Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Colorado Rockies

It was another tough year for the Rockies as they hobbled to last place in the NL West for the fourth straight season. The club’s big free-agent signing, Kris Bryant, delivered a decent .851 OPS before succumbing to a foot injury after just 181 PA. On the plus side, Daniel Bard came out of nowhere, converting 34 of 37 saves in a brilliant season, one of the best in the team’s history.

We are bound to at least acknowledge their house-to-street split, as once again they were drastic. At home, they finished as the top team wOBA in baseball with a .345 and also had the best batting average at .283, along with the 10th most home runs. On road? Last in home runs and wOBA and 25th in batting average. The upcoming season could be interesting as they potentially solidify their future double-play combination.

sleeper

Brendan Rodgers

Statistics 2022 (581 PA): 0.266 AVG, 72 R, 13 HR, 63 RBI, 0 SB

Good or bad, I’m always interested in post-hype players. In that case, Rodgers might make sense as we try to dig into a roster that won 68 games a season ago. Once upon a time – and by that I mean 2015 – the Rockies chose the then 18-year-old third-place finisher from Lake Mary High School in Florida as heir to the throne from Troy Tulowitzki. Four years later, a strong showing with Triple-A Albuquerque in the PCL led to his appeal in May 2019.

But then he was injured: a right labrum tear that required shoulder surgery and ended his season. It was a tough recovery as the right-hander later admitted he couldn’t raise his arm above his head for a month after the procedure. Then, as he was about to break in again, madness struck in 2020, which brought an unexpected relegation for the former first-rounder. After spending the first few weeks at the Rockies’ alternate location, the club brought him back. But then his shoulder barked again, torpedoing his season after just seven games. In 2021, a hamstring strain on a stolen base try at spring training put him out until the end of May.

The point here is to say that the beginning of the former prospect’s MLB career was disjointed, to say the least. Where does that leave us? His stats last year weren’t great, but what really mattered was that he was able to achieve a career-best 581 PA.

Coming from our player pages, there are some intriguing elements in his batted ball profile. One is that he showed an affinity for going the opposite route at a rate well above the league average. Combine that with a K-Rate, which is now well under 20%, and he could be a solid contributor to batting average – Steamer has him at .279 next season. The key to hitting his cap will be if he can tap into more skill. But based on scouting reports earlier in his career that mentioned his excellent at-bat speed, he might have a blanket worth pursuing. Also, a max EV of 112.2 last season might give us a small indication of the latent performance potential in his racquet.

He’s no longer the Rockies’ future shortstop. Spoiler alert, us could come see him later. But now that the former first-rounder has finally had a full season that also earned him a Gold Glove, his confidence could be at an all-time high. Who knows, maybe we haven’t seen its peak yet. Sometimes it takes longer. Think Dansby Swanson. He was selected first overall by the D-Backs in the same draft by Vanderbilt and did not score a 100 wRC+ until his season at the age of 26.

Ezequiel Tovar

Statistics 2022 (AA) (295 PA): .318 AVG, 39 R, 13 HR, 47 RBI, 17 SB

If you’re a Dynasty Leaguer or a potential enthusiast, you know the 21-year-old well by now. The right-hander, who hits shortstop, had time all year, putting on a .405 wOBA in 66 games with Double-A Hartford. He added further intrigue by swiping 17 bases on 20 tries in Hartford. However, a serious groin injury sidelined him until mid-September, when he returned to action with a brief five-game stint at Triple-A Albuquerque.

And then, of course, he got drafted. So how did that go? Not too shabby considering he’s in the record books as the only player in the franchise to score his first two goals in the first two spots they saw, both courtesy of Sean Manaea. The Venezuelan, who the Rockies signed on his 16th birthday, is already a huge defensive player by all accounts.

But he was really starting to make waves with a career-best .932 OPS in Double-A before the injury put him on hold. As his first two at-bats showed, he’s an aggressive hitter, so keep that in mind if you have an eye for OBP formats. Recently released Steamer predictions put him at 451 PA with a .280 average, 16 HR and nine steals. His prospect report on MLB.com notes that he gained some strength over the past year and it really showed in his racquet. Just ask Clayton Kershaw who would have had a clean start to the year without the rookie.

busts

Daniel Barde

Statistics 2022 (60.1 IP): 1.79 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 69K, 6W, 34SV

As far as spotting potential busts goes, this is the proverbial low-hanging fruit. Bard’s season was undoubtedly one of the biggest surprises of the year. And that is undercut. Once one of the game’s top relievers, the Red Sox let go of the right-hander in 2013 after he just couldn’t throw any more strikes. A minor league odyssey followed that included stints with the Pirates, Rangers, Cardinals and two with the Cubs before ending with an appearance for the GCL Mets. And that was it; he retired on October 3, 2017.

