Purple Monday: The Colorado Rockies’ Youth Movement

Jul 28, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (27) and Colorado Rockies center fielder David Dahl (26) celebrate after defeating the New York Mets 2-1 at Citi Field.Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 28, 2016; New York City, NY, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story (27) and Colorado Rockies center fielder David Dahl (26) celebrate after defeating the New York Mets 2-1 at Citi Field.Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports /

Happy Purple Monday!! The Colorado Rockies have continued to display their improvement from years past with a week of extremely solid baseball. Welcoming two division leaders, and a huge number of Cubs fans to Coors Field over the past week yielded two series wins for the Rockies. Taking two of three against the Nationals and Cubs left the Rockies with a 4-2 record against the teams owning the two best records in the National League.

The Colorado Rockies record now sits at 60-64, a huge improvement compared to their 50-74 record in 2015, and 48-76 mark in 2014. It is the best record the Rockies have had through 124 games since 2010 which was one of the best teams in franchise history. Despite being under .500 this team boasts a run differential of plus-18.0 which ranks 12th in the major leagues. These numbers leave little doubt the team is moving in the right direction, so today I want to look more into what I believe is the biggest factor contributing to this increased success.

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As I wrote about last week and Patrick Saunders wrote about for the Denver Post, the emergence of DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon into legitimate All-Stars is a huge plus. The continued MVP type production of Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez’ return to form cannot be ignored either. However, the biggest difference this year in my opinion is the rookies that have made their debuts in the show this year, or late last year. This is a long list of guys, and almost all of them had made huge contributions to the team this year.

Jon Gray: The first and most well known of this rookie class is Gray who most people already know about. He has had some rough starts recently but this season as a whole is the best a Rockies rookie pitcher has had in a very long time. His WAR (according to Baseball Reference) is nearly the

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

highest a rookie pitcher debuting for Colorado has had since the last time we went to the World Series. Jhoulys Chacin had a higher WAR and the only other guy ahead of Gray is joining him in the rotation this year, Tyler Anderson who we will get to in one second.

PlayerWAR (baseball reference)Year
Tyler Anderson2.82016
Jhoulys Chacin2.62010
Jon Gray1.92016
Tyler Matzek1.42014
Drew Pomeranz1.42012
Ubaldo Jimenez0.82007
Jeff Francis0.32005
Christian Friedrich0.22012
Chad Bettis-1.12014

Interestingly, Gray’s WAR according to Fangraphs is even higher sitting at 2.5 which is 3rd best among rookie pitchers and trails only Steven Matz and Kenta Maeda. Even with his recent struggles, Gray is still averaging greater than a strikeout per inning at 9.3 SO/9 and is still not allowing a large number of walks with a K/BB ratio of 3.07. The most exciting thing about Gray to me is the eye test, he truly makes major league batters look bad with his pitches which is something rare with Rockies’ pitchers. He is arguably the most hyped pitching prospect the Rockies have ever had so seeing him succeed and excel is proof that there can be legitimate aces in Colorado.

Tyler Anderson: I wrote about Anderson flying somewhat under the radar a couple weeks ago but he continues to pitch like a top-of-the-rotation arm for the Rockies. He has had a couple of down starts as well (one more the umpires fault than his) but the fact that Anderson has a WAR of 2.8 according to Baseball Reference and 1.6 via Fangraphs illustrates how good of a year he is having. Both of these values place him as a top ten rookie pitcher according to WAR.

He has arguably been the Rockies best or second-best pitcher depending on how you place him and Gray at the top. His ERA of 3.69 is unheard of for a pitcher spending half his time at Coors Field, especially when considering his home ERA of 3.45 is actually lower than his road ERA of 4.35. Anderson will be a key guy to follow for the rest of the year as his numbers, especially on the road, are likely to be due to a small sample size. He only has started four games on the road. I would expect his road

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports /

ERA to decrease more than his home ERA increases though. Another part of Tyler Anderson I really appreciate is his fire on the mound, seeing him jaw with the Phillies dugout or the clear disgust on his face after Walt Weiss takes him out early in a game is exactly the competitive edge I want to see in our pitchers.

