Hot Stove Season Ends

Hot Stove Season Ends

The hot stove season has officially ended except for transactions during spring training.  I purchased both the 2017 Bill James Handbook of Baseball and Baseball Prospectus 2017 books.  There was some good information in both of these books that can help us project the 2017 Rockies.  I recommend reading both books as I cannot cover everything in this limited space.

The two popular projection systems varied widely.  Fangraphs’ ZiPS projected Colorado to win 83 games based on cumulative projected team WAR of 35 plus cumulative team plus replacement-level team WAR which is 48.  Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system projected the Rockies to win only 74 games.

Unlike previous spring trainings in franchise history, there are practically no positional battles:  Tom Murphy/Tony Wolters, Ian Desmond/Mark Reynolds(likely to win 25-man spot), DJLM, Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon, and CarGo are the presumptive locks for the position players.  Locks for bench players because of guaranteed contracts are Gerardo Parra and Alexi Amarista both of whom will join catcher and first baseman backups.  That’s four bench players right there and depending if they carry a 12-man or 13-man pitching staff, there might be one more spot.  So the positional players on the fence to break camp with the Rockies are Chris Denorfia and Christian Adames.  It looks like Jordan Patterson will be a victim of the numbers game, but he no doubt will provide depth as the season drags on.

On the pitching side, there appears to be a lot of depth in both the rotation and bullpen.  Some pitchers are obvious while others will have to battle it out.  Early indications have Jon Gray, Chad Bettis, Tyler Anderson, and Tyler Chatwood in the rotation.  Anything can happen during Cactus League play.  If those four starters hold down their spots, the fifth spot appears up for grabs between Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, and Kyle Freeland.  I heard at the Bud Black Q&A session that Ryan Castellani and Yency Almonte are knocking on the doors if there is an emergency need for them.  I believe the battle will come down to Hoffman and Freeland.  Hoffman has the pedigree (top 50 prospect in most publications) while it has been said that Freeland has nothing left to show in the minors while Hoffman can use a little more seasoning at Albuquerque.

Colorado rolled their dice on the health of the relievers.  Adam Ottovino is the presumptive closer to open the season as he is nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery.  Mike Dunn is not the best healthy reliever available via free agency, but he should bring the veteran presence.  Greg Holland is a high risk/high ceiling signee.  It says a lot about the Rockies front office when they beat out several teams for Holland’s services.  Jairo Diaz is back from the TJ, but he may need a couple of months to get back to 100%.  Jake McGee, if healthy, should be better than 2016 but he is unlikely to see return to his 2014 form.  Jason Motte and Chad Qualls were signed to two-year contracts before the 2016 season as place holders until the contention window opens up.  But the window opened much sooner than expected, so the Rockies may have to eat the sunk cost of both pitchers.  Chris Rusin and Jordan Lyles appear to have the long relief spots.  Scott Oberg and Carlos Estevez gained valuable experience last year.  Miguel Castro and Sam Moll are probably next in line if the bullpen sees attrition.

Baseball Prospectus has Colorado’s farm system ranked at #9.  They were #3 last year but the system graduated a few players to the majors such as Gray, Dahl, and Story.  The Prospectus also had several leaderboards for the various categories.  CarGo and NoDo are top 20 for HRs; Blackmon tied for 16th in runs; DJLM, NoDo, and Blackmon are all in top 20 for batting average; CarGo and NoDo tied for 15th in RBI; Blackmon 17th in stolen bases; nobody in top 20 for OBP; NoDo, CarGo, and Murphy (surprise!) are in top 10 for slugging percentage; Murphy, NoDo, Story, and CarGo all in the top 20 for isolated slugging (whatever that means); Wolters #16 in Runs Above Average (for catchers only); NoDo 9th in WARP for the NL; Patterson (surprise) is #10 for NL’s Rookie WARP; both NoDo and Blackmon in top 10 for biggest WARP decline; there were no pitchers in nearly all of the top 10 statistical categories except for Hoffman #2 in NL rookies’ WARP.

