The Colorado Rockies’ 2019 season was a massive disappointment, but if there was a silver lining to the Rockies’ 27-46 second half, it was the opportunities afforded to young players who could become major contributors in 2020 and beyond.
A handful of these young Colorado Rockies took advantage of this opportunity and played very well in the final month of the season. But perhaps the most impressive of them all was outfielder Sam Hilliard.
After a breakout campaign with Triple-A Albuquerque in which he hit 35 home runs and drove in 101 RBI in just 126 games, Hilliard got the call and made his MLB debut on August 27. Some players take a while to adjust but Hilliard showed he was ready, crushing seven home runs and driving in 13 while hitting .273 with a 1.006 OPS in 27 games.
For comparison, Nolan Arenado finished the season with a nearly identical seven home runs and 14 RBI in his final 21 games. Although it’s a small sample size, Hilliard’s month-plus with the Rockies projects out to a 42-home run season if multiplied across 162 games. That certainly doesn’t mean that Hilliard will hit 40 home runs next season, but in his short time in the big leagues, he showed that he belongs and he deserves a chance to further prove himself in 2020.
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The Rockies outfield is a big question mark heading into next season. Charlie Blackmon should be out there as will David Dahl as long as he can stay healthy. But the third spot is up in the air. Ian Desmond started losing playing time toward the end of the season and that might continue into 2020 if his lack of production is getting in the way of younger players like Hilliard.
Raimel Tapia has been inconsistent but, at times, has shown flashes of potential and Garrett Hampson played a lot of center field at the end of the season and was one of the team’s best players during that stretch along with Hilliard. However, he could end up playing more second base next year, sliding Ryan McMahon over to first base. This would be a significant defensive improvement over Daniel Murphy.
There is room for Hilliard to use his power and speed (37 steals in 2017 with Lancaster) to make a name for himself in the Rockies’ outfield in 2020. And if he looks anything like he did in 27 games in 2019, Rockies fans may be on the verge of watching a new star slugger develop right in front of their eyes.