Jeff Hoffman: Hoffman made his first career start on Saturday against the Cubs. While he was not great allowing seven runs (six ER), in my opinion he was the victim of some bad luck. The first time through the lineup Hoffman only allowed one hit and made solid pitches to cruise through one of the National League’s best lineups. The second time through, he allowed a couple more hits but many of them were bad luck. I counted three times the Rockies had shifted and the ball squirted through newly made holes.

He did make a mistake which Kris Bryant punished him for but it certainly was not a start to worry about. The most important thing to me is that the Rockies felt he was ready to be called up. Based on Gray’s improvement throughout this year they handled him well and Hoffman seems to be on a similar path. He is expected to be a key member of the Rockies rotation next year and will be one of the most interesting guys to watch for the rest of this year for however many starts he is allowed to make.

Trevor Story: In my opinion Story was deserving of the Rookie of the Year award at the time he tore his UCL in his thumb on July 30. It was a devastating injury since it takes him out of the award race but more so because he was becoming a key member of the Rockies lineup. He was hitting .272 with 27 home runs and 72 RBI’s for the Rockies. His 27 home runs were good for the lead league at the time and broke the National League record for home runs by a rookie. He was

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

arguably providing more pop from the SS position that his predecessor Troy Tulowitzki did in years past. Story also improved greatly on the defensive side of the ball throughout the year.

His loss really hurt the Rockies but he had already accounted for a WAR of 2.5 according to Fangraphs, which is still tied for second best among rookies, trailing only Corey Seager. The return of Story to the Rockies lineup, either later this year or next spring will be a welcome sight for Rockies’ fans.

David Dahl: Dahl has done nothing to disappoint since he was called up in mid-July. He has been thought of as the Rockies’ best position prospect perhaps ever, and he has lived up to the hype in his first 26 games. So far, Dahl is hitting .330/.385/.560 which gives him an OPS of .945. To put this in perspective, .945 would be the 9th best in the major leagues just behind Josh Donaldson. Dahl does not have the plate appearances to be qualified obviously but what he has done so far has been truly outstanding.

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Dahl has been a picture of consistency getting hits in his first 17 games to tie the ML record. He has also shown an ability to play any position in the outfield, although it seems likely he will slide into center perhaps moving Charlie Blackmon to left depending on how the Rockies choose to approach the offseason. It is not hard to imagine him being in the Rookie of the Year conversation with his friend Story if he had been in the major leagues the whole year.

Tony Wolters: Wolters has been a huge and pleasant surprise for the Rockies this year. Acquired in the spring Wolter’s earned his spot as a backup catcher during spring training. He has since played well enough to earn another promotion on both sides of the ball. He has consistently proven he is a better receiver and defensive player than Nick Hundley. According to StatCorner

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Catcher report Wolters ranks 6th in the league with 70 stolen strikes so far this year. Hundley is much worse and on the other side missing out on 80 strike calls.  Wolters has also improved his offensive stats, which at the beginning of the season was the major argument against him getting more playing time.

Prior to the All-Star break Wolters was slashing .215/.296/.331, since the All-Star break Wolters is hitting .439/.511/.707. He is begging for more playing time and I don’t see anyway the Rockies can deny him much longer. Tony could be the Rockies starting catcher next year alongside Tom Murphy, a possibility that is extremely promising and could be huge for the young and talented rotation.

These five guys, not including Hoffman have provided the Rockies with a combined 9.5 WAR. This is greater than Arenado and Blackmon combined. I also haven’t even included Carlos Estevez who has been sent down to Triple-A after a rough stretch in the majors. He was a huge part of the Rockies success through June and July and is a guy that will definitely contribute later this year and into next season.

Next: Arenado and Bryant: The Next Manning-Brady?

The contribution the Rockies have gotten from rookies this year cannot be overstated and makes the prospect of seeing these guys grow up around the solid nucleus of Arenado, Blackmon, CarGo and DJ a beautiful one.  It is truly a really good time to be a Rockies fan.