I can’t help but mention Jack Wynkoop once again.  In the summary of prospects further down the pipeline, it quoted, “Don’t scout the statline, but lefty Jack Wynkoop slung a Buehrle-esque mid 80s fastball and struck out 144 batters while walking just 12 in 170.2 innings across two levels.  If I calculate it correctly, that’s 0.63 BB9 walk rate.  And a 12:1 K/BB ratio.   I loved the Mark Buerhle comparison.

Let’s go to my favorite chapter in the Baseball Prospectus book – managers.  It went on and on about the various components of managing the baseball team.   In a nutshell, today’s managers have to work in concert with the upper management due to advanced sabermetrics.  It also had a stat called wRM+.  Quoted from BP: “…created RM and wRM+ in order to better understand the degree to which big-league managers match their best relievers to the game’s biggest moments.”  wRM+ is scaled to 100 ( over 100 good and under 100 bad).  Bud Black had the score of 103.1 which was bettered by only two other managers (Bruce Bochy, of course with his parade of pitchers for each batter in the final three innings and Joe Girardi).  Obviously JB was on to something when he hired Bud Black plus the fact Black had modernized himself as today’s manager. 

Admittedly, I do have huge Purple Shades on, but I am still projecting 90 wins based changing the manager, a lot more depth on both sides of the ball, and lack of regression by the hitters. I remind you, EdtheUmp that you owe me a case of beer when we hit 90 wins.  Also I am adding in the fact that I believe we will steal a lot more bases than PECOTA projections.  Only Blackmon is on the leader board, but it fails to account for Dahl and Story both of whom has potential for 20+ SBs.  There’s a little bit of speed from DJLM and Desmond that can add 10-15 SBs each.  And Black’s wRM+ is worth three wins in my mind.

For the first time, I will be able to attend the Rockies’ spring training in three weeks knowing what to expect.  This year, I do not have to hope the bench and pitchers have a perfect PAT to get us over the hump.  We already have the 40-man roster and up to two NRIs that will replace deadweights.  90 wins, baby! NL West crown, baby!

rockymountainhigh

Hometown - Champaign, IL College - Northern Illinois University, 1988 Sports Editor for my high school newspaper. Travels frequently - I can be found anywhere in the world.

30 Comments

    • sdcarp

      February 13, 2017

      Nice!

      I’d like to touch on this:

      “Baseball Prospectus has Colorado’s farm system ranked at #9. They were #3 last year but the system graduated a few players to the majors such as Gray, Dahl, and Story.”

      You know you’re in a good place when you graduate Gray, Dahl, and Story and still rank in the top 10.

      Reply
    • Bob K.

      February 14, 2017

      They discussed the Pecota rankings on MLB network and pointed out that in the Rockies case, the Pecota prediction is based on every Rockies regressing from what they did last year. They predict that no Rockies player will improve or be as good as last year. Pecota has a hard time with certain teams. One of those teams Is the Baltimore Orioles where the Orioles have consistently outperformed their Pecota projections. They have the Orioles predicted to have a losing record again this year and the unrealisitic projection of the Rays finishing 2nd in the AL East.

      I do not believe that it is realistic to expect every Rockies player to regress this year nor that the regression (if any) will be as bad as Pecota predicts. I believe that with Bud Black as the manager the pitching staff will improve. It is possible that the hitters could regress simply because Blake Doyle was let go. I wasn’t impressed with Duane Espy when he was the hitting coach before and can remember how well his firing was received.

      Reply
      • sdcarp

        February 14, 2017

        I subscribed to Baseball Prospectus years ago. They were big on PECOTA. Maybe that’s even their system???? I don’t know. But I thought it was awful at the time. Have really paid attention to it since.

        Fundamentally – it seems like attempting to predict the outcome of a team relying on young, high ceiling SPers is risky business in general.

        Reply
      • rockymountainhigh

        February 19, 2017

        I recently read that Espy had the team among the top 10 in drawing free passes. It is my assumption it’s the reason they decided to go with Espy. Parra will be the biggest beneficiary of Espy.

