conclusion that (so far), the players have not been effective on either side of the ball. This week, I wanted to shift focus to a similar analysis of the Rockies’ infield. After all, the Rockies, despite all their flaws, have a history of consistently solid infield defense. In fact, the organization prioritizes pitching to contact to make the most of that defense.

But how good have they been in 2023?

First, consider the current lineup. Two-year Gold-Glove finalist Ryan McMahon is back at third; following a season-ending injury, Gold-Glove winner Brendan Rodgers has been replaced with a platoon of Alan Trejo and Harold Castro; Ezequiel Tovar has become a team fixture at shortstop; and first baseman CJ Cron was an All-Star in 2022.

How’s it working out?

I’ll follow the same format that I did last week, using Outs Above Average and later looking at offensive metrics. All numbers are current as of the end of the Rangers series on Sunday.

Start with the defense. How good is it?

Like last week, I’ve used Baseball Savant’s Outs Above Average, setting the minimum attempts at 10 to include players like Harold Castro and Mike Moustakas.

In terms of team infield OAA, the Rockies have 1, which makes them 13th in MLB. (San Diego leads baseball with 16 followed by the Cubs with 14.)

Currently, Xander Bogaerts and Eugenio Suarez have seven OAA, the most in MLB, which sets the bar for this analysis.

In terms of individual Rockies, here’s what the data shows so far.

This table shows the outs above average accumulated by Rockies infielders. The details are discussed in the text.
Colorado Rockies Infielders Outs Above Average
Baseball Savant

With that in mind, this is what we know.

  • Harold Castro and Mike Moustakas are fine defensively — This came as a surprise, but they have been okay defenders. Turns out, Moustakas still has some defensive moves in the tank.
  • Ezequiel Tovar is still learning, but the glove is there — Until the Texas series, Tovar had three OAA, but his total decreased over the weekend. Also, check this out:

It’s not one of those diving stops we appreciate so much, but it shows Tovar is an astute defender with an excellent arm. As for Tovar’s OAA, I expect this to improve.

  • Ryan McMahon is finding his stride — I first looked at this data last weekend when writing about the outfield. At that time, McMahon had a negative OAA. Since then, he’s improved, and I expect that trend to continue. That said, he is significantly underperforming his fellow third basemen. (Why he was so good at second base in the past and so bad there in 2023 remains a mystery, but he’s clearly back on track defensively.)
  • CJ Cron is providing okay defense — I expected Cron’s total to be lower — but a majority of MLB first baseman have one OAA or lower, so Cron is doing fine.
  • Alan Trejo has not been an effective second baseman — Perhaps he settled in at shortstop during the World Baseball Classic, but Trejo is not yet showing the kind of defense expected of him. There’s clearly time for that to change, but defensively, he still needs to make progress.
  • Elehuris Montero was not a good third baseman — Let’s take a second to sort through this (because I suspect this will be a topic of discussion). The Rockies cannot have a third baseman with -4 OAA. They just can’t. And one of the reasons the Rockies’ cumulative OAA is so marginal is the hole Montero dug at third.

Just to be clear, I, too, wanted Montero to stick at third, and the Rockies gave him 88 innings there before sending him to Albuquerque. But the data suggest that Montero does not have a future as a primary MLB-level third baseman. We all want Montero to be successful, but so far, all indications suggest that his future is at first and as a DH.

How’s the offense, then?

For that, let’s turn to FanGraphs.

This table shows the offensive numbers of the Rockies infielders. The relevant points are discussed below.
Colorado Rockies Infield Offense

None of this is particularly good. No infielder has so far approached even a league-average wRC+. Currently, Ryan McMahon and Mike Moustakas are tied for the Rockies’ best hitter, followed by CJ Cron.

Tovar’s struggles are expected given that he’s learning to hit MLB pitching. Alan Trejo, however, has also not been an effective hitter so far.

It’s also worth noting that Harold Castro and Elehuris Montero have an identical MLB wRC+.

Since being sent to Albuquerque, Montero has absolutely been on fire. His wRC+ there? How about 164 with 10 home runs in 23 games. He also has a slashline of .359/.415/.739. I was in favor of sending Montero to Albuquerque — he needed to get his swing back. However, he’s clearly done that. Now, the Rockies need to decide what’s next.

Since you raised the topic, what is next?

As you know, the Rockies have a mess at first base.

They can’t platoon Montero with McMahon at third because Montero simply does not have the defensive skill — and he tried very heard to make that work.

Right now, the Rockies are committed to CJ Cron at first, who (when healthy) remains fourth in the batting order despite putting up marginal numbers. (Then again, his six home runs lead the Rockies.) Waiting in line are Michael Toglia, Elehuris Montero, and, possibly, Nolan Jones (though I suspect he’s headed for the outfield when the Rockies trade either Jurickson Profar or Randal Grichuk).

In June, I think the Rockies will begin making trades and MiLB promotions — yes, I think they will be active this year. During the offseason, Bill Schmidt showed a willingness to trade, and I do not think that tendency has changed. Plus, if the Rockies have learned anything so far in 2023 it’s that they have a dire need for pitching. Trades are the best way fill that need. It’s possible that Montero finds himself part of a trade.

But soon, the Rockies will have to decide what they want to do at first as well as a path forward for Michael Toglia. (Lest you forget, Grant Lavigne is another up-and-coming first baseman.) That decision will probably determine Montero’s fate.

Late yesterday, Thomas Harding tweeted this:

If the Rockies can get Brendan Rodgers back, that will give them a better sense of what they have in terms of the infield heading into 2024.

For now, the Rockies need to focus on improvement, either through trades, promotions, or — to paraphrase Jeff Bridich — guys playing better.


Coors Field Attendance

According to ESPN, 595,147 have attended games at Coors Field in 2023 (the end of the Reds series). That number ranks 17th in baseball. The average Coors Field game attendance is 27,052. (Last week, the average attendance was 27,980.)

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


Arm Barn: ‘Pen a Strength for the 2023 Rockies | Rockies Blog

Keven Henry focused on just how good the Rockies’ bullpen has been this season. The additions of Brad Hand, Brent Suter, and Pierce Johnson are working. The players stress that it’s their sense of community and understanding their roles that is key to making this group work. “There are a lot of quality people down there (in the bullpen),” Suter said. “We have each other’s back.”

Rockies Rookie Brenton Doyle’s Immediate Impact No Surprise to Those Who Saw Him Rise: “This Kid’s Got It” | Denver Post ($)

File this under “good things happen when you let the kids play.” Patrick Saunders profiled one of the Rockies new talents — and a source of hope for fans. He visited with Doyle’s high school and college coaches as well as his mother. All of them agree that Doyle showed remarkable baseball aptitude from a young age. And here’s something you probably didn’t know: His nickname is “Turbo.” (Rockies fans, we need to bring this moniker to Coors Field.)


Final Score:

Charlie Blackmon continues to make Rockies history.

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