2017 Record: 87-75
Third Place, NL West
Team ERA: 4.51 (17th)
Team OPS: .781 (5th)
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What Went Right
Although it lasted just one contest as they lost the Wild Card Game to the Diamondbacks, the Rockies reached the postseason in 2017 for the first time since 2009. They did so in manager Bud Black’s first year at the helm, and Black’s pitching background no doubt helped steer the pitching staff to their best year since that 2009 campaign. Unfortunately, it didn’t translate to a lot of fantasy goodness on the pitching side. Jon Gray and Greg Holland were the exceptions. Gray missed 11 weeks with a broken foot but finished with a flourish, ultimately posting a 3.67 ERA and 112/30 K/BB ratio over 110 1/3 innings. Holland struggled down the stretch, but his first post-Tommy John surgery season was a success with 41 saves, a 3.61 ERA and 70 strikeouts across 57 1/3 frames. On the hitting side of things, Charlie Blackmon continued his rise to the fantasy elite, leading the NL in average (.331) and all of baseball in runs (137) while also stealing 14 bases and setting career highs with 37 homers and 104 RBI. He finished as the top hitter in all of fantasy. Nolan Arenado matched Blackmon’s 37 bombs, drove in 130, scored 100 and batted .309. DJ LeMahieu stole just six bases, but the 2016 batting champ hit .300 for the third straight year (.310) and scored 95 runs. He faded in the final three months, but a big start helped propel Mark Reynolds to 30 dingers and 97 RBI. Gerardo Parra bounced back from an awful first season in Colorado to hit .309/.341/.452 with 10 homers over 115 games as a part-time starter. Jonathan Lucroy was picked up at the trade deadline following a terrible first half in Texas and rebounded to hit .310/.429/.437 with the Rockies.
What Went Wrong
Carlos Gonzalez’s walk year did not go as planned. After batting .285/.337/.522 with 65 home runs over the previous two seasons, CarGo put up an unsightly .262/.339/.423 line with just 14 longballs in 2017. Trevor Story’s follow-up to a brilliant rookie campaign was filled with plenty of strikeouts and inconsistency, as the young shortstop finished with 24 homers but a lowly .239/.308/.457 batting line and an NL-leading 191 strikeouts. The five-year, $70 million contract the Rockies signed Ian Desmond to was mostly criticized, but essentially everyone loved his fantasy potential in Denver. However, his first season in black and purple was unsatisfying, as he batted a pedestrian .274/.326/.375 with seven dingers while being limited to just 95 games because of injury. Both David Dahl and Tom Murphy carried plenty of appeal in early fantasy drafts last spring, but injuries suffered in spring training helped to sabotage both of their seasons. They combined for just 26 plate appearances at the major league level (all from Murphy) and didn’t hit well during their time in the minors, either. Tyler Anderson’s ERA jumped from 3.54 to 4.81 from 2016 to 2017 and he missed two months of action following knee surgery.
**Whether Carlos Gonzalez is able to bounce back from a terribly disappointing showing in 2017 obviously depends largely on where he winds up signing as a free agent. It’s hard to see the Rockies bringing him back since they have other options, which means he’s likely looking at a downgrade in his hitting environment. However, one thing to note for CarGo’s prospects in 2018 is how well he performed late in the season after he re-adjusted his grip on the bat to how he used to hold it, as he sported a .377/.484/.766 line with six home runs in September. Gonzalez is now 32 and will be a risky fantasy investment if he doesn’t call Coors Field home in 2018. However, he’s largely shaken his injury-prone label with only one minimum DL stay in three years and he might wind up being a nice buy-low target in drafts if his stock falls far enough.
**The cop-out answer when asking whether the 2016 version or 2017 version of Trevor Story is the real one is to say “it’s probably somewhere in between.” It’s fine to hedge your bets, but I do think he has a shot to be closer to the 2016 version. Story has struck out in over 30 percent of his plate appearances in both seasons in the majors and he piled up whiffs in the minors, as well, so even with a Coors-inflated BABIP he’s probably never going to help in the average department. However, the soon-to-be 25-year-old was also 18th in hard-hit rate and sixth in flyball rate even in his down 2017 campaign. Story’s average might not be great, but I’m happy to bet on a guy playing at Coors Field who consistently hits the ball hard and in the air.
