The 2023 season could very well go down as the year of injuries for the Colorado Rockies.
Even though the majority of the season remains with 71 games in the books and 91 games to go, the Rockies are in last place in the NL West. Even before the roster changed with all the injuries, that’s where most projections have them. Things could change, but the odds aren’t great at 29-42 (even if that’s better currently than the St. Louis Cardinals’ 27-42).
It’s been heartbreaking to watch so many Rockies go down with serious injuries. Or even the more minor ones. The players are human beings first and we at Purple Row wish them the best in their recoveries because we all know that process is taxing physically and mentally.
In terms of the Rockies and their ability to win this season and beyond, the season’s challenges create a critical question: Will the front office use this as an excuse to dismiss struggles this season? Or will the organization learn from this and make improvements in the roster construction department?
The season of injuries started in Spring Training in late February when the bad news hit: Brendan Rodgers and Lucas Gilbreath were facing serious surgeries that likely would end their 2023 seasons before they began. Since then, the Rockies have added four more players to the 60-day IL, which already housed reliever Tyler Kinley.
Sean Bouchard suffered a left distal biceps tear in a freak injury during a swing. Germán Márquez joined the Tommy John surgery victim club, Antonio Senzatela worked back from a 2022 ACL tear only to hurt his elbow and now he will be out until at least August. The promising Ryan Feltner suffered possibly the worst luck in taking a terrifying line drive to the head, resulting in a skull fracture that could very well end his season.
In 2023, 16 Rockies have been on the IL for a total of 728 days, earning over $18 million. The Rockies currently have 10 players on the IL. Those 10 have spent a combined 482 days on the IL and that has cost the Rockies over $11.5 million. C.J. Cron (back) has now been on the IL for 33 days, Kris Bryant is at 16 days (heel), and Charlie Blackmon recently joined the IL on June 11 with a broken hand. Since signing his seven-year, $182 deal at age 30 in 2022, Bryant has now missed 139 days at the cost of over $13.6 million while playing in 92 of the Rockies 233 games (39%).
In any sport, injuries are a part of the game. Baseball is a grind and the repeated movements can wear down muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints, not to mention the damage balls and walls can inflict.
Injuries aren’t the exception. They are the norm. In any master plan, there are backup plans that build strategic depth to try to minimize damage when inevitable injuries happen. The starting rotation has been pretty healthy the last few years, so the Rockies haven’t had to plan ahead.
The Rockies say the right things when it comes to not making excuses. In his letter to season ticket holders, owner Dick Monfort said, “Excuses serve no purpose, and we are committed to devoting all our efforts this off-season to improving this team for 2023.”
The Rockies finished 2022 in fifth place in the NL West at 68-94. FanGraphs projections have Colorado posting a 65-97 record this season. Will there be injury excuses that lead to a continued lack of moves in the offseason and at the trade deadline? Or will there be change?
On Thursday, Denver got to celebrate the NBA Champion Nuggets with a parade and rally downtown. The Nuggets started building their core eight years ago and weathered injuries to Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. by bringing in the pieces to make sure they were ready when the window came.
After back-to-back playoff appearances, the Rockies blew up their window by not adding more pieces, and then trading Nolan Arenado. They compounded the mistakes by not paying up and keeping Jon Gray. The pitching was there and the front office let the offense walk. Now the rotation has fallen apart. The window is gone and a new plan needs to be developed.
Can the Rockies learn from their mistakes? Can they follow the Nuggets example and live up to the pressure Denver’s Titletown status is creating?
Of course, they could. But the question centers more on if Monfort wants to or not. Will he ever get out of his own way and hire baseball’s best and brightest to turn altitude into an advantage and to develop and execute a plan to be competitive?
Maybe enough losing and empty seats, combined with the Nuggets, Avs, and, hopefully, Broncos, fielding highly successful squads, will be a catalyst for change. It all depends on whether the Rockies see the 2023 season as an anomaly because of injuries or as a failure of preparation that can be learned from.
“If you want to be successful, you need a couple years. You need to be bad, then you need to be good. Then when you’re good, you need to fail. Then when you fail, you’re going to figure it out. Experience isn’t about what happened to you, it’s about what you’re going to do about what happened to you.”
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The Rockies now have three catchers on the roster after calling up Alfaro on Thursday. Alfaro, 30, signed a minor league deal with the Rockies on June 10 after starting the season with the Red Sox organization’s Triple-A affiliate. In three games with Albuquerque, Alfaro batted .357/.357/.571 with a home run in 14 plate appearances. The Rockies sent Brian Serven back to Triple-A Albuquerque and designated RHP Blair Calvo for assignment.
#Rockies lineup tonight vs. #Braves. Jorge Alfaro makes his Rox debut as DH. He and Austin Wynns give manager Bud Black experienced catchers and the ability to keep Elias Díaz (tonight's catcher) in the lineup even when he isn't behind the plate.— Thomas Harding (@harding_at_mlb) June 15, 2023
With the MLB Draft less than one month away, Patrick Lyons offers this informative breakdown explaining how the bonus pool works. The Rockies used the bonus pool to their advantage in last year’s draft and Lyons offers up four potential picks for Colorado this year where they might be able to use the flexibility its $11,909,800 bonus pool money this year to do it again.
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On the Farm
Jose Cordova hit a two-run double and Cole Tucker added an RBI single in a three-run 12th inning, while Matt Koch held on to earn the save after surrendering only one run in the bottom of the frame in Albuquerque’s win on Thursday. The Isotopes rallied back after giving up four runs in the first inning with four runs of their own in the second thanks to a two-run homer from Daniel Cope, an RBI double by Connor Kaiser, and an RBI single off the bat of Jimmy Herron. Tacoma retook the lead at 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth and that held until the top of the ninth inning when Yorvis Torrealba homered to send the game into extra innings. In the 10th, Tucker gave Albuquerque its first lead of the game with an RBI double, but the Rainers rallied back with a run of their own to send it to the 11th. That’s when Torrealba hit a run-scoring single, which was matched by the same from Tacoma’s Cooper Hummel to extend the game to the 12th. Tucker and Cope each recorded three hits on the night.
Despite a first-inning homer from Hunter Goodman, his 18th of the season to keep his lead as homer king in the Eastern League, and an RBI double by Cristopher Navarro in the second inning, the Yard Goats fell to Reading on Thursday. The Fightin Phils scored four runs in the seventh and combined for six in the final three innings to earn the win. Navarro finished with two hits and Colin Simpson added a double and scored a run for Hartford.
Juan Guerrero hit an RBI triple and Ben Sims and Benny Montgomery added RBI singles in a three-run second inning, and Yanquiel Fernandez hit his 17th homer of the season to give Spokane a 4-0 lead after three innings, but it wasn’t enough. Fernandez added an RBI double in the fifth to offset a sac fly to keep a four-run lead through five innings for Indians. Jarrod Cande had a strong start, giving up two hits and one run through six innings before the Emeralds tagged him for a double and two homers to cut Spokane’s lead to one. Eugene busted out a six-run seventh inning and added one more in the ninth to secure the win. Montgomery finished with a three-hit night and Adael Amador tripled and singled and scored a run.
Fresno tried to mount a rally with two runs in the bottom of the ninth when Jean Perez homered and Bryant Betancourt hit an RBI double, but it was too little, too late for Fresno on Thursday night. Even though he gave up nine hits, Michael Prosecky only gave up two runs (only one earned) with four strikeouts in 5 2⁄3 innings in a losing effort for the Grizzlies. Inland Empire’s Jorge Marcheco earned the win after throwing a complete game and held Frenso to five hits while striking out seven and not surrendering a walk.
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