Colorado Rockies: 2024 Season Preview

For the first time in franchise history, the Colorado Rockies lost 100 games. No matter how many times I read that sentence, it still shocks me that it was the first time.

59-103 win-loss record to finish fifth in the NL West

It’s difficult to work out whether it was worse finishing 41 games behind the division winner or 20 games behind the fourth-placed team. Both demonstrate how far the Colorado Rockies are from being a competitive franchise.

Few people will recall that the Rockies were top of the NL West at the end of the first month. Well, at the end of March. And yes, March only consisted of two games, but Colorado won both against the moneybags from San Diego.

But in a division where money is thrown around like confetti, a playoff appearance was always going to be unlikely. Although, much to the amusement of keyboard warriors, owner Dick Monfort claimed that the Rockies were good enough to play .500 ball.

To be fair, I don’t know what else he could say. Either he says the Rockies are a .500 team and gets widely abused for having no grasp of reality, or he suggests the Rockies will lose 100 games and gets widely abused for being one of the worst owners in baseball. It’s a no-win situation, which is why many owners decline to speak to the media. It’s a tough life being a multi-billionaire. 

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. There were a few highlights, like restricting Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and Max Muncy to a combined 0-for-9 in the Rockies 14-5 win over the Dodgers. Or overturning a two-run 11th-inning deficit to walk-off against the Yankees. But the lows definitely outnumbered the highs.

Without doubt, the best part of the season was the transformation of Nolan Jones from a high-strikeout, fatigue-tarnished slugging prospect into a power-speed superstar with a stunning 139 OPS+.

Notable comings and goings

Out went three uninspiring pitchers in Chase Anderson, Brent Suter, and Chris Flexen, and in came a couple of slightly less uninspiring pitchers. Canada’s WBC starter, Cal Quantrill, joined from Cleveland and although last season was a disappointment, in his previous two years, the right-hander tossed 336 innings for a 3.12 ERA.

Joining Quantrill in the new-look rotation is former Cardinals pitcher Dakota Hudson. After six years in St Louis, the 29-year-old was non-tendered, and the Rockies were quick to offer him a job. Like Quantrill, Hudson’s 2023 was forgettable, but his 3.61 ERA over the previous five seasons combined suggests a bounceback is possible.

Also joining the Rockies this season is former first-round pick Bradley Zimmer in yet another attempt to kickstart his career. Perhaps he is the next former Cleveland hitter to get the Coors transformation a la Nolan Jones Perhaps not. Zimmer was released when Jake Cave was brought into the organisation.

A new acquisition who is still on the roster at the time of publication is former Pirates and Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings. The 34-year-old will provide much-needed support for the overworked Elias Diaz; only J.T. Realmuto and Cal Raleigh caught more games last season.

Areas of weakness that still need addressing.

In some ways, there are no holes in the Rockies lineup, and in others, they could benefit from an upgrade everywhere.

Elias Diaz was a Top-7 RBI-generator from behind the plate – more than Sean Murphy and more than J.T. Realmuto – but he’s not really that good.

Kris Bryant (former second overall pick) and Brendan Rodgers (former third overall pick) combined for just 126 games. Imagine the Rockies’ improvement if they combined for 300 games.

Ryan McMahon launched 31 home runs. Is that good? It sounds good, but he was again below-average (93 OPS+). The 29-year-old has yet to register a 100 OPS+ season.

22-year-old shortstop Ezequiel Tovar hit 15 homers with 11 stolen bases, but with a dismal .289 OBP. His defence (16 outs-above-average) was elite and second only to Dansby Swanson at the shortstop position. Fortunately, OBP isn’t high on the list of Rockies’ priorities, as they have just agreed a seven-year deal with Tovar.

Whether the rotation is good or bad is not up for debate. The phrase “a rotation of fifth starters” sounds mean, but the projections suggest none of Austin Gomber, Kyle Freeland, Cal Quantrill, Ryan Feltner or Dakota Hudson will post an ERA below 5.00.

One to watch

In centre field, Brenton Doyle had no equals. There was a gulf between the rookie and the next best centre fielder according to Baseball Savant’s Fielding Run Value.

And using the same measurements, he was clearly the best fielder, regardless of position.

Without doubt, Doyle is box office for his defensive prowess, but, as his .203 AVG shows, he was a liability with the bat.

However, a full slate of games could see a 50% improvement in his 10 homers and 22 stolen bases, and if the improved strikeout rate he showed in Spring Training is sustainable, Doyle might be the most exciting player to watch in Coors.

How will the 2024 season unfold?

PECOTA suggests an even worse season in 2024 than 2023, with the Rockies suffering 104 losses. Arguments against another fifth place are hard to structure, but squint and a decent finish in one of MLB’s most competitive divisions is possible.

So what needs to go right? Healthy seasons from Bryant and Rodgers are essential. A fractured finger kept Bryant out for 44 games as he slumped to the worst year of his career. However, the former MVP was highly productive (128 OPS+) when he was on the field in 2022.

Former ace Germán Márquez is due back after the All-Star break to reinforce the rotation in the second half of the season.

Nolan Jones must prove that his breakout was real. We’re talking MVP material if he carries his September production (.349/.462/.651) into 2024.

With outfielders Jordan Beck, Yanquiel Fernandez, and Zac Veen and middle infielder Adael Amador on the verge of the majors, the influx of youthful exuberance could be the boost the Rockies need to challenge a .500 record. 

Ok, it sounds completely implausible, but I did say “squint.”

Featured image courtesy of @Rockies

Article by @GavTramps. Want to share your baseball opinions in 2024 with a Bat Flips & Nerds audience of 10,000+? Click on the “Write for us” link above.

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