Colorado is one of my favorite places to vacation. I’m not much of a skier, but love the outdoor sports that you can do there in the summer. “Rocky Mountain High” no longer refers to just the altitude. I heard they had a pretty good football team in Denver this past year and my favorite hockey team used to be the Colorado Rockies before they moved to New Jersey. These are some of the great things that come to mind when I hear the words, “Colorado Rockies.”
Then there is the baseball team…
From 2007 thrugh 2010, the Rockies posted a string of four productive seasons where they finished in second or third place each year. Three of four years netted a winning record with two playoff
appearances to show for it. The last five seasons, however, have seen the Rockies mired in 4th and 5th place finishes falling short of 75 wins for all five years. Last year the franchise traded away their most popular player and they still can’t get a free agent pitcher to sign up to pitch their home games at Coors Field.
Unfortunately, the 2016 outlook does not appear to improve after a quiet off-season.
Notable Off-Season Additions:
- Jake McGee (acquired from TB)
- Gerardo Parra (FA signing)
- Jason Motte (FA Signing)
- Mark Reynolds (FA Signing)
- Chad Qualls (FA Signing)
- Ryan Raburn (FA Signing)
Notable Off-Season Subtractions:
- Corey Dickerson (Traded to TB)
- Justin Morneau (Mutual Option Buyout)
It appears that the #1 goal for GM, Jeff Bridich, is too bolster the bullpen. Although you don’t see the big time Closers on this list, he did strengthen the bullpen that has been a sieve over the past few years. Jake McGee has a live arm which represents a huge upgrade in the 9th. He struggled with injuries in recent years and hasn’t been a Closer for a full season yet. His career 11.1 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 will be a welcome addition to Coors Field and give fans a glimmer of hope that the bullpen can hold a lead. He’s not exactly a ground ball pitcher (40.1% career GB rate), but he has had an excellent HR/FB rate over the last two seasons (Amazing 2.9% in 2014; 7.3% in 2015). Motte and Qualls are nice signings to bolster the bullpen, They are both experienced in the later innings and should solidify the backend of the pen. When Gerardo Parra was signed, I thought it was a great move to get a fourth outfielder that can play all three outfield positions in the event of an injury and to give the starters a day off. It appears that the Rockies brass see Parra as an everyday LF now as they moved incumbent, Corey Dickerson, to Tampa Bay for previously mentioned Jake McGee. Seems like a steep price for a Closer.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
Jose Reyes (S) – SSCharlie Blackmon (L) – CF
- DJ LeMahieu (R) – 2B
- Carlos Gonzalez (L) – RF
- Nolan Arenado (R) – 3B
- Gerardo Parra (L) – LF
- Mark Reynolds (R) – 1B
- Nick Hundley (R) – C
- Christhian Adames (S) – SS
Projected Opening Day Bench
- Tom Murphy (R) – C
- Ben Paulson (L) – 1B
- Ryan Raburn (R) – OF/IF
- Brandon Barnes (R) – OF
- Daniel Descalso (L) – IF
I’ll save my thoughts on the starting SS for later in this article, but for now, I want to focus on the Rockies hitters that require a little less speculation.
Although they won’t be mistaken with the “Blake Street Bombers”, Mark Reyonlds and Ben Paulson make a decent platoon tandem. They combined for 24 HRs and 97 RBIs last season. Reynolds has a chance to improve his power numbers during his first year in the higher altitude. Savvy owners could certainly take advantage of this platoon in leagues that allow daily lineup changes.
Looks like Cargo is back after a two injury plagued seasons. He’s not getting on base at a 37% clip like he was in his mid-20’s, but if healthy, I don’t see any reason he can’t get 35-40 HRs and 95-100 RBIs. Most fantasy owners will take that production in a heartbeat.
At 2B, DJ LeMahieu had a breakout season in 2015. He had career highs in nearly every offensive category and was selected to his first All-Star game. He tools project perfectly for the keystone and could be a top 10 fantasy 2B in 2016. He fills out the scorecard which brings value in points leagues as well as category scoring leagues.
At the hot corner, young stud, Nolan Arenado, is a top 10 overall hitter. In 2015, he hit 42 HRs and 130 RBIs leading to numerous accolades: All-Star, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and 8th in MVP voting. He may get on base less than 33% of the time, but with an OPS of .898 (in 2015), he can be the cornerstone of the Rockies lineup at least the next four years (club control thru 2019) and he is a first round pick in most fantasy leagues with 12+ teams.
