What has been a rocky season for the Rockies has just continued to get rockier and rockier each week it seems. Colorado went from hanging around in the wild card / playoff race a few weeks ago to pretty much being completely out of it for the final tail of the season.
Entering an off-day on Thursday, the Rockies now find themselves in a double-digit deficit for the National League wild card as they now sit 10.5 games back. The only teams trailing the Rockies in the National League are the lowly Pirates and the complete rebuilding Marlins. In fact, the Marlins only trail the Rockies by eight games in the loss column.
The Rockies should be able to take it to the Marlins who are about to play a three-game set this weekend at Coors Field. At least the Rockies shouldn’t finish last in the entire National League this year.
So with presumably avoiding being the worst team in the NL and barring a crazy win streak to get back into contention, what should we be looking for in the final part of the season from the Rockies? It’s simple: Check out some of your fringe/young players.
The rest of the season with Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon playing most days, the team should be able to rip off some wins here and there. They should also be able to possibly win a few series, starting with this weekend’s series against the Marlins at Coors Field. The wins at this point don’t mean anything, though, outside of just trying to not be a total laughingstock of a team in 2019 record-wise.
The Rockies goal now should be one that you will see a lot of teams deploy down the stretch, which is to give some fringe/younger players, who normally wouldn’t have gotten a chance in a winning season, an opportunity to play down the stretch.
They’ve started to do that with the team letting catcher Chris Iannetta go and calling up catcher Dom Nunez. For the rest of the season, we should see more of this.
Now, rosters don’t officially expand until Sept. 1, when teams can carry some extra players for the final month of the season, which is when I fully expect for the Rockies to give some younger players some at-bats and innings pitched down the stretch to get experience. So for now, the Rockies will have to give some chances to non-regulars within the confines of their 25-man roster.
With this, I’m not suggesting the Rockies take at-bats away from Arenado or Story. But, I do think the Rockies should take some at-bats away from Daniel Murphy, Ian Desmond and even think about giving Blackmon an extra day off here or there. It would be a win-win for the Rockies.
Listen, we know what Desmond and Murphy are. Barring a trade this offseason or some other roster move, both players should contribute and have a solid to somewhat-solid production line next season. The extra day off periodically for Blackmon would also ensure the 33-year-old outfielder is healthy and ready for next season.
Taking away some of those at-bats and getting creative with your lineup, the Rockies can take stock some of their younger players who haven’t had a ton of at-bats this season. It’s something the Marlins have been doing the whole season, same with the Orioles. The Diamondbacks after a huge trade deadline have started doing the same, and other teams as well have started giving guys extra looks. It’s time for the Rockies to do the same.
With David Dahl going down with an injury, they have given some looks to other guys. But I would go fully in on giving some guys extra experience at the end of the season.
For the rest of the season, there’s no reason why the Rockies shouldn’t be playing outfielder prospect Yonathan Daza most every day. Daza has tore up the minor leagues this season, hitting .364 with 11 homers and 48 runs batted in. He’s clearly ready for the majors and is ready to take the next step after outgrowing the minors. That next step should start to happen in August and September.
Daza has had a couple cups of coffee with the Rockies this year and hasn’t really hit thus far in his major league career. But, Daza again hasn’t been given consistent at-bats at the major league level. Now’s the time to do that with Dahl out and the team floundering in 2019. If Daza can gain some momentum, maybe he can be trade bait this offseason or battle for a job on the big league roster this upcoming spring.
Another player down the stretch that should receive some extra at-bats is a former top prospect, outfielder Raimel Tapia. Tapia has been given some regular at-bats at points this season, mostly due to injuries with Blackmon and Dahl and others. He’s mostly succeeded in the opportunities he’s been given. Now’s the time for him to keep progressing and get some constant at-bats down the stretch. If Tapia gets a full chance to unlock his full potential, it could be a special ingredient for the Rockies next season. Let him unlock that by giving him at-bats.
Both of those guys are at the big-league level and have a chance this weekend and the upcoming weeks to show that potential and grow with at-bats. Once rosters expand, or if any unseen injuries take place, I would like to see a couple other minor leaguers get a chance in September or sooner to really play.
One is relief pitcher and top Rockies prospect Ben Bowden. Bowden appeared in this season’s Futures Game and maybe would have got a shot already had he not struggled a little since being promoted from AA to AAA. Bowden is a rare prospect that is primarily seen as just a bullpen arm. Well, with how bad the Rockies bullpen has been this season, this would be a good chance to give him a shot. Again, he has struggled a little at AAA, so he probably doesn’t have a long leash if he struggles, but I would like to see him given some innings in the bigs soon. He could solve a huge need for the Rockies next year if he can figure out big-league hitting sooner, rather than later.
The other minor leaguer who should get a look is outfielder and fellow top prospect Sam Hilliard. Hilliard has compiled a batting line at Albuquerque this year of a .257 average, with 30 home runs and a whopping 93 runs batted in. He’s also added 20 stolen bases. His power and speed could be lethal at 20th and Blake. He probably won’t ever hit for a high average, but if he can hang around the .250 to .270 mark, his power and speed numbers will be worth it.
The only trouble with giving Hilliard a chance down the stretch is finding a spot for him. If Daza and Tapia are both playing more, and the Rockies still have Desmond and Blackmon playing most days, or every other day, I don’t know where he gets the at-bats. But, the Rockies should get creative to find a way to get him those swings.
Finally, I’ll give you a few honorable mentions the Rockies should take a longer look at. One is infielder Garrett Hampson. Up to this point, Hampson really hasn’t hit this season. However, the slight touch of power that he has and the speed he possesses, he should be given some extra chances. He’s another guy that profiles to be a bench bat or organizational depth next year. Give him some experience to cure his offensive woes.
I would give pitcher Jesus Tinoco continued chances. Tinoco has electric stuff and could also be a solution for the Rockies bullpen next season. I would keep letting him roll out there in big/small situations and figure out big league hitting.
The final player is Yonder Alonso, believe it or not. We somewhat know what Alonso is, but can he come off the bench and present reasonable numbers at first base? Or, is he just a replacement player on bad teams at this point? If he can be presentable, maybe he would be an option to back up Ryan McMahon at first base next season if the Rockies had an option or a trade to make themselves better by dealing Murphy.
If the Rockies give some or all of these younger players / fringe players a chance the rest of the way to play, maybe we can take stock on where this team is talent wise. Maybe Rockies fans can get a sense of excitement as well in what is going to be another lost season.
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