This is the first installment of a series to highlight the progress of outfielder-first baseman Connor Joe, who is making his presence known in his first season at the Major League level for the Colorado Rockies.
A native of San Diego and a favorite of Rox fans, Joe did not play a year ago after he announced in March 2020 that he had testicular cancer, resulting in surgery and treatment during the campaign. Through Wednesday’s action, Joe was hitting .290 with an OPS of .835 and has reached base safely in 20 of 22 games as a starter. This is his third stint on the active roster for the Rox.
With Raimel Tapia, Colorado’s normal leadoff hitter, being placed on the 10-day Injured List Tuesday with a right big toe strain, Joe took over leadoff duties for both games of the abbreviated road series against the Houston Astros on Tuesday and Wednesday.
His placement as leadoff hitter for the Houston series came on the heels of a breakout performance Sunday in the Colorado Rockies contest with the Miami Marlins at Coors Field.
Joe replaced Tapia in the leadoff spot Sunday in the home half of the second inning after Tapia left the game after his only at bat. The right-handed swinging Joe responded by swatting a pinch-hit two-run home run — the first pinch-hit shot of his career — to left field.
Then, in the eighth inning, he blasted his second round-tripper of the day, with this one going to right field for his fifth homer of the season.
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The pair of homers marked his first multi-homer game and made Joe the first Rockie to hit multiple home runs in a game he did not start since Brooks Kieschnick turned the trick on May 29, 2001.
Following his notable performance in the leadoff role Sunday, Joe was not quite as successful against the Astros, although he did make key contributions both offensively and defensively for the Rox.
In the series opener on Tuesday, Joe started in left field. He was hitless in four trips to the plate in Colorado’s 5-0 loss as the Rockies managed just five hits as a team.
But he did come up with a defensive gem, leaping to make a catch against the left field wall in the eighth inning to rob the Astros’ Chas McCormick of a hit.
In the series finale with Houston on Wednesday, Joe started at first base. In so doing, he became only the third Rockies leadoff hitter to start at first base. He joins Ian Desmond (2018) and Mike Kingery (1995) with the distinction.
Joe scored the only run for the Rox in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss. He opened the game with a single to right field against Astros starting pitcher Framber Valdez, moved to second on a Trevor Story single and then scored on a base hit by C.J. Cron.
Joe, whose single was one of five hits for Colorado on the day, also reached base with a walk in the fifth inning. He struck out looking with one out and a runner on base in the ninth inning.
Colorado manager Bud Black likes what he is seeing with Joe in the leadoff spot.
“Base hit today,” Black noted. “There is an on-base component in there that we like. There is a quality at-bat. I did not see the 3-2 pitch there in the ninth inning on video. He took it for called strike three. Connor is really selective. He has got a good eye …. he might not have got the call.”
Entering action Wednesday, Joe was slashing .347/.365./714 with three doubles, five homers, and 16 RBI in 15 games since being called up from Triple-A Albuquerque on July 20.
“He is hitting near .300; the on base is up around .380,” Black said. “He has got a little bit of power so that is dangerous to the opposing pitcher. We are looking for somebody to get on base at the top of the order for Trev, Charlie (Blackmon), and Cron and some of the guys that provide some power for us.”
Rox Pile will keep you updated on Joe’s contributions to the Rockies during the remainder of the 2021 season.