The year of Purple Reign at Coors?
I know that it’s cold and snowy (at times) outside right now, but rejoice: Baseball season is nearly here.
For the last few years, hearing “baseball season is here” for Colorado Rockies fans has often come with a punch line at the end, but heading into the 2017 season, I think it’s about time the Rockies start punching back in a big way.
Yes, I’m talking a playoff berth for the Rox. What better way to celebrate the club’s 25th anniversary season than by playing meaningful games in October?
Following the offseason additions of first baseman Ian Desmond, outfielder Chris Denorfia and pitchers Mike Dunn and Greg Holland, the Rockies are primed to take a big step forward in the first year under new manager Bud Black, who comes over from the division-rival San Diego Padres.
Sure, I get it. It seems like every year there’s some sort of build-up around the Rockies heading into a given season that it’s the year to return to the playoffs. But hear me out with this: Coors Field is going to be a place teams fear coming to because of the explosive offense the Rockies have at their disposal this year and the fireball pitchers leading the charge in the rotation.
Desmond joins a loaded infield with arguably a top five player in the majors (Nolan Arenado), the reigning NL batting champion (DJ LeMahieu) and a guy who was on pace to win the NL Rookie of the Year award until getting hurt (Trevor Story).
Combined, there’s no reason that the Rockies’ infield shouldn’t hit at least 100 homers as a group. Heck, the trio of Arenado, Desmond and Story could reach 90 homers on their own.
The infield is set for the next three to four years, at least from an offensive standpoint, but from a defensive standpoint the group is just as solid. While first base isn’t the easiest position to switch to midway through a career, Desmond is coming off of a Gold Glove-caliber season as a center fielder with the Texas Rangers last year. In fact, Desmond is a former All-Star shortstop with the Washington Nationals earlier in his career, so making the switch back to the infield shouldn’t be an issue. Plus, he’ll be a massive upgrade over Matt Reynolds from last season, both at the plate and in the field.
The addition of Desmond is a win-win regardless of how you slice it for the Rockies. He’s going to bring his big bat to easily the friendliest park for hitters in the big leagues.
While the Colorado infield looks impressive on paper, the outfield might be just as explosive, led by Carlos Gonzales, Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl, the latter who has been one of the Rockies’ top prospects for the last few years before coming up last summer and going on a tear at the plate, hitting .315 in just over 200 at-bats.
Now, Dahl gets a chance to play everyday in the spacious outfield of Coors Field next to Blackmon, who has been outstanding in both facets of the game for the Rockies over the last three seasons.
The real wild card here with the Rockies is CarGo, who can be one of the best players in baseball when healthy, but throughout his career he’s struggled to stay on the field far more often than not.
Should he be healthy for a third straight year, expect CarGo to be just as important to the Rockies offense as Arenado was last season. With those two firing on all cylinders at the plate — especially at home — there’s no reason this year’s version of the Rockies offense can’t help push the club north of 55 wins at Coors Field.
I know, that’s probably crazy to read, but with a young, developing pitching staff led by Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson and cancer survivor Chad Bettis ready to take that next step, things are looking bright for the Rockies.
This year’s club will have to do most of its damage at home where they can send pitch after pitch high into the Mile High air, but the key to making the playoffs will be improving on 42 home wins last season and 33 on the road. That’s very feasible with the current shape and direction of this roster.
Black appears to be the right manager for this current dynamic of characters in the clubhouse, so I can see the Rockies adding another 13-15 wins with him at the helm as a clear upgrade over the disastrous Walt Weiss.
An extra 13-15 wins puts them right around 88 wins, and that’ll be largely on the offensive explosion on a nightly basis.
From top to bottom I’m struggling to find an easy out in the lineup outside of promising young catcher Tom Murphy, who hit .273 in limited action last year. With no easy out, this offense will put a ton of pressure on opposing pitchers all game long.
The final wild card spot in the National League is up for grabs, so why not the Rockies?
This is the year (I think), folks.
Enjoy the ride with this team because it seems like it’s going to be a ton of fun.
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