With a loss on Sunday, the Colorado Rockies finished their 2019 season series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a 4-15 mark. Part of that mark includes portions of a 12-game losing streak at Chavez Ravine that the Rockies snapped on Saturday night.
Just one season after the Colorado Rockies and Los Angeles Dodgers finished the regular season deadlocked and needed a Game 163 to decide the National League West, the 2019 campaign has been a season of domination for the Dodgers and disappointment for the Rockies.
So what happened? The easy answer is that the Dodgers are a franchise that is deep and can continue to call up prospects who can impact the game immediately. The Rockies? Their prospects have often had to share playing time with veterans and, when given the chance, have needed a little more time to adjust to the Majors.
But, as Nick Groke points out in this excellent article, Colorado was just 7-13 against Los Angeles last season, including 3-7 at Chavez Ravine. The teams were equal in the standings, but were they in terms of talent from top to bottom on the roster?
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Think back to the offseason when the Dodgers traded Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood to the Cincinnati Reds. It not only opened up spots for young players to shine but also shifted roughly $70 million off the ledger. At the time, the move was thought to free up space to sign a high-profile free agent. The Dodgers did just that by inking A.J. Pollock, who subsequently missed more than two months with right elbow inflammation.
It was a big injury for the Dodgers. However, they were able to overcome it thanks to talented youngsters such as Alex Verdugo (who suffered an injury after Pollock’s return). As much as Rockies fans want to talk injuries and what they did to cost Colorado in 2019, Los Angeles has battled their fair share as well.
Last season, L.A. had Corey Seager for just 26 games and was without Justin Turner until May 15. They treaded water until the trade deadline when they acquired Manny Machado.
The difference between the two teams is quality depth. Los Angeles has done enough through drafting and development to prepare for injuries when they happen. Colorado’s razor-thin depth simply wasn’t able to overcome all of the injuries to the rotation or find one player or a platoon who could slide into the position vacated by All-Star David Dahl in early August.
Back in August, MLB.com ranked the Dodgers with the third-best farm system in all of baseball … and that was after players like Will Smith and Dustin May had started to make an impact. Colorado’s farm system, meanwhile, has been ranked in the bottom five. Some have argued that’s because young players like Raimel Tapia, Brendan Rodgers and Ryan McMahon have graduated to the bigs and there’s a gap between current talent and coming talent like Colton Welker and Ryan Castellani. The problem is that there’s a gap for the Rockies and there isn’t for the Dodgers.
If Colorado is going to truly challenge the Dodgers consistently for the West, it’s going to take rebuilding the farm system. Whether that’s done through the draft or through trading some veteran players to get potential for the future, the Rockies have to prepare for the “what if” scenarios that include injuries and/or a potential loss of Arenado and Story following the 2021 campaign. Sure, there are players who could slide into their positions but what about the next level of players to slide into those players’ positions?
Can a lesson be learned from a season where the Rockies are so far behind the Dodgers in the division? Absolutely. You can always learn from the best, and that’s what Los Angeles has been in recent years.
So what’s the lesson? Develop young players to be ready and, when they are, give them the chance to shine with plenty of playing time. Here’s hoping Colorado implements that lesson quickly.