        Reply
    • rockymountainhigh

      February 16, 2017

      MLBN having a series of top 100 players. Story #89, DJLM #63; CarGo #60, and Blackmon #36. Arenado is somewhere in top 20 to be revealed Friday.

      Then I watched MLB Tonight. They had about a 5 minute discussion on the Rockies. They liked the idea that Desmond is playing first base because his wRC+ was somewhat higher than all who played first base. They showed the graphics of lineup and pitching.

      As expected Blackmon, DJLM, Arenado, Cargo, Desmond, Dahl, Story, and Wolters. Interesting they listed Wolters instead of Murphy.

      They showed rotation as Gray, Bettis, Anderson, Chatwood, Hoffman, Marquez, and Shane Carle. No Freeland?

      Listed the bullpen and they omitted Jordan Lyles?

      MLBN summed up saying find way to win.games that you should win, meaning beat bad teams and win one- run games. Once the ball gets rolling Rockies can win 87 or 88 games. They added that Bud Black is not the same manager as he was in SD. Better version today. I like MLBN projection system best. 90 wins baby! BB takes us from 85 to 90 wins.

      I’m going to make a call today – Rockies as a team will be top five in stolen bases.

      Reply
      • Bob K.

        February 18, 2017

        Arenado landed in position 12 with 3 other 3rd baseman listed above him. Arenado outperformed all 3 of them but “he is penalized for playing at Coor’s Field”.

        I liked Billy Ripken’s comment that his 4 gold gloves were the “product of Coor’s Field”.

        Reply
      • rockymountainhigh

        February 19, 2017

        Mike Trout #1. Fabulous. I spent a fortune on his autographed jersey and have it framed. It’s now sitting in my baseball cave.

        Trout and Kershaw have been #1 and #2 last five years with Kershaw getting the #1 spot once. Kris Bryant was #3 so that meant five third basemen in top 12.

        Reply
        • Bob K.

          February 19, 2017

          Donaldson was #3, Bryant was #4 and Machado was #7 with Arenado at #12 makes four 3rd baseman in the top 12. I can pretty much guarantee that if the Cubs had picked Gray, Bryant would have fallen to the Rockies. If Bryant had gone to the Rockies, I can guarantee you that he would not be ranked in the top 10. He is on a big market team with lots of publicity. He is not a better third baseman than Arenado. He is not better offensively and is much worse defensively. Machado and Arenado are very close but Donaldson is a product of the park he plays in and the line up that surrounds him. Donaldson was not considered a top 10 player when he was in Oakland and he really hasn’t changed much since then other than he is now playing in a very friendly offensive ballpark with players surrounding him making it difficult to pitch around him.

          Reply
          • rockymountainhigh

            February 19, 2017

            I remember that draft very well. Luke Apple and Jon Gray were projected to go 1-2. Rockies picking third was planning to pluck Kris Bryant. I’m glad it happened that way as we needed pitchers not another third baseman.

            Reply
            • Bob K.

              February 19, 2017

              Appel went first to the Astros who have since traded him and he has not lived up to the hype. If the Rockies had gotten Bryant, my understanding was that they planned to convert him to a 1st baseman. Last year O’Dowd made the claim that they intended to convert him to an outfielder.

    • sdcarp

      February 18, 2017

      Quote from Bud Black (regarding naming a Closer) in this AM’s very good Patrick Saunders article:

      “I think that works best, to have that one guy, because that sort of sets everybody else up,” Black said. “It’s fluid every night, but each guy, when the game starts, knows when they are probably going to pitch. …There is comfort in that.”

      Every year, without fail, there are Managers that claim they’ll use multiple RPers as their Closer. Honestly – this multiple Closer strategy makes sense to me on the surface. But it N-E-V-E-R transpires. So I’ll give kudos to Black here for at least being honest and admitting he’ll do what every other Manager will do – even though there will be a half-dozen other Managers that won’t admit it.