Fast forward two years to a minor league deal, and we’re talking about one of the greatest seasons by a relief pitcher in Colorado Rockies history. So how did he go from a 5.21 ERA and 1.60 WHIP to last year’s greatness? I am not really sure. But at least part of the answer has to do with his plumb line; He threw it 49% last year, down from just 12% in 2021 when he moved away from his four-seam tackle. Let’s take a closer look at the Sinker’s performance using the numbers from our player pages.

Bard still throws hard, that’s for sure. Last year his sinker’s average speed increased to 98. He also had a below-average pursuit rate (O-Sw%) of 21%. Combine that with a SwStr% and CSW% that have improved but are still close to the league average and you have a playing field that seems very dependent on BABIP, which judging by the expected stats has grown quite a bit over the last year inclined in his favour. He even admitted to “… having a bit of luck with the ball”. None of this is surprising, of course — every pitcher who has survived playing half their games at Coors Field with a WHIP under 1.00 got to some things went right.

That’s not all to say that relievers can’t be successful if they rely on boards. We’ve certainly seen a lot, Clay Holmes is a recent example. But his showed a more robust chase rate of 29% and SwStr% of 11.8%.

Bard’s slider was excellent, as you’d expect, keeping batters at a .205 xwOBA while returning an 18.3% SwStr%, both well above the league average. But then again, his Slider 21 performed similarly well, and yet a 5.60 ERA was the result.

The difference was a sinker that exceeded expectations. Because as great as the results of last season were, the proverbial pendulum swung in the past season opposite direction in the previous year.

When it comes to strikes, the former Red Sox didn’t stand out from the crowd. His K-Rate of 28.2% ranked him 49th among qualified rescuers. That’s not a bad clip by any means, but its error rate is crushed by a 10.2% walk rate. Those are the two main concerns I have with Bard: questionable control and leaning against a sinker I’m just not confident I can repeat. Bard’s comeback story was one for the ages and even included a stint as a mental skills coach for the D-Backs. The film pretty much writes itself. But its season seemed almost too good to be true. Add to that a park that makes pitching a dangerous proposition and conjuring up disappointment almost too easy.

CJ Cron

Statistics 2022 (632 PA): 0.257 AVG, 79 R, 29 HR, 102 RBI, 0 SB

The former Angel posted a career-high 102 RBI and finished just a narrow point short of his high water mark in home runs. But some underlying numbers paint a less enthusiastic picture – its K-Rate increased from 21.4% to 25.9% and we saw xwOBA drop from 0.386 to 0.338. Whether that is predictive or not remains to be seen. But at least it makes me hesitate as he will likely carry a decent price tag after a career high at PA and RBI.

And he ended the year on a terrible note, cutting .218/ .283/ .373 with seven homers in his last 51 games. I don’t think it necessarily indicates a loss of ability, but it does make me think about the soon-to-be 33-year-old, who is in the last year of a two-year contract; If he was struggling, it wouldn’t be too surprising if he ceded the bats to a younger player like Elehuris Montero, for example, who was a part of the Nolan Arenado deal.

For me, it’s mostly a replaceable skill set that I’d rather look for later in blueprints. Last year, for example, we saw Christian Walker rebound after his first exit in 2019. Rowdy Tellez hit 35 home runs, a career high by far. There will certainly be some interesting buybacks late in drafts in the coming season that could add some pop at first base – names like Luke Voit or Josh Bell spring to mind, although the latter as a free agent makes him even more of a wild card . Speaking of which, there’s also Anthony Rizzo, José Abreu and Trey Mancini. At this point in the very early stages of the offseason, the first basescape is wide open, creating some opportunities that might be worth playing on later in blueprints. Also, veteran Righty’s profile has not been without blemishes over the past year, and given the team’s far from competitive status, I don’t think it would be terribly surprising to see his role diminished later in the year.

Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler @reldernitsuj on Twitter

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