Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Rockies constructed a lopsided roster with logjams at several positions and now have the self-created conflict of veterans vs. rookies when it comes to playing time.
This is a constant criticism of the Rockies over the past few years, but it’s about to get even uglier in the coming weeks. After being placed on the IL on May 15 with back spasms, C.J. Cron returned to the field on June 26, first getting the start at DH on Tuesday, then first base on Wednesday, and DH on Thursday.
The 2022 All-Star has struggled this year as Purple Row’s Skyler Timmins wrote about this week when looking at possible trade prospects, noting that Cron hit .228/.277/.427 with six homers, 20 RBI, and nine doubles in 136 at-bats. In the three games since he returned, Cron is 3-for-10 with one RBI, one run scored, and one strikeout.
Kris Bryant began a rehab assignment on Wednesday night with Triple-A Albuquerque, where he played left field and went 1-for-4 with a single, run scored, walk, and two strikeouts. It went well enough to get Bryant on a plane and he’s expected to be in the lineup today against the Tigers.
Bryant had been on the IL since June 1 with a left heel bruise. Charlie Blackmon was placed on the IL on June 11 with a fractured right hand and is expected back in mid-to-late July, or possibly sooner, according to MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. When Bryant and Blackmon return, they each figure to get as much playing time as Cron is now.
This creates a problem at DH, first base, and in the outfield in terms of the younger Rockies who have been getting playing time and are the future of the team. Blackmon turns 37 on Saturday and is in the last year of his contract, while Cron is 33 and in the last year of his contract. Bryant is 31 and is only in the second year of his seven-year deal, so he figures to be around for a while.
While it’s great to see veterans recovering from injuries, a logistical lineup catastrophe is coming for Bud Black’s lineup card.
On Tuesday, Harding wrote a great article detailing the Rockies challenges juggling playing time for Cron, Elehuris Montero, and Nolan Jones, unless they can trade Cron. Jones passed 100 at-bats in his Rockies career in Wednesday’s game against the Dodgers and has pretty impressive numbers so far. As a Rockie, Jones has a .311 batting average, .398 on-base percentage, .932 OPS, five homers, 17 RBI, 14 runs scored, and eight doubles. In his 189 career at-bats, Jones is slashing .280/.358/.460 with seven home runs, 27 RBI, 24 runs scored, and 13 doubles.
Black is saying the right things in terms of playing younger players to build toward a brighter future, but, unless the Rockies can find a way to start 11 or 12 players, it’s not realistic. Thomas wrote,
“‘Nolan’s going to play,’ said Black, who noted that, if necessary, Jones can play right field, DH and even spell Ryan McMahon at third base to stay in the lineup as Cron, Bryant and Blackmon return.”
DNVR’s Patrick Lyons reported the same.
Kris Bryant is nearing his return from the injured list, but shouldn’t impact #Rockies Nolan Jones’ playing time, as per Bud Black.— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) June 27, 2023
“Nolan’s going to play. We like the versatility… He’s going to play.”
Despite making his MLB debut on May 1, 2022, Montero only has 275 at-bats. He’s struggled with playing time, at the plate, and as a third baseman. After being sent to Triple-A to focus on first base and get consistent at-bats, he returned to the Rockies on May 29. As one of the most promising pieces of the Nolan Arenado trade, the Rockies need to give Montero more consistent playing time to see if he should be a part of the organization moving forward, which Black said he plans to do.
Elehuris Montero will continue to get playing time with C.J. Cron back from the IL.— Patrick Lyons (@PatrickDLyons) June 27, 2023
“More confidence, more sure-handedness. It’s looking more like a Major League first baseman,” #Rockies manager Bud Black said of Montero. pic.twitter.com/nEhZTxefqM
Not only is there not enough space in the starting lineup for Cron, Bryant, Blackmon, Jones, and Montero, especially when you add Randal Grichuk, Jurickson Profar, and Brenton Doyle, there isn’t really even enough room on the active roster. The Rockies will have to make moves to create space when Bryant and Blackmon return. Having three catchers is not something the Rockies need to keep doing, so cutting Austin Wynns or Jorge Alfaro could be a solution for one spot.
In a season that could result in the Rockies first 100-loss record, why not play rookies, see who is viable, and start building a core for the future? With the pitching situation in dire straits, if the Rockies continue to play Cron, along with veterans like Harold Castro, Grichuk, and Profar, while Montero, Jones, Brenton Doyle, and Coco Montes, either ride the pine or go back to Albuquerque, what’s the point?
Maybe in the month leading up to the trade deadline, one or more of the veterans can catch fire and build trade value. I can try to ride out the next month if that’s the plan.
