Colorado Rockies Roundup: What Went Right/Wrong? Fantasy Slants
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2022 Record: 68-94 (5th place, NL West)
Team ERA: 5.07 (30th)
Team OPS: .713 (12th)
What Went Right
The Rockies attempted to accelerate their perpetual rebuilding process last offseason, shocking the baseball universe by signing marquee free agent Kris Bryant to a colossal seven-year, $182 million contract, the largest deal in franchise history. The 30-year-old slugger battled persistent back and foot issues during a turbulent Rockies debut, playing in just 42 games before left foot plantar fasciitis ended his season prematurely in late July. Colorado’s offensive nucleus largely struggled, outside of consistent middle-of-the-order contributor’s C.J. Cron and Ryan McMahon, who signed a six-year, $70 million long-term contract extension just prior to the season. On a positive note, veteran designated hitter Charlie Blackmon has settled nicely into a complementary elder statesman role and former top prospect Brendan Rodgers has become a reliable everyday performer. However, the franchise’s immediate future remains rather bleak, especially when juxtaposed with the perennial NL West powerhouse Dodgers and a loaded Padres squad as well. There is some help on the horizon as several of the team’s top positional prospects, including Ezequiel Tovar, Michael Toglia and Elehuris Montero, finally ascended to the majors this season. The Rockies remain a perplexing work in progress offensively, but it’s easy to envision their long-term outlook completely flipping if a healthy Bryant instantly becomes their primary offensive catalyst and Tovar develops into a true franchise cornerstone for the next half-decade.
What Went Wrong
There’s no way to sugarcoat the Rockies’ struggles during the 2022 campaign. Here’s an oversimplification: Colorado boasted the worst pitching staff in baseball this past season, allowing a staggering 5.39 runs per-game.. A starting rotation comprised mainly of Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Chad Kuhl, Ryan Feltner, Antonio Senzatela and Austin Gomber predictably struggled from a run prevention standpoint in Coors Field’s high-octane offensive environment and the Rockies’ bullpen recorded an astounding 4.85 ERA, the worst mark in baseball. Colorado has been unable to solve their omnipresent pitching problems that have plagued the franchise for the last three decades. There are some reasons for hope on the offensive side for the Rockies, especially with some of their top prospects close to making an impact, but there are zero impact pitching prospects in the upper minors of their system at the moment. They’ll need to completely rebuild their pitching staff this offseason.
**Top prospect Ezequiel Tovar represents the most critical building block in the Rockies’ long-term rebuilding effort. The 21-year-old shortstop experienced a meteoric rise this season, slashing a sublime .319/.387/.540 with 14 home runs and 17 stolen bases across 318 plate appearances over 71 games between Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque before getting into nine games in late September at the major-league level. The precocious youngster capped off his rapid ascent by launching his first career round-tripper off future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw during Colorado’s final contest of the season. Tovar projects as the Rockies’ shortstop of the future and possesses the skills necessary to blossom into an immediate five-category fantasy contributor, especially in the hitter-friendly environment of Coors Field. He’ll be an extremely popular late-round sleeper candidate in fantasy drafts next spring.
**It remains flabbergasting that there was hardly any interest in C.J. Cron just a few years ago as he was ultimately forced to settle for a minor league contract with the Rockies heading into the 2021 campaign. The veteran first baseman, who made his first career All-Star Game appearance this season, has batted a robust .268/.342/.496 with 57 home runs and 194 RBI across 1,179 plate appearances in 292 games over the last two seasons, averaging 28 home runs per-season during that span. The 32-year-old middle-of-the-order force will be a free agent at the conclusion of the 2023 campaign and should remain a reliable power source for fantasy managers until further notice.
**Among the most intriguing hitting prospects in the fantasy landscape given his stolen base prowess and future home environment, outfield prospect Zac Veen has a chance to make a significant impact for fantasy managers, possibly as early as the 2023 campaign. The 20-year-old speedster, who was the Rockies’ first-round selection (ninth overall) in the 2020 MLB Draft, has a clear path to everyday at-bats in Colorado’s outfield mix in his future after hitting .245/.340/.384 with 12 home runs and a whopping 55 stolen bases across 541 plate appearances in 126 games this season between High-A Spokane and Double-A Hartford. He’ll likely require a few additional months of seasoning in the upper minors next year, but he could make some noise for the Rockies in the second-half.
**The Rockies inability to develop young pitchers has resulted in an aging starting rotation without much hope on the horizon. Germán Márquez has remained a reliable workhorse, eclipsing the 160-inning threshold in five of the last six seasons, but has experienced a sharp decline in strikeout rate this past year, which led to a ton of hard contact. The 27-year-old righty needs to re-configure his pitch mix, leaning more heavily on his breaking pitches, to re-discover some of the swing-and-miss stuff he possessed just a few years ago.
**Daniel Bard has quietly evolved into one of the most reliable closers in the entire fantasy landscape last year, converting 34 of 37 save opportunities to go along with a microscopic 1.79 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 69/25 K/BB ratio across 60 1/3 innings (57 appearances). The Rockies opted to give the 37-year-old stopper a two-year, $19 million contract extension at the trade deadline, rather than jettison him to a contender for a prospect haul. It’s difficult to forecast closers, especially in Colorado, but Bard has proven that he’s one of the senior circuit’s premier stoppers for the immediate future.
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Key Free Agents: José Iglesías, Alex Colomé, Carlos Estévez, Chad Kuhl, José Ureña
Team Needs: Pitching, pitching and more pitching. The Rockies inability to develop pitching prospects has been a feature, not a bug, since the franchise’s arrival nearly three decades ago. Not only do they need to plug some holes in the back-end of their starting rotation, but their bullpen remains one of the worst in baseball. They could benefit from throwing a few darts at reclamation project arms and castaways from other organizations that have been more successful from a pitching development standpoint.