In their follow-up to last year's Wild Card campaign, the Rockies have stayed competitive in a surprisingly weak National League West division despite a number of stumbles. Colorado entered June in first place, then proceeded to have a terrible month, going 11-16 and falling to fourth in the standings. But now, having just taken two of three from the first-place Dodgers in LA and swept the Giants at home to get back above .500, the Rockies find themselves just 31⁄2 games back of the leaders.
That said, this is a troubled team in many respects. Their former ace, Jon Gray, was recently demoted to Triple-A; in 17 starts, Gray was good in only five of them (and three of those were against the hapless Padres and Marlins), so he and his near-6.00 ERA will try to get right in Albuquerque. Ian Desmond, a high-priced free-agent signing before last season, is barely batting over the Mendoza Line with a sub-.300 OBP. The team spent big on relievers in the offseason, but the Colorado bullpen is currently worst in the NL in runs surrendered and in allowing inherited runners to score; they do lead the league in saves, but are also near the top of the heap in blown saves, with just a 65% conversion rate. And, as always, they are a far weaker team on the road, with a team batting line of .231/.298/.388 away from Denver's altitude at this writing.
There are bright spots, too, though. Third baseman Nolan Arenado is among the best to ever play the position, both offensively and defensively, and currently leads the NL in homers, RBI, slugging, and OPS. Shortstop Trevor Story has rebounded nicely from his down 2017 campaign and is approaching a .350 on-base mark despite striking out a ton (not at Zunino levels, but on pace for nearly 200 for the year). Defending batting champ Charlie Blackmon is once again putting up solid numbers from the leadoff spot, and ten-year veteran Gerardo Parra is matching Blackmon nearly stat for stat, with one notable exception: Parra is the one guy in the lineup that has better numbers on the road (.319/.372/.451 vs. .284/.306/.382 at home). In the bullpen, the one positive surprise has been Adam Ottavino, who has been dominating in a setup role, bettering his career ERA by almost two runs.
If they just get some decent starting pitching in the second half, Colorado could make some noise in the NL West race. But in Denver, that's always a big "if."
Players to Watch
Carlos González: Though not the force he was a few years ago, "CarGo" remains one of the most popular Rockies in their history. The Venezuelan has a batting title, three Gold Gloves, three All-Star appearances, and two Silver Slugger awards to his credit. He has always struggled against southpaws, though, so look for him to perhaps get a day off against, say, James Paxton.
Nolan Arenado: The best third baseman playing today, apologies to Kyle Seager. A human highlight-reel in the field, Arenado will also hurt you with the bat, as his league-leading HR and RBI numbers can attest. He's still under team control for another year, but he'll be due a giant payday when he hits free agency and rumors persist that the Rox may try and move him in a trade if a big enough return is offered in the next few weeks.
Wade Davis: Having reinvented himself as a reliever in Kansas City, Davis is regarded as one of the top closers in the Majors. He signed a big free-agent contract with Colorado prior to this season and, as one might expect pitching at altitude, has seen his numbers decline some—as a reliever, Davis' career ERA is under 2.00, this year it's over 4.00—but he does lead the NL in saves despite a brutal June in which he allowed 11 earned runs in 92⁄3 innings.
Bud Black: The NL Manager of the Year in 2010 (with San Diego), Black is in his second year at the Rockies' helm and has done remarkably well, and if ever there was a franchise that could use a successful pitching coach in the manager's seat, it's this one. Though a thus-far short tenure, Black is the only Colorado manager to have a better than .500 record. He has experience as a player, a pitching coach, assistant General Manager (in both Cleveland and Anaheim), and field manager, giving him one of the more balanced résumés among Major League skippers.
As a player, Black was initially drafted by the Mariners and came up through Seattle's minor-league system, eventually pitching in two games for the M's before being traded away as the player-to-be-named-later in a deal for infielder Manny Castillo in 1982.
Chris Iannetta: Now in his second tour of duty with Colorado, Iannetta is having one of his better seasons. The 13-year veteran has never been much of a hitter, but he is a prolific walker. In each of his Major League seasons, his on-base percentage is at least 100 points higher than his batting average, with two exceptions: 2012 with the Angels (92 points difference) and 2016 with Seattle (93 points difference). Iannetta returned to the Rockies, his original team, following the 2017 season as a free agent.
In his one season with the Mariners, Iannetta hit .210/.303/.329 in a part-time role.
|Colorado Rockies||(1993 - present)|