Today, we are starting a new series looking at every player on the Colorado Rockies as things currently stand, what the numbers predict for each player, and what the Rockies need out of them to be a playoff-contending team. We start with Ryan McMahon.
Entering the 2022 season, Ryan McMahon is, arguably, the best player the Colorado Rockies have. Per Baseball-Reference’s version of WAR, he is the best overall player that is knowingly returning to the team and per FanGraphs version of WAR, he is the best position player returning.
Part of the reason why he is one of their best players (at minimum) is his defense. By Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), he was tied for the highest in all of baseball at 22 DRS. However, he did not win a Gold Glove, losing to his former teammate Nolan Arenado but despite playing 70 percent of his games at third base, he only had 13 of his 22 DRS at the position. The other nine came at second base, where he played the other 30 percent of the time.
But Ryan McMahon could be playing another position for the Colorado Rockies in 2022.
Depending on what the Colorado Rockies do after the lockout, Ryan McMahon could be playing a new position, a position he has only played three innings at in his career: shortstop.
The Rockies will most likely lose Trevor Story via free agency and, before the lockout, there were internal discussions about McMahon sliding over to shortstop. Considering his defensive prowess in the infield, in general, it likely wouldn’t be a huge issue for the team but the main thing the Rockies need to be concerned about with him is his offense.
Through June 15 (67 games), McMahon was on pace for 39 homers and 104 RBI but he was only hitting .261/.308/.527. After that (84 games), McMahon hit for a lower average (.247) and a lower slugging percentage (.383) but a much higher on-base percentage (.348). He was on pace for only 13 homers and 83 RBI in that span.
While it was great that he brought his OBP up, the Rockies desperately need the power that he brought to the table in the former part of the season.
That’s why with Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections for 2022, it takes the middle ground and balances his (roughly) first half and second half of his 2021 season.
It projects that McMahon will hit 24 homers and 83 RBI with a .250/.326/.457 slash line with an fWAR of 1.9. In 2021, McMahon had 23 homers, 86 RBI, a .254/.331/.449 slash line, and an fWAR of 2.5.
In other words, they are projecting that his offense will stay the same but his defense will regress.
If he plays shortstop, perhaps it will regress and, admittedly, 22 DRS is a very high bar to reach in back-to-back seasons at any position. However, if history is any indication, McMahon will improve at the plate, even if it’s just slightly.
Here are McMahon’s numbers in 2019 and 2021:
- 2019: 24 homers, 83 RBI, a .250/.329/.450 slash line
- 2021: 23 homers, 86 RBI, a .254/.331/.449 slash line
They are virtually identical. However, you have to think back to 2019. Remember how the ball was flying out of everywhere? They had a juiced ball at the time.
With that adjustment (wRC+ or OPS+), McMahon’s production grew 6-10 percent. From 2018 to 2019, it grew 16-20 percent, depending on which stat you subscribe to.
The Rockies need that 16-20 percent increase in offensive production from McMahon for the Rockies to be a playoff contender (or even close to it) in 2022. Will he be able to? Frankly, probably not. He will likely see an increase in production but banking on him doing that should not be an expectation.
The Rockies, in general, have had that expectation for their entire roster for three years now and it hasn’t worked. The Rockies need McMahon to have a 35-40 homer, 100+ RBI season with excellent defense to replace Trevor Story’s (and Nolan Arenado’s) production offensively.
Could McMahon do it? Absolutely, and if there’s one guy the Rockies want to see it from in 2022, it’s him but banking on it happening would be a mistake.
He will likely be somewhere in between the ZiPS projection and that hope but the Rockies need multiple people in their lineup to have that kind of power, whether it’s from McMahon and his current teammates or multiple acquisitions whenever the lockout ends.