Colorado Rockies: My 2018 season predictions and thoughts

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 30: Ian Desmond #20 of the Colorado Rockies on deck during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on April 30, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 30: Ian Desmond #20 of the Colorado Rockies on deck during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on April 30, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Editor’s Note: This is a continuation in a series of predictions for the upcoming Colorado Rockies season. Below, Ryan Ladika shares his thoughts. To see predictions from other members of the Rox Pile team, please click here.

The Rockies are expected to contend for the playoffs in the National League for the second straight year this season. In order for them to make it back to Rocktober, they’re going to need one of their players at one of the most important positions on the diamond to take a step forward. That player is Tom Murphy.

Biggest surprise player of the year

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Though the Rockies front office has been high on Murphy for a while now, Murphy has yet to come through on his end, partly due to injuries.

In 103 career major league at-bats, Murphy has hit .214/.289/.485 with eight home runs, 23 RBI and a .775 OPS. This season is Murphy’s best shot to finally become the player everyone in the organization knows he can be, and needs him to be. Through his first 24 spring at-bats, Murphy has three hits, two of which are home runs, and two RBI.

If Murphy makes the team out of spring training, he will most likely become newly-signed Chris Iannetta’s backup. Murphy can learn from a seasoned veteran like Iannetta, and finally getting extended time in the big leagues may help with his confidence and ability playing at the highest level. If Murphy can stay healthy throughout the 2018 season, there is a high ceiling with regards to what he can accomplish.

Biggest disappointment player of the year

The Rockies signed shortstop/outfielder Ian Desmond to a $70 million contract last offseason with the hope that he would become the type of impact player that he was when he made the AL All-Star team with the Texas Rangers in 2016. The headscratcher part of that deal was the Rockies envisioned him taking over as the club’s full-time first baseman, a position he had never played in the big leagues.

After a 2017 season that left much to be desired, Desmond still has yet to fully get going during spring training. He earned one hit in his first 22 spring at-bats, and will still need more practice at first base for the club to be fully confident in his defensive abilities.

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Granted, his 2017 season was marred with injuries, but during the time he did spend on the field, he was among the league leaders in ground-ball rate, which isn’t something you want to see from a player who calls Coors Field home.

If Desmond can rebound from his first season in purple pinstripes, it will give the Rockies a huge boost in their push for the playoffs. What Desmond will have to work on, though, is hitting the ball in the air. The Rockies were among the worst in the league in OPS+ last season, and will need a step forward from key players like Desmond offensively.

Trade deadline prediction 

The Rockies will be buyers at the trade deadline right in the thick of the race for the Wild Card, and will be on the lookout for impact bats to improve their offense. GM Jeff Bridich did well this offseason replenishing the bullpen, but the lineup is mostly the same as it was last season. The Rockies will be depending on young players like Murphy, David Dahl and Raimel Tapia for production, but the club will likely need a strong, proven bat to push them through the final two months of the season.

Additionally, teams like the Cardinals, Phillies and Brewers have all improved this offseason, signing and trading for players like Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Marcell Ozuna and Carlos Santana, so the fight for the two Wild Card spots will be even tougher this season.

Next: Podcast on roster construction and the state of the NL West

Season prediction

The Rockies will finish 90-72, three games better than their 2017 finish. Young players stepping up will again be the theme of the season. With a healthy David Dahl and Tom Murphy, and with solid production from Chris Iannetta, the Rockies’ offense can be better than last season. I can realistically see a first-Wild Card finish and an NLDS appearance for the Rockies in 2018, but if the offense produces to its capabilities and with a strong Wade Davis-led bullpen, they can go even further.