**Like Gonzalez, Jonathan Lucroy had a less-than-ideal walk year. However, after hitting an embarrassing .242/.297/.338 with the Rangers, Lucroy closed with a .310/.429/.437 batting line with the Rockies. Unsurprisingly, the 31-year-old really took advantage of the thin Denver air, putting up a blistering .367/.485/.532 pace across 99 plate appearances at Coors Field. Obviously, the impending free agent re-signing with the Rockies would go a long way in boosting his 2018 fantasy value, and there appears to be interest from both sides in a reunion. Regardless of where he winds up, Lucroy needs to reverse the precipitous drop he had in his hard-hit and flyball rates in 2017.
**David Dahl had quite a debut with the Rockies in 2016, batting .315/.359/.500 with seven home runs and five stolen bases over 237 plate appearances. That he put up those numbers as a 22-year-old makes them all the more impressive. Now we come to Dahl’s 2017 season, which featured him playing just 19 games in the minors (and hitting only .260/.296/.455) after suffering a stress reaction in his rib during spring training. I’m tempted to just throw 2017 out and maintain my positive overall outlook on Dahl, as we’re still talking about a guy who turns just 24 next April, is a former top-50 prospect who had a fantastic debut and who has consistently displayed five-category upside. However, the problem is we certainly can’t etch Dahl’s 2018 role into stone at this point. Even if the Rockies let CarGo walk, they have other guys on the depth chart who might rank higher than Dahl at the moment. Keep a close eye next spring on how Dahl’s situation shakes out.
**Which non-Jon Gray pitcher has the best chance to make a fantasy impact in 2018? I’m going to rule out potential closers since that role is up in the air with Greg Holland poised for free agency. I believe that leaves Tyler Anderson and German Marquez as the most likely options. As previously mentioned, Anderson had a disappointing sophomore season after a promising freshman campaign, posting a 4.81 ERA over 86 innings. However, the left-hander looked like a new man in September following a return from knee surgery, holding a 1.19 ERA and 18/3 K/BB ratio across 22 2/3 frames. It’s certainly possible the knee greatly impacted his numbers prior to the operation. While I’d still feel more comfortable starting Anderson away from Coors, it’s noteworthy that he’s actually pitched much better at home (3.39 ERA) than on the road (5.11 ERA) in his career. Marquez had ups and downs in 2017, which isn’t a surprise for a 22-year-old who called Coors Field home, but he had 147/49 K/BB ratio over 162 innings and posted five nine-plus strikeout games after the All-Star break. You need only to watch one Marquez start to see how nasty his stuff can be, and while he’s at a big disadvantage with his home park, I think he might have some deep-league value in 2018.
**How much (if any) of Ryan McMahon and Brendan Rodgers will we see in 2018 in the majors? McMahon bounced back from a down season at Double-A in 2016 to hit .355/.403/.583 with 20 homers and 11 steals in 2017 between Double- and Triple-A, earning a cup of coffee in the big leagues. Slated to turn 23 in December, McMahon is probably ready for an extended look in the majors, but he certainly isn’t guaranteed one even if both Carlos Gonzalez and Mark Reynolds depart as free agents. The third overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Rodgers earned a promotion to Double-A last June after batting an absurd .387/.407/.671 with 12 dingers at High-A. The shortstop found the sledding much tougher at Double-A (.260/.323/.413), but keep in mind that he didn’t turn 21 until August. Rodgers is one of the top-10 prospects in the game and figures to be a fantasy monster in time, but we probably can’t count on an impact in the majors until 2019. DJ LeMahieu will be a free agent after 2018, so we could see Trevor Story and Rodgers as the Rockies’ long-term double-play combo.
Team Needs: Re-signing Jonathan Lucroy appears to be a goal, although Tom Murphy remains an intriguing fallback option if they’re not able to get it done. There might be interest in bringing Mark Reynolds back again, as well, although that doesn’t seem necessary with the other options the Rockies have. Closer looks like a need with Greg Holland set to walk, but it’s unclear whether they’d be willing to pay up to keep him around. A veteran innings-eater for the rotation might not be a bad idea even presuming they get a full season out of Chad Bettis.