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2021 Record: 74-87
Fourth place, NL West
Team ERA: 4.82 (25th in MLB)
Team OPS: .731 (12th in MLB)
WHAT WENT RIGHT
This wasn’t a good season for Bud Black and the Rockies, but it certainly could have been worse. In large part, that’s because of their starting rotation. It was, dare we say, solid? Certainly when you take context into account. The rotation ERA was 4.77, but it was league average by ERA-minus on FanGraphs. Surprisingly, the staff was tied for fourth in the majors with 68 quality starts. They were steady and consistent as a group, limiting walks while inducing a lot of ground balls. They were also remarkably healthy. It’s hard to count on that from year-to-year, but this approach could work for Coors Field. Oh yeah, Jeff Bridich is no longer the general manager after a tumultuous end to his tenure. That’s good, right? Bill Schmidt recently received the full-time tag and has already signed C.J. Cron and Antonio Senzatela to extensions. Cron really enjoyed life in Colorado and Senzatela actually led the pitching staff in fWAR this year. Ryan McMahon had an up-and-down season at the plate, but he emerged as one of the game’s best defenders. Brendan Rogers finally got a chance to prove that he can be part of the Rockies’ future, which is important with Trevor Story expected to depart this winter. And while it was a shame to see Nolan Arenado get traded, Austin Gomber showed a lot of potential and there’s still something to be excited about from the prospect side of things.
WHAT WENT WRONG
It was the third straight losing season for the Rockies. That wasn’t a huge surprise given the modest expectations on the heels of the Nolan Arenado trade. It’s hard to remember a Rockies’ lineup this underwhelming. Trevor Story still had a useful enough season in his walk year, but it wasn’t anywhere near the standard he set in the previous three years. Meanwhile, Charlie Blackmon’s decline continued. Raimel Tapia got off to a strong start, but tailed off after mid-June and also missed time with a toe injury. The club ranked 11th in the majors in runs scored despite the huge advantage of playing half of their games at Coors Field. The Rockies were third in the majors with an .817 OPS at home, but their .643 road OPS was the worst in MLB. Pitches don’t break as much as Coors Field, so there’s something to be said for the adjustment needed when hitters go on the road, but the front office needs to figure something out. While the rotation was reliable this season, the same couldn’t be said for the bullpen. Colorado’s relievers ranked 26th in the majors with a 4.91 ERA. Losing Scott Oberg again really hurt, but so did Daniel Bard’s regression in the closer role. Austin Gomber’s first season in Colorado was interrupted by a stress fracture of bones of the lower spine, though he’s expected to be ready for 2022.
** It was a weird year for Story, both in real life and from a fantasy perspective. After the Arenado trade, most expected that Story would follow him out the door at some point this season, but it didn’t happen. The impending free agent came away from the situation surprised, but the Rockies appear content with the draft pick they’ll receive after he inevitably declines a qualifying offer and signs elsewhere. As for Story’s season on the field, he put up a modest .251/.329/.471 batting line to go along with 24 home runs, 75 RBI, 20 stolen bases, and 88 runs scored over 142 games. The counting stats were still plenty good, but he was one of those Rockies hitters with a scary disparity between his home and road production.
Perhaps feeling the pressure of headlining the lineup, Story swung more often than ever before this year, including on pitches outside of the strike zone. Perhaps by coincidence or perhaps not, his sweet spot percentage — a batted ball spot in the launch angle sweet-spot zone of 8-32 degrees — was his lowest since coming into the majors. His .243 xBA says he largely earned his fate, though he dealt with an elbow injury during the first half and was mostly his normal self over the final two months. Story is likely to fall out of the first two rounds of mixed league drafts next spring, but he could be a bargain depending on where he winds up this winter. Leaving behind the yo-yo effect of playing in Coors Field, it might not be such a bad thing for him.
** There was some excitement in fantasy circles after C.J. Cron signed a minor league deal with the Rockies during the offseason, but it’s safe to say that things went better than even the most optimistic of expectations. The 31-year-old amassed 28 homers and 92 RBI while posting a stellar .281/.375/530 batting line over 142 games. He boosted his walk rate to 11 percent after never topping 6.6 percent in any previous season. It was good enough for the Rockies to recently sign him to a two-year, $14.5 million extension in recent days. Like most Rockies hitters, Cron had some dramatic home/road splits, with a 1.073 OPS at Coors Field compared to a .734 OPS on the road. Maybe this impacts some of the strategy for fantasy managers, but there’s every reason to believe Cron will continue to be useful in mixed leagues. There’s a chance he’ll see at least some time in the DH spot assuming it comes to the National League full-time in 2022.
** Brendan Rodgers has been a familiar name to fantasy managers for a long time, but injuries have gotten in the way of his ascent. The 25-year-old appeared in just seven games with the Rockies last year after coming back from labrum surgery and then missed the first two months this year due to a hamstring injury, but he grabbed ahold of the starting second base job by mid-June and functioned as the primary No. 2 hitter for the club after the All-Star break. All told, he slashed .284/.328/.470 with 14 homers, 51 RBI, and 49 runs scored over 102 games. Rodgers was very aggressive — he drew just 19 walks in 387 plate appearances — and he didn’t attempt a single stolen base, but he was one of the rare Rockies hitters who didn’t mind life on the road. Oddly, he had 12 homers and an .873 OPS on the road compared to just three homers and a .723 OPS at Coors Field. Obviously, there’s room for improvement there. It remains to be seen if Rogers will slide over to shortstop following Trevor Story’s exit, but there’s late-round appeal here either way.
** Ryan McMahon appeared primed for a breakthrough after mashing 16 home runs through his first 67 games, but he was unable to maintain that torrid pace. He hit just seven home runs over his final 84 games with a .383 slugging percentage. Still, he improved his strikeout rate while boasting the best walk rate of his career. Some consistency would be nice, but the home park gives him a nice boost and he qualifies between second base and the hot corner.
** German Marquez earned his first All-Star selection after posting a 3.36 through his first 19 starts, but he struggled with a 6.12 ERA over 13 starts during the second half. He was much more homer-prone after the All-Star break while also missing fewer bats. If you thought Coors Field would explain the downfall, you’d be wrong. He actually had a higher ERA on the road (5.38) this than he did at home (3.67). It’s a tricky profile given the situation, but he’s capable of dominating on any given night. Kyle Freeland actually had the lowest ERA among Rockies starters at 4.33, but Marquez is still the Rockies’ pitcher you want in fantasy leagues.
Team Needs: With Cron and Senzatela inked to extensions, Jon Gray could very well be next. Interest appears to be mutual there. Beyond that, the Rockies are expected to prioritize bullpen help as well as an infielder — most likely someone with shortstop experience — and some much-needed power for the outfield.