With Dickerson gone, the LF situation is not as desirable for fantasy owners, but value can still be found there. Parra can serve as a nice fourth OF in points leagues. Deeper leagues should consider rostering Ryan Raburn who should see a fair share of at bats against lefties this year. The entire starting OF is left-handed, so Raburn may get a chance to play when the team gives Blackmon or Cargo the day off.
Speaking of Blackmon, he burst on the fantasy landscape in 2014 after showing a nice blend of power and speed. He doesn’t get on base as much as you want your leadoff guy to, however, he did have a career high OBP in 2015 (.347) and hopes to build on that. He should be targeted in all fantasy leagues.
Projected Opening Day Rotation
- Jorge De La Rosa (L)
- Jordan Lyles (R)
- Jon Gray (R)
- Chad Betts (R)
- Tyler Chatwood (R)
Projected Opening Day Bullpen
- CL – Jake McGee (L)
- SU8 – Jason Motte (R)
- SU7 – Justin Miller (R)
- MR – Chad Qualls (R)
- MR – Boone Logan (L)
- MR – Scott Oberg (R)
- LR – Chris Rusin (L)
The only thing I can say with any amount of certainty is that Jorge De La Rosa is in the Opening Week rotation. In standard leagues, he’s the only SP you consider, and frankly, unless your league requires a significant amount of weekly innings pitched or starts, you probably stay away from the Rockies starting rotation completely. De La Rosa sports a career ERA of 4.55, WHIP of 1.431, 4.1 BB/9, 7.5 K/9 and 4.34 FIP. These are very pedestrian numbers that really only has value as an innings-eater.
Dynasty leagues and large format keeper leagues will want to stash Jon Gray who the organization still believes can be an ace. His ERA was scary in his MLB debut in 2015 (5.53), however, that is not an indication to his potential. He has a plus fastball that was getting hit around. It’s hard to just throw pitches past hitters at the Major League level. With improved command and experience, it should pair nicely with his plus-plus slider which was dazzling. His FIP was only 3.63 and his BABIP was .384. This indicates to me that there is some learning curve and bad luck associated with this performance. Barring an implosion during training camp, I expect Gray to be in the Opening Week rotation slotted into the #3 spot.
Lyles and Betts are angling for the #2 and #4 spot. Both should be serviceable Major League pitchers but nothing worthy of fantasy rosters unless you are in a super deep league that rosters most MLB players.
After giving up a hefty price to acquire McGee, he is penciled in as the Closer and should perform well as mentioned in the “Notable Additions” section. Innings 5-8 now have a solid group of veteran arms to choose from that should give Rockies’ Starters more confidence than in years past. Motte and Miller are worth a roster spot if your league counts holds. Overall the pen should be better in real life than for fantasy purposes.
Spring Position Battles/ Impact Prospects
Starting Rotation Spots #2 thru #5 – Bettis, Lyles, Gray, Chatwood vs. Hale, Rusin, Butler, Matzek
I laid out above how I believe the Opening Week will line up after De La Rosa.
Lyles has the experience but never seems to stay healthy.
Gray has the highest ceiling of the contenders as I discussed above.
Bettis was solid in his first significant action last year. 3.85 FIP but under 2 K/BB. As a fourth starter he is basically equal to a replacement player.
Chatwood probably gets first crack at the fifth spot due to his great year in 2014.
Hale and Rusin are basically spot starters or long relievers. They are more valuable to the Rockies than fantasy owners.
Butler and Matzek are likely rostered in deep keeper and dynasty leagues because there is still hope they will develop into their prospect hype. Butler has been a disaster as he 49 walks and 47 strikeouts in 91.1 career Major League innings pitched. I have given up on him and fantasy owners probably should too. Matzek has pitched ok in his limited stints in 2014 and 2015 but deals with anxiety issues. If and when he works that out will determine if his professional baseball career can reach his ability.
