A Few Rockies Mid-Season Awards
It’s time for some evaluation and a bit of speculation.
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Yesterday, the Rockies played their 90th game, which means they are just over the halfway mark in the 2022 season. In a college semester, this is the time when I provide students with their midterm grades, those marks designed either to tell them to keep up the good work or to suggest a change in their approach to the class.
I’m not really interested in “grading” the Rockies (I do enough of that during the course of a semester), but it does seem appropriate to provide some just-after-mid-season assessments.
Most Valuable Player: CJ Cron — This one is not close. No player is worth more to the Rockies than their recently named All-Star. Currently, Cron is worth 2.2 fWAR, which is 46th highest in MLB. (Closest to him is Ryan McMahon, who is worth 1.5 fWAR.) Cron leads the team in home runs (20) and RBI (67). He is also tied with José Iglesias for the most doubles (20). He provides the power the Rockies so desperately need. I know: Cron’s splits are a problem. Right now, however, he is driving the Rockies offense. Moreover, his recognition as an All-Star is much deserved.
Biggest Surprise: José Iglesias — The Rockies’ decision to sign Iglesias to take the place of Trevor Story struck me as a “fine, whatever” decision, but Iglesias has emerged as a key part of this offense. He has the 15th highest BA in baseball (.304) even thought batting average is not the greatest metric, and he’s hitting on the road. On Wednesday, he got his 1000th career hit, the 19th Cuban-born player to do so. And how about his six-RBI game on Wednesday?
That game puts him in some elite company:Trev, Tulo and now Iggy José Iglesias notched three hits and recorded a career-high six RBI becoming only the third shortstop in #Rockies history with at least six RBI in a game, joining Trevor Story (twice) and Troy Tulowitzki (twice).
Iglesias does not have power, but he does have persistence, consistently hitting singles and avoiding strikeouts — and he’s hit three home runs. So there’s that. His defense is still not always awesome (he has a -7 DRS though he has improved with the rest of the infield defense). But it’s impossible to deny that the Rockies would be a lesser team without Iglesias. As he told Thomas Harding, “I think I'm a big part of this team . . . . On the field, off the field, offensively, defensively, clubhouse -- I feel pretty comfortable here. I fit here very well.”
Second place? Charlie Blackmon who has benefitted more than I expected from his time as a designated hitter. With his 14 home runs, only CJ Cron has hit more, and Blackmon’s wRC+ is 108. He’s having a bit of a renaissance.
Best Defensive Player: Brendan Rodgers — This is one I did not see coming, but right now, Rodgers has the most DRS (9) of anyone on the Rockies roster. That’s the eighth highest DRS in baseball Actually, he’s first among second basemen — and he’s one run higher than former teammate Trevor Story.
Plays like this one have helped Rodgers get his defensive footing — and this comes after an error-filled June. (Kyle Newman has more here.)
Biggest Disapointment: Randal Grichuk — The Rockies traded for Grichuk because of his power and his ability to hit the ball in the air. That has not been the case. Currently, Grichuk has the seventh-highest GB% in baseball at 53%, which is a lot of ground balls. He is slashing .247/.284/.396 and has a wRC+ of -0.7. Simply put, he has not been the hitter the Rockies needed, yet he has 292 plate appearances, sixth-most on the Rockies roster.
Best Starting Pitcher: Kyle Freeland — Currently, he has accumulated 1.2 fWAR, putting him slightly ahead of Chad Kuhl and Antonio Senzatela (1.1 fWAR). Freeland is clearly not having the kind of season he did in 2018, but he’s showing control of his pitches (if not his temper) and the kind of determination that his defined his career. The big question that remains is to see if Germán Mårquez can supplant Freeland before the end of the season. If the Rockies expect to be successful, a resurgent Márquez is essential.
Best Relief Pitcher: Tyler Kinley — Kinley’s shortened season is one of this year’s greatest disappointments for the Rockies, and his 0.9 fWAR still leads all Rockies relievers. Daniel Bard and Alex Colomé each have 0.7 fWAR. The bullpen has held together — at times, barely — even as they work with reduced personnel.
Most Fun Player: Connor Joe — When he’s at the plate, Coors Field erupts with chants of JOE! JOE! JOE!, and given his performance in 2022, they have good reason. Whether it’s his “Good Vibes Only” t-shirts or his awesome mullet or his wRC+ of 106 or his new tradition of dabbing after the Rockies win a game, Connor Joe is always fun and reliable. (His OBP of .371 is the 22nd highest in MLB.)
Best Uniform: Purple Tops — This season, I’ve been tracking the Rockies’ record in relation to their uniform choices. In the Purple Jerseys, they’re 23-16; Pinstripes are 6-13; Road Grays have a record of 8-16; City Connects have gone 2-3; and Special Occasion are 2-1. So, guys, keep wearing the purple tops.
To be clear, this is still not a good baseball team — they have a 41-49 record after all. Their cumulative fWAR for hitting is 5.4, 25th in baseball. To contrast, Nolan Arenado has the highest individual fWAR right now (4.7), an indicator that Arenado himself is almost individually almost more valuable than the entire Rockies team.
So, that’s my take so far.
One other thing: I don’t expect the Rockies to do much of anything at the trade deadline. I think the front office likes this team, and they also like the crowds that are coming out to Coors Field (an average of over 32,000 per game and a total attendance of 1,497,679, seventh highest in MLB). Who needs to win when a team draws numbers like that?
Let’s do this again at the end of the season.
Down on the Farm
Beat writer Dave Nichols evaluates the Spokane team.
Coming off Tommy John surgery, Rockies 2021 draftee Jaden Hill has begun pitching.
Grant Lavigne seems to be setting into Hartford:
Baseball America released its mid-season Top 100 prospect rankings this week. Five Rockies have made the cut: Ezequiel Tovar (17), Zac Veen (32), Drew Romo (33), Adael Amador (58), and Elehuris Montero (98). Things are looking up on the farm. BTW, on a Rockies team with a combined 23 stolen bases this season, Veen has set himself apart.
It was announced yesterday that Ezequiel Tovar will not attend the Futures Game as he continues to recover from a groin injury.
Jon Gray is doing Jon Gray things — and good for him.
Old Friend Rico Garcia is with the Orioles now — and what a very fun team to be a part of.
What I’m Reading, Watching, and Listening To
Thomas Harding’s “In 14th Season, Chacín Still Eyeing 'Rocktober'” (MLB.com) — No one else may believe in the Rockies, but they believe in themselves.
Jayson Stark’s “Explaining Baseball’s Next Experiement to Limit Shifts: The ‘Pie-slice Rule’” (The Athletic) — This is the best thing I’ve read on proposed shift rules.
Pete Alonso’s “LFGM!” (The Players Tribune) — I’m a big fan of the Polar Bear, and articles like this one reinforce why. (He also discusses that Spring Training car accident.)
Myself, I’m not a fan of Crocs, the shoes. Too much plastic for me. Chad Kuhl, however, is. Actually, learn the details here:
Sorry, but no Colorado “Croc-ies” for me — not even purple ones.
Enjoy All-Star Week, and thanks for reading —