We make a lot of jokes about the Rockies, but I love them. I love the perpetual experiment of figuring out Coors Field, that their analytics department would churn out a solid, 92-game winner if this was 2002, that they gave Kris Bryant $180 million. Great org, fun follow, maybe the dumbest owner in baseball. I love it.
2022 record: 68-94 (5th, NL West)
2023 FanGraphs projection: 64-98 (5th, NL West)
Let’s start with the positives. For the first time in almost a decade, the Rockies’ prospect system saw real gains in 2022, moving from a bottom five organization into the median. They don’t boast the perpetual motion machine-like ability of the Dodgers or Rays to churn out top systems year after year, but as the saying goes, you get more from not being stupid than you get from being smart.
Being able to put together solid farm systems helps you in two ways. First, you increase the potential depth of your MLB roster, and frankly, having a few more two-ish win players goes a long way for a team like the Rockies. Just one player on the team managed more than two wins in the 2022 season, and just three did so in 2021. Depth matters, and avoiding sub-replacement level talent, as Jeff Sullivan used to write about, counts for a lot.
The second thing that a solid system allows is more leverage in trades. Look at what the Yankees have done over the past few seasons, being able to make trades that, in theory, help the MLB roster without giving up the likes of Anthony Volpe or Jasson Domínguez, the kind of high-end talent that raises your team’s ceiling. The Rockies don’t quite have that high-end talent yet, although Ezequiel Tovar is a top-40 prospect and should have an impact this season, but they’re headed in the right direction.
Okay, what else is a positive ...
Germán Márquez probably isn’t as bad as he was last year, and Kris Bryant can probably be healthier?
Márquez had such an outlier year, seeing his strikeout rate plummet. I have to imagine his track record and the fact that his primary pitches didn’t see a reduction in quality means baseball, especially baseball at Coors, is just weird and he’s probably going to be better.
Bryant is harder. The 31-year-old dealt with a balky back for most of 2022, despite having a solid season when he was on the field. You hope for more health, especially given the Rockies only have two MLB-caliber outfielders on the roster at present time, but as Yankee fans can attest, trusting a player’s back once he turns 30 is a risky endeavor.
I like Ryan McMahon, even if he’s probably not going to be a plus hitter to match his plus work at third base. That’s really about it for the Rockies, in so many ways a franchise that is 40 percent complete. The top half of talent is real talent; there’s real pieces that, while they may not hit in the 1-2-3 slots of the Yankees or Astros or Mets, would be complementary players on talented rosters. When the bottom half, or arguably bottom two thirds, of your squad is replacement level or worse, though, you’re not going to have a good baseball team.
The Yankees will travel to Colorado in mid-July, giving us a long-awaited chance to see the power bats of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hitting at a video game ballpark. By that time in the schedule, we should see some real separation between the two teams, projected to be on the opposite ends of the league standings. Despite that outlook, the Rockies will be doing things that no other org will be doing, and are always worth a watch.
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