Tag: Colorado Rockies

Tuesday Takes: Super-Starlin Could End Up in Cooperstown

Tuesday Takes: Super-Starlin Could End Up in Cooperstown

It’s been another fun week of baseball around the league.  The Yankees finally look like the team everyone expected entering 2017.  Their early success has certainly been admirable, but does Aaron Judge deserve all of the credit?  The National League West’s best continue to run rampant on the rest of the league, but is there a pretender among the Rockies, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks?  Also, All-Star voting is picking up, and it seems like there’s been a significant change in how fans vote.

Castro a HOFer?

The Yankees have been a revelation this year.  The Bronx Bombers were expected to finish around .500.  Instead, they have powered ahead to a 38-29 start, with six of those losses coming in the past week while out west.  The Yankees success is a largely a product of Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks, neither of whom were expected to start prior to Spring Training.  Both players have put together all-star caliber campaigns, but the true Yankees star resides in the infield.

Starlin Castro has fallen into the background since being traded to New York, but he has quietly become a star in the process.  Castro has been a model of consistency on offense since 2011, obtaining at least 145 hits each year.  Don’t look now, but Castro already has 1,235 hits, and is on pace to finish this year with about 1,350.  He’s batting .324 this year, and now that he recently turned 27, he should just be entering his prime.  If that’s the case, Castro will have a shot at 3,000 hits assuming he can stay healthy and continue being productive.  Paul Molitor, who joined the 3,000 hit club in 1996, only had 1,203 hits through his first eight seasons, so Castro has a legitimate chance to join the elite group in the 2020’s.

Who’s Acting Out West?

Who would have thought that on June 20th, the Rockies, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks would hold the three best records in the National League?  All three teams seem destined to make the postseason since the Chicago Cubs are nine games back of the second Wild Card.  Despite their success, surely one of these teams is a fluke, right?

Wrong.  All three teams have incredibly impressive run differentials, as well as winning records both at home and on the road.  Many baseball analysts have claimed that the Rockies may be the least legitimate team of the three, but that’s up for debate.  Colorado has a much better road record than both Los Angeles and Arizona.  The Rockies have also been considerably better against teams that are over .500.  Their 22-13 record against winning teams is the best in Major League Baseball, while the Diamondbacks are just 14-12 and the Dodgers have fared 16-15.  The Dodgers have also been inconsistent in one run games, going 8-9 in comparison to the Diamondbacks who are 15-6 and the Rockies who are 10-2.  This shows the relative inferiority of the Los Angeles’ bullpen, a factor that could play large in October.

Fans Are All-Stars This Year

After years of ballot-stuffing and inexplicable players winning the fan vote, the All-Star voting has reflected performance more than fanfare this year.  Players like Omar Infante aren’t leading voting at second base as they were in 2015.  Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist aren’t benefiting from playing on the Cubs this year.  For the most part, the voting has been acceptable.  Should Jason Heyward be a starting outfielder?  Of course not, but that’s pretty much the only problem I have with the current National League voting update.  Nolan Arenado should be leading at third, but I’m not going to complain about Kris Bryant leading the pack.  Voting love for Charlie Blackmon, Zack Cozart, and Ryan Zimmerman is great to see considering how well they’ve played this season.

In the American League, the voting has been just as fair.  An outfield of Judge, Trout, and Springer is totally reasonable.  Altuve and Correa up-the-middle is the right choice, and so is Miguel Sano at third base.  Yonder Alonso has put together a great year and it shows as he leads A.L. first basemen.  I’d like to see a little more love for Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison, but they should both receive plenty of consideration as reserves from manager Terry Francona.

The Most Untouchable Prospects This Summer

The Most Untouchable Prospects This Summer

With the trade deadline just six weeks away, deals are sure to be made soon, seeing established stars head to contenders in return for coveted prospects.  Some of the biggest prospects in baseball, like Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Yoan Moncada, and Dansby Swanson, have all been moved around in trades over the past few years.  These high-upside minor leaguers typically carry a high price, but there are an elite few who have an exorbitantly large value to their teams.  These blue-chippers have no shot of being moved this summer, save for a deal for one of the best players in the game.

Prospects within organizations whose big league clubs are not in playoff contention will not be considered eligible for this list.  Obviously, the Mets won’t trade Amed Rosario when they’re virtually out of the National League East race.

Brendan Rodgers, Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have stunned the National League in 2017, putting together a 44-win season thus far.  They currently lead the N.L. West, and look like potential postseason contenders with their elite offense and shutdown bullpen.  However, their starting rotation raises questions.  While the youthful staff has produced thus far, their lack of late-season experience could lead to future struggles.  Colorado would be wise to add a solid, veteran starter to guide the young Rockies pitchers into October.  The Rockies hold multiple trade chips, but one stands tall above the rest.

