It’s been a busy shuttle between Denver and Triple-A Albuquerque this season, with hitters and pitchers going up and down to meet the needs of the Colorado Rockies. Some of that is due to injury, some to lack of success at the Major League level.
The biggest problem for the Rockies, surprisingly, has been a lack of consistent hitting. Are there any hot hitters at Triple-A Albuquerque? Well, yes. But the Pacific Coast League is a hitters’ league, and those who pound in Albuquerque, Reno, Fresno and El Paso are a tad suspect.
That’s why some of the best Isotopes hitters are yet to get a promotion this season, while some of those have then met with limited success with the Rox. Who are the bats on the yo-yo from Albuquerque to Denver?
Ryan McMahon broke camp with the Rockies after spring training but he got sporadic playing team and couldn’t get his hitting stroke down. He struggled to do so at Albuquerque when he was sent down to the Isotopes (.253 batting average, three homers, 16 RBI) but was called back up last week. He started the season in a platoon at first base, but now is playing second due to an injury to DJ LeMahieu in Denver.
Mike Tauchman was a surprise addition to the Rox at the season’s beginning given the other outfielders available, and he struggled to hit with the big club. Tauchman had a great year in the Pacific Coast League last year, and he’s doing that again this year since his demotion (eight homers, 29 RBI, .370 batting average, seven stolen bases).
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After getting off to a OK start with the Isotopes following an injury, David Dahl — the team’s best young outfielder — was called back up. He’s performed well enough and is in line to remain a starter as the summer continues, especially given the uneven performances by Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra.
Outfielder Noel Cuevas also got an early call to the big leagues, somewhat surprisingly given the options, but he has performed well enough to stick so far (1 HR, 4 RBI, .315 BA in 54 at-bats).
Not up yet are outfielder Ramiel Tapia, one of the Rockies’ best prospects, and catcher Tom Murphy, hot-hitting catcher who’s tearing up the PCL so far this season.
Tapia has six home runs, 32 runs batted in, eight stolen bases, a .298 batting average and .856 OPS. He is striking out about a quarter of the time, though, and has shown signs of immaturity, including getting kicked out of a game in the first inning for arguing balls and strikes. That’s probably why he’s still in Albuquerque.
Murphy has failed to stick in previous years with the Rox, and his defense remains a liability to big-league manager Bud Black, a former pitcher who values a good backstop. But Murphy can sure hit (12 HRs, 33 RBI, .301 BA, 1.015 OPS) and the Rockies could sure use a hitter.
There are others: infielder Daniel Castro is hitting .407 at Albuquerque, but hit only .143 in 15 games with the Rox this year; outfielder Stephen Cardullo is batting .350; outfielder Drew Weeks .341; shortstop Anthony Phillips has a 1.115 OPS; first baseman Jordan Patterson has 11 homers and 30 RBI though he’s injured at the moment; and shortstop Elliott Soto is batting .300. But these are all suspect PCL numbers.
Perhaps the best prospect on the team is Garrett Hampson, second baseman who tore up Double-A Hartford to earn a promotion to the Isotopes and a prospective call-up to Denver with LeMahieu injured. Hampson is getting on base at a .375 clip in Albuquerque with three stolen bases in 38 at-bats in AAA. This after Hampson raked and ran in Hartford, with 19 steals in 38 games for the Yard Goats. Could he be next man up?
If he can hit. But they all hit in the high altitude, low humidity, warm temperatures and windy conditions of the western PCL. Will they hit in Denver? That’s the question of the day, and every day so far this season for the Rox.