Colorado Rockies: This veteran-laden outfield could happen in 2021
With Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black meeting with the media for the first time since the 2020 season ended, we now have a little better understanding of what could happen in the outfield in 2021.
And the key word in that sentence is “could,” because the Colorado Rockies are still waiting to officially see if two of the three pieces of a potentially veteran-laden outfield will actually suit up in purple in 2021.
First, after sitting out the 2020 season, Black indicated that he expects Ian Desmond to return to the team in 2021.
“My thought is that Desi is coming back,” Black told the media, including Rox Pile on Wednesday.
In a follow-up question by our own Noah Yingling, Black also said that the Rockies would have to see where the 35-year-old Desmond was in his condition after taking a year off before determining his exact role, whether that would be off the bench or as an everyday player. Black also mentioned Desmond’s ability to hit left-handed pitching, That’s a topic that Yingling dove into in this article.
This was part of what Yingling uncovered on Desmond against southpaws:
"But if you look at his splits in the last two seasons, one thing is evident: (Desmond) struggles against right-handed pitching and actually hits left-handed pitching well.Here’s a look at his splits:2018 vs. RHP: .216/.297/.3822018 vs. LHP: .280/.332/.5092019 vs. RHP: .226/.282/.3752019 vs. LHP: .297/.350/.626Particularly in the power department, Desmond is much better against lefties. 14 of his 20 home runs in 2019 were against lefties (or 70 percent) when he only faced lefties in a total of 41 percent of his 2019 ABs. For comparison, Nolan Arenado’s overall OPS in 2019 was .962. Desmond’s against lefties was .976."
In the final year of his much-maligned five-year, $70 million deal, Desmond saw action in 74 games in center field in 2019 while playing 44 games in left field. Could a platoon with Raimel Tapia in left field be what Rockies fans can expect in 2021?
By the way, Desmond, when he posted that he would sit out the 2020 season, discussed how he would be impacting the youth baseball league in Sarasota, Fla., as a way of giving back. He did just that, as you can see in the video below.
A Desmond-in-left scenario comes into greater primary focus if and when the Rockies bring Kevin Pillar back for his second appearance in Denver. Black confirmed on Wednesday that the Rockies are indeed in discussions with Pillar (who will turn 32 on January 4) about coming back to Colorado, where he was acquired in a trade from the Boston Red Sox on August 31.
Pillar anchored center field after coming to Colorado, playing there in 21 September games. In 97 plate appearances, Pillar posted a .308/.351/.451 slash line. We discussed more about Pillar’s year as well as why the Rockies should and shouldn’t resign him in this article.
The eight-year veteran’s cementation in center field follows a career-long trend as Pillar has played 759 of his 886 center games in the outfield in center.
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In right field, Charlie Blackmon will be back for another season. The 34-year-old Blackmon was a Gold Glove finalist last season after putting up an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) of 3.8. For comparison’s sake, Pillar posted a -0.7, while Raimel Tapia (1.1) and Sam Hilliard (0.7) were the only other Rockies outfielders to post a positive UZR in 2020.
Speaking of Tapia and Hilliard, if both Pillar and Desmond return in 2020, it would certainly cut into their playing time and opportunities. The same could be said for Garrett Hampson’s role in the outfield as well, although he can also play infield, giving him more opportunities for at-bats. And let’s not forget that the Rockies non-tendered David Dahl, which could pave the way for Pillar to return and the aforementioned players to have more chances to shine.
It’s possible that Rockies fans could see a Desmond-Pillar-Blackmon outfield in 2021. Black has discussed his feelings on experience in the lineup with us in the past and that trio would certainly bring that. Yes, two things have to happen (Desmond returns and Pillar re-signs), but don’t be surprised to see this as a potential Opening Day scenario.