      The article on McGee is worth reading. He’s my “bounce back” pick, because I think (or perhaps “hope” is a better word) that his 2K16 velocity decline was health related. As Ag has pointed out, McGee needs (desperately) his velocity to be effective.

      http://www.denverpost.com/2017/02/17/rockies-jake-mcgee-knee-healed-expects-rebound-season/

      Reply
    • Agbayani

      February 19, 2017

      First – Jared, thanks for running the site and keeping this little community together even through what may be some difficult times for you.
      Second – RMH, nice work on keeping us updated on developments and pumping up the enthusiasm. I do think your projections are on the order of a “best case scenario,” which is why I’ll start digging through the various projections to find a reasonable way for this team to get to 85 wins, which in the two-wildcard world = real contender.
      Third – Bob K., regarding Arenado: there’s some really good third basemen in baseball now! Machado/Donaldson/Arenado – not a whole lot to choose among them, so I wouldn’t take this as a knock on Arenado. Of course, he can take that next step forward and separate himself from the pack this year …
      Fourth – Carp, re Miguel Castro: he’s still the guy I liked better in the Tulo deal (I’ve never been sold on Hoffman as more than a mid-rotation guy … hey, whatever happened to our old buddy Donny Dinger who used to get into it with me over Hoffman?). Nothing would please me more than seeing Castro bump Motte or Qualls into DFA land.

      Reply
    • rockymountainhigh

      February 19, 2017

      Watching MLBN last week they were talking about pitchers and the injuries. They think it was because they wanted to be in as many showcases as possible and pitch in the off seasons.

      That’s why the Rockies are extremely happy with Riley Pint. He bypassed all the showcases cuz he understands it’s not worth the injury risks.

      I can say the same for Wynkoop. Very low injury risk. I don’t think Greg Maddox nor Mark Buerhle hit 90 too often. Neither has been injured.

      Reply
    • Agbayani

      February 19, 2017

      A brief note on Chris Rusin: I keep hearing that he’s very good as a reliever, very marginal as a starter. That’s why most guys wind up in the bullpen! In general, moving from starter to reliever usually causes a pitcher to get “better” to the tune of almost one run of ERA (last I checked it was about 0.8 runs per 9 innings). Rusin last year (by fielding independent pitching): 3.99 as a starter, 2.92 as a reliever. We can expect Jordan Lyles will be better as a reliever too even if he is the same old Jordan Lyles. Mostly this is explained by not ever seeing a hitter a 3rd time when working in relief (and for some late inning guys, not even a 2nd time). So while it’s true that it wouldn’t be ideal to have Rusin in the rotation, it’s important to remember that that’s not because you’re “losing” some really effective reliever that you’d otherwise have. So we should all hope that somebody — Hoffman, Freeland, Marquez – steps up and grabs that role this spring. (Oh, and that the other 4 guys stay healthy …)

      Reply
      • sdcarp

        February 19, 2017

        Couple of things here Ag. First, I’ve read quotes from Black suggesting he’s receptive to using Hoffman/Marquez/Freeland in the Pen as a transitional bridge to the Major Leagues as well as out of need. I’ve written many times on this website that I’m an old Earl Weaver fan and think this strategy should be used more often. So “bravo” to Black for being receptive to this.

        Second – I’ve promised myself that I’m done being a Lyles apologist. But damn it, I can’t quite kick the habit. The one (and only) redeeming quality I saw in Lyles last season was extremely good velocity in short stints, or in the 1st inning of his handful of ill-fated starts. The guy has a live arm…..but has a Matzek “like” head. Perhaps pitching in relief, just throwing one pitch (two max) and just facing a handful of batters will simplify things for him. It better….he’s at the end of his rope. In an ideal world, Lyles will be good enough in ST to trade (and help the 40 man roster “crunch”).

        I’m sort of guessing we’ll ultimately align Gray > Anderson > Chatwood > Bettis > 5th starter. We begin the season with 14 consecutive games. So we’ll need a 5th starter immediately. A case can be made for Rusin (and Freeland) in the 5th slot simply because they’re left handed and therefore help balance the rotation. But…..I agree with you. Ideally, one of Hoffman/Marquez/Freeland takes command in ST and wins the 5th spot with authority.