Or even if the Rockies have to settle for moderate returns for moderate players, that’s fine. If it’s like the Mike Moustakas trade that helps build pitching depth for the future, while also opening a spot for more playing time for rookies, isn’t that a win-win?
Great things can happen when the Rockies give consistent time to a promising prospect. Just take Ezequiel Tovar as an example.
The 21-year-old rookie only has 304 at-bats in his young career. Considering it takes a while for most players to adjust to the high level of MLB, Tovar is slashing .260/.295/.419 with eight homers, 21 doubles, 38 RBI, and 40 runs in his career, which includes 33 at-bats in 2022.
After entering the season as the starting shortstop, Tovar had difficulties at the plate in March and April, but has been nothing short of outstanding in May and June. Outside of remarkable fielding, he’s also hitting .291/.319/.495 with 14 doubles, 28 RBI, seven homers, one triple, and 26 runs scored through Wednesday’s win. Of course, he still has a long way to go and ups and downs are part of baseball, especially for younger players.
Even if all of the Rockies prospects might not be the next Tovar, why not give them the chance to find out? Veterans in the clubhouse can be incredibly valuable to a team’s development, but they can also be dealt for pitching depth, which is what the Rockies need most.
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All Hail the Rockies! Pea-sized hail makes Coors Field a winter wonderland ahead of Dodgers game | Associated Press
The Rockies-Dodgers game was delayed almost two hours on Thursday night when Coors Field was blitzed by hail. The dugout had areas of 1-2 feet deep as the groundcrew had their hands full. Elias Díaz and Germán Márquez made the most of it, especially Díaz, who did hail angels.
I have never seen anything like this in my life but Elias Díaz and Germán Márquez are loving it pic.twitter.com/OwZ6FxjYuX— Kelsey Wingert-Linch (@KelsWingert) June 29, 2023
Service time can be weird in the MLB. If we as fans ever feel like we can’t keep track, we can now feel a little better knowing even players don’t know. In this article, Nolan Jones admits not knowing about specific numbers needed to be considered a rookie. Even though he entered the season beyond rookie status, that’s been revoked as he didn’t exceed 45 days with the Guardians last season. Now Jones is eligible for monthly and the season Rookie of the Year awards.
Thursday was the two-year anniversary of Germán Márquez’s complete-game one-hitter that was a no-hitter into the ninth inning. Kevin Henry reflects back on that great day when Márquez threw a Maddux (a complete-game shutout in less than 100 pitches) and has some great quotes from Márquez.
Ezequiel Tovar continues to come up clutch and it’s drawing worthy attention. After hitting a three-run double in Wednesday’s 9-8 win over the Dodgers, Thomas Harding released this feature full of great quotes from the 21-year-old rookie, as well as Bud Black and Justin Lawrence.
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On the Farm
A day after hitting two homers, including a grand slam, in the Isotopes 11-8 loss on Wednesday, Michael Toglia hit an RBI single and sac fly on Thursday, this time leading Albuquerque to victory. Jimmy Herron hit a solo homer, his 10th of the season, and Alan Trejo added an RBI triple for the Isotopes. After giving up two runs in the first inning, Josh Rogers settled in to pitch scoreless frames through the fourth inning before four Isotopes followed suit out of the bullpen to preserve the win.
Even though he only pitched 5 1⁄3 innings, Hartford’s Joe Rock recorded 12 strikeouts, tying a Yard Goat single-game record, and retired 16 of the first 18 Rumble Ponies he faced. Despite giving up three runs in the sixth and not earning the personal victory, Hartford still got the team win thanks to Kyle Datres’ two-run homer in the eighth inning. Yanquiel Fernandez went 2-for-4 with a homer, his third in his last seven games, and Drew Romo tripled and scored a run.
Braiden Ward went 4-for-4 and scored three runs, Jordan Beck went 3-for-4 with three RBI, and AJ Lewis went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, but it wasn’t enough to keep up with Vancouver. The Indians out-hit the Canadians 13-11, but struggled to convert hits to runs, going 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and leaving 13 runners on base. The Canadians jumped out to a 4-1 in the first and extended it to 9-3 after five innings.
Ryan Ritter hit two homers, and Jamari Baylor, Daniel Amari, and Jesus Bugarin each added long balls of their own to help the Grizzlies outlast the Ports in a slugfest on Thursday night. Bryant Betancourt added a two-run single in a 12-hit effort that overcame two Fresno fielding errors. Alberto Pacheco gave up four runs, but only one was earned, on five hits with six strikeouts in 5 1⁄3 innings to earn his third win of the season.
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