Colorado Rockies: Why first base should be the real free agent focus

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DENVER - JUNE 14: A general view of the exterior home plate entrance to Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies on June 14, 2004 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
DENVER - JUNE 14: A general view of the exterior home plate entrance to Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies on June 14, 2004 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) /
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JUNE 28: Ian Desmond #20 of the Colorado Rockies is congratulated in the dugout by teammates after scoring against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the first inning at AT&T Park on June 28, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – JUNE 28: Ian Desmond #20 of the Colorado Rockies is congratulated in the dugout by teammates after scoring against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the first inning at AT&T Park on June 28, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Last year, the Rockies inked former All-Star Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million deal to become the team’s permanent first baseman. As we all remember, Desmond went through some injuries in spring training, and was not on the Rockies Opening Day Roster.

Instead, Mark Reynolds, a player Colorado signed last offseason to a minor league deal, took over the position, and immediately went on a torrid hot streak in April that solidified his role as the franchise’s first baseman.

In all, Reynolds slashed .267/.352/.487, crushing 30 homeruns in a season where he drove in 97 runs and carried the offense for the first two months of the season.  My primary concern for Reynolds, as it always has been, was his 175 strikeouts and 69 walks.

Desmond, on the other hand, never really got into a rhythm and slashed career lows in home runs (six) and RBI (40) while maintaining a slash line of .274/.326/.375. He did however, create some positional flexibility in Colorado’ss roster. His ability to play first base, center field, shortstop and Left Field puts the Rockies in a unique position. Dubbed “Zobrist 2.0,” Desmond’s diamond versatility allows the Rockies to target a true middle of the order bat versus a position need.

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The bat I believe we should consider is a first base bat. The field of first basemen hitting the market is deep. The options are big-time power hitting run producers with reliable gloves and several years of good production left to offer. Many of these bats are postseason experienced, and I believe mixed with the talented youth of Colorado’s current roster, could offer great leadership to a young team with unfinished business.

In 2017, the Colorado Rockies received a -1.8 WAR from their first basemen. Reynolds was the best producer with a 0.8. This rating placed the position number at 26th among team in the entire league according to Baseball-Reference’s Team Performance By Position metrics.

The same site provides us more intel into Colorado’s first baseman holes and highlights, ranking Colorado’s first basemen 14th in batting average (.267), 14th in slugging (.487), 15th in OBP (.345), 9th in home runs (36), 4th in RBI (112), 12th in walks, and 4th in strikeouts (200).

Defensively, Colorado’s first basemen combined to produce -5 Runs Fielded, ranking them 23rd, and 7th worst defensively, according to Baseball-Reference.

When a team is preparing itself for postseason stability, defense, pitching, and timely hitting are everything. A strong defense can provide added comfort and relieve stress in a young rotation.  Improving Colorado’s team defense, while stabilizing the middle of the lineup with a patient, run-producing bat will improve the overall team performance in 2018.

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