Bonus Player: Jeff Hoffman, RHP
Hoffman was the crown jewel in the Tulo trade last season. He is ace material and has progressed through the system very quickly after recovering from Tommy John surgery in college. He likely would have been the #1 overall pick in 2014 had he not been injured. He has a plus fastball and curve now and his fastball projects to plus-plus. His change up should be above average and flash plus. He WILL be the ace of this staff by 2017. Take look at his minor league numbers…
|2015||Blue Jays (A+)||6.11||2.41||2.53||0.64||16.7 %||6.6 %||10.1 %||.282||1.32||.329||79.8 %||3.70|
|2015||Rockies (AA)||7.18||2.48||2.90||0.74||20.3 %||7.0 %||13.3 %||.206||1.02||.242||71.8 %||3.74|
|2015||Blue Jays (AA)||6.17||1.54||4.00||0.00||17.8 %||4.4 %||13.3 %||.209||0.94||.257||81.8 %||2.41|
*Courtesy of Fangraphs
I am targeting him in all my leagues (I don’t play any redraft but I probably wouldn’t there) and believe he will be that Rockie pitcher that will break through the thin-air curse. I think we will see my Hoffman at some point this summer (July/August) and he should be in the rotation permenantly in 2017. Get him while you still can.
SS – Adames vs. Descalso vs. Story
This is the point where we look at the SS position in Colorado for 2016. Jose Reyes is suspended indefinitely as of this article’s publishing. I would be shocked if the suspension was less than 50 games and could be closer to 80 games. Hopefully the Rockies sake the league rules on this quickly so they can put together a solid plan.
Christhian Adames has the upper hand here as he does have some MLB experience from last year. He may be the safest pick to start the season at SS as he has at least average tools across the board. In 511 plate appearances in AAA last season he managed 11 HRs, 11 SB and 62 RBIs. The “Coors” effect should only help his offense so long as he keeps his contact rate over 80%. He profiles as a shortstop but could play 2B or 3B if needed. He is more talented than a utility-man but with the likes of Trevor Story and Brendan Rodgers in the system, he won’t be playing SS in Colorado for very long. Fantasy owners should take note on Adames if they are large format (20+ teams) or dynasty leagues.
Daniel Descalso is a long shot. He has the most experience of the group but has no upside. In fact, once Reyes and/or Story is on the 25 Man roster, Descalso is likely going to get DFA’d and Adames probably takes over the infield utility role. There is no upside for fantasy owners anywhere if Descalso wins the job and if he does, expect Story to take over after the Super Two deadline passes.
Finally, the best short stop on the Rockies 40 Man roster is…Trevor Story. He is off to hot a start in training camp, hitting two HRs in his first six at bats. He doesn’t have nearly the ceiling of future franchise shortstop, Brendan Rodgers, however, he is athletic and poised to hit after spending five years in the minor league system. He hit 20 HRs and swiped 22 bags over two levels in 2015. Unless he completely tails off this Spring, he would be the “best” option for the Rockies at SS to open the season. Last year, he cut back on the strikeouts and overall has good plate discipline. He will get fooled and caught off-balance on good breaking pitches. That is a big reason he has progressed slowly through the system. That being said, I believe they will start him in AAA to “let him work out a few things” while saving a year of arbitration. Once the Super Two passes, he will be up and probably playing everyday. If he handles himself well, the Rockies would do well to cut Reyes’ ass and send a message to their players. Story is already owned in all dynasty leagues, but standard leagues should consider taking a flier on him late as he could pay off huge later in the season.
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Show: Join Corey D Roberts on Sunday March 13th, 2016 from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of the Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio Show. We are a live call in radio show so we encourage callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. We begin the division by division break downs with everything fantasy and MLB relevant in the A.L. East.
Our guests this week are Zak Sauer and Hernan Batista. Zak is a writer with majorleaguefantasysports.com. Hernan is a key owner in our leagues and will be a regular guest on our shows this year.
Come join a lively debate!
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Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly Show: Join Lou Landers and Kyle Amore live on Thursday March 10th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #4 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Weekly. We will discuss player positions and help prepare you for the coming draft season. This will run every Thursday as a live broadcast that will take live callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host. This week we will discuss the short stop and 2nd base players to target or avoid in 2016.
This week’s guests are Marc Foster and Nick DeSisto. Marc was a writer with us in 2012 and 2013. He is one the original 8 core members who has been playing in our leagues since 2008 and he will be a frequent guest on our shows this year. Nick is going into his 3rd year as an MLFB owner and he will also be a frequent radio guest this year.
Come join a lively debate!