Colorado Rockies Youth Movement Gives Glimpse of 2017

Aug 31, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder David Dahl (26) hits a double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 31, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder David Dahl (26) hits a double against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the sixth inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Taking a quick look around the Colorado Rockies clubhouse, it’s easy to see that the team’s youth movement is in full effect.

With the rosters expanding in September, Tom Murphy and Raimel Tapia made their season debuts on Friday night in a big win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Tapia, who made his Major League Baseball debut, recorded his first hit, a single, as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning. He would score on an RBI single by David Dahl, another of Colorado’s prized rookies.

Murphy also pinch hit in the fifth inning and recorded a single for his first MLB hit of 2016.

Think about this. Tapia is the ninth player to make his Major League debut for the Rockies this season, joining Tyler Anderson, Matt Carasiti, Stephen Cardullo, Carlos Estevez, Jeff Hoffman, Tony Wolters, Trevor Story and Dahl. That list doesn’t include Murphy, who joined the Rockies for a short period last September.

Yes, the Rockies are getting younger and better. Murphy said it’s a little surprising to see the influx of youth at once but a very good thing for all of the younger players.

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“It is (surprising), but it’s another factor of comfortability,” Murphy said. “You’re competing with guys who are around the same age as you and came up together. You fought the same battles together. It’s surprising but it’s refreshing at the same time.”

Dahl agrees.

“It’s awesome. To see that shows how deep our farm system is and we still have more guys who have potential to come up,” Dahl said. “It’s very fun to see guys you play with in the minors now here.”

For Colorado manager Walt Weiss, this isn’t a tryout for these younger players. It’s a way for his team to win now, not next season.

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“We’re trying to win period. I’m not trying to get a look at anybody,” Weiss said. “The guys who we have here can help us win. That’s the bottom line.”

Having all of the new talent at his fingertips has presented an interesting challenge for the manager. Where do you plug in the new players like Tapia and Murphy who can provide a spark? It’s especially tough when Nick Hundley has three homers in his last seven games and Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez are All-Star outfielders.

“We have games like last night (a 14-7 win over Arizona) where I pretty much got to empty the tank. It allows you to do some things. It allows you to pinch hit a little earlier in the game,” Weiss said. “It’s tough to get matchups from the mound in September because the benches are a lot longer. We were able to do that last night and get guys involved right away, which is nice.”

Murphy enjoys a little bit of an advantage over his former minor league teammates in that this is his second stint with the Rockies.

“Just being here a second time, you get to know the place a little better,” Murphy smiled. “You know the routine. You know the schedule. You get more comfortable.”

And the difference between 2015 Tom Murphy and this season?

“I think I’m a better baseball player all the way around. I’m definitely more consistent.”

And what’s his goal for the rest of the season?

“The goal is to make the playoffs. Any way I can contribute, that’s my goal,” Murphy said.

To make the playoffs is Colorado’s goal as a team and having new blood in the lineup can certainly help in that quest. One example is Tapia, who has excellent speed (as he showed on Friday night) and a unique stance at the plate.

“His ability to get the bat on the ball is incredible,” Murphy said. “You look at some of the positions he sets himself up in prior to the pitch and you’re like, ‘How is he going to hit?’ But he finds a way. It’s really impressive. I don’t think he should ever change or anyone should ever try to change because it’s unique. It helps him.”

There’s a lot to like about this year’s team … and there’s a lot to get excited about for 2017 already. It’s hard for fans not to look ahead to next season. It’s also something that Dahl admitted creeps into his mind from time to time.

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“You think about it a little bit, but right now we’re just trying to stay in the moment and the now,” Dahl said. “We’re trying to finish strong. But yeah, we have the potential to be really good next year and the years to come.”