        Reply
    • sdcarp

      February 21, 2017

      As if RMH’s enthusiasm for the 2017 season needs to be stoked any more, FanGarphs Eno Sarris came out with his 10 bold predictions for 2017 today. Lo and behold, he’s a high as RMH on the Rox:

      “2. The Rockies will finally have the pitching to make the postseason.
      At the top of the rotation, the Rockies may have one of their best pitchers ever this year. Jon Gray was already pretty good (15th in K-BB% last year), and then he learned how to throw his slider two ways, and then he started throwing the curveball more, and now he has a new changeup grip. He’s exciting as a young ace with velocity, an elite slider, and the makeup to continue striving for a better, more complete arsenal.

      But this is more about the lesser-known names behind Gray. Tyler Anderson doesn’t have a ton of pitches, but his cutter/four-seam/change combo has proven itself to be major-league worthy at least. Chad Bettis only has average velocity, but his four-pitch combo has kept hitters off balance enough to call him a viable starter, as well. Tyler Chatwood may only have the two fastballs and a slider, but he throws the curve sometimes, and his sinker is all world. All three are adept at getting ground balls, and the rotation just put up their second-best rate since they started tracking that number.

      Even better is the fact that they’ve finally put together a decent group beyond that top four. Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez were just ranked the third- and fourth-best prospects in the organization and given 55 future-value ratings by Eric Longenhagen, suggesting they could become above-average regulars. Both pitched in the major last year and are joined by erstwhile Denver starters Chris Rusin and Jordan Lyles. All in all, the group looks like the sixth-best in the league for depth.

      Oh, and they’ll all play up just a little because the Rockies could have the best pitch-framing catcher tandem in their history.”

      Reply
    • rockymountainhigh

      February 22, 2017

      I’m grinning ear to ear. But Ag as usual is going to rain on my enthusiasm. LOL.

      Who’s going to Arizona and when? I’ll be there 4th through 11th. EdtheUmp will be there Friday and stay through most of the month.

      Reply
    • Agbayani

      February 22, 2017

      RMH, you gotta admit I’ve shown remarkable discipline in not raining on your enthusiasm … at least so far. And that will continue for a while, although I did see Greg Holland on a local TV spring training spot talking (not entirely convincingly) about how he isn’t concerned about velocity, he just wants to feel good and make his pitches …

      Reply
      • sdcarp

        February 23, 2017

        He’s making Charlie Blackmon look good at the moment (3 HRs off Holland in BP yesterday).

        I’ll be in Phoenix this weekend. March schedule is just too busy to go down during “prime time” Spring Training this season.

        Reply
    • Agbayani

      February 23, 2017

      I’m actually envious of you, Carp. I never get to go to spring training until the tail end, when all the interesting players have been sent off to minor league camp and teams are just setting their rotations, etc. I hope you can give us a scouting report on Holland when you’re down there. I have a feeling he’ll be starting the year on the DL, then a rehab assignment, then maybe some semblance of his former self by June?

      Reply
    • roxnsox

      February 24, 2017

      I’ve never been able to go to Spring Training! I look forward to scouting reports and anecdotes from you who will. Also, I realized I haven’t seen Jairo Diaz on any of the projected rosters – is he not ready after surgery, or…..?

      Reply
      • Bob K.

        February 24, 2017

        Jairo Diaz will most likely start the season on the 60 day DL.. His time frame should be similar to what Ottavino went through last year.

        Reply
    • sdcatp

      February 25, 2017

      DEEP in the backfirlds with what is likely the Lancaster group. Brendan Rodgers is bad ass!

      Reply
      • sdcarp

        February 25, 2017

        Ha – now that I’m in the shade and can see what my fat fingers typed, make that “backfields” and “sdcarp.”

        Full report, mostly spelled correctly, tonight.

        Reply
    • Bob K.

      February 25, 2017

      Looks like Story is back in form. Rockies lead 6 – 3 in top of 4th with no outs. Story hits solo home run followed by walk to Parra and triple by Wolters.

      Reply

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