Brendan Rodgers is the premier prospect in the Rockies’ farm system and for good reason.  The 20 year-old is hitting .400 at High-A Lancaster with twelve home runs and a .419 OBP in 48 games.  He had 23-game hitting streak going as well, and is surely positioned to receive a call-up to Double-A in the near future.  Rodgers could easily bring back the pitcher Colorado needs.  But the Rockies will not move their future shortstop, who has the look of an absolute superstar.

Eloy Jimenez, Chicago Cubs

Eloy Jimenez put himself on the map with his remarkable performance in the 2016 Futures Game where he blasted a ball into the seats at Petco Park and also flashed some leather in the outfield.  Jimenez is still just 20 years old, and he probably won’t play at Wrigley Field until the end of 2018 at the earliest.  That being said, the Cubs won’t trade the slugging outfielder, even if they find themselves behind in the National League Central.  The Cubs have plenty of other expendable prospects and players like Jeimer Candelario, Dylan Cease, Ian Happ, Javier Baez, and Albert Almora that can bring back an impact player.

Lewis Brinson, Milwaukee Brewers

When the Brewers dished out former all-star catcher Jonathan Lucroy last summer, general manager David Stearns saw a franchise cornerstone in outfielder Lewis Brinson.  The 2012 first-round draftee just made his big league debut last week after tearing up the Pacific Coast League for two months.  Brinson hit .312 with a .900 OPS over 45 games in Triple-A this year.  The 23 year-old has serious five-tool potential, giving Stearns no reason to trade him at the deadline this summer.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

His father may be on the cusp of a well-deserved Hall of Fame induction, but young Vladdy could be knocking on the door in Toronto as soon as next year.  At just eighteen years of age, Guerrero is obliterating A-ball pitching, hitting .321 with a .469 slugging percentage.  His approach is well beyond his years; Guerrero Jr. has walked three more times than he has struck out through 59 games.  He has even been promoted as a better hitter than his father, which is a testament to Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s potential.  Toronto has made up considerable ground in the Wild Card standings, but there’s no way they will trade their top prospect for an aging star.

Hoffman is the Ace the Rockies Spent 20 Years Searching For

Hoffman is the Ace the Rockies Spent 20 Years Searching For

Jeff Hoffman has flown under-the-radar since turning pro in 2014, but his most recent start on Sunday against the San Diego Padres solidifies his place among the best young pitchers in baseball.  The youthful starting pitching of the Colorado Rockies has warranted high praise from the baseball world thus far in 2017, but Hoffman has a higher ceiling than teammates Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, and German Marquez.  Baseball pundits often write off pitchers who call Coors Field home, simply due to the fact that their numbers will become inflated from pitching in the hitters’ heaven.  But Hoffman is different; his repertoire, poise, and pedigree give Hoffman all the makings of a future ace.

Drafted ninth overall out of East Carolina by the Blue Jays in 2014, Hoffman would sit out the remainder of the year recovering from Tommy John surgery.  If not for his injury, Hoffman was positioned to be drafted higher, possibly even first overall by the Houston Astros.  Hoffman wouldn’t make his debut until the middle of the 2015 season.  The New York native quickly put together a solid debut campaign in thirteen starts between High-A Dunedin and Double-A New Britain.  In July, though, Hoffman was one of the main prospects traded to the Rockies in the deal for Troy Tulowitzki.  Colorado obviously coveted Hoffman in order for them to trade their franchise cornerstone.

Hoffman has now been called-up on five separate occasions since 2016 to make spot-starts.  In his six starts last season, Hoffman struggled, pitching to the tune of a 4.88 ERA with an alarmingly high BB/9 rate.  The righty has always featured a plus package of pitches, but he struggled with his command upon being called-up .  He allowed seven home runs in just 31 and 1/3 innings, forcing Colorado to have him begin the 2017 season in Triple-A.

Hoffman has yet to make a permanent stay in the big leagues thus far in 2017, but he’s certainly been compiling a compelling case.  In three starts, Hoffman has a 2.33 ERA and 24 strikeouts in just over 19 innings.  The East Carolina alum’s most impressive improvement lies in his command; Hoffman has surrendered just two walks in his three starts.  Most recently, he carved up the San Diego Padres lineup over seven innings, allowing just one run on three hits while striking out nine.

Some may claim that Jeff Hoffman’s stellar outing is a fluke, or it was due to the fact that he faced a not-so dangerous Padres’ lineup in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.  But based on Hoffman’s ability and pitching prowess, this was hardly a fluke.  So far in 2017, Hoffman has been nearly unhittable when ahead in the count.  Opposing hitters who fall behind against Hoffman are hitting just .103, and they often fall victim to the devastating curveball he relies on with two strikes.  His four-seam fastball averages nearly 95 MPH while also running in on right-handed hitters.  His hook had San Diego guessing all afternoon, especially when he followed it up with fastballs up in the strike zone.  Hoffman also features a change-up and a slider, but he doesn’t use them nearly as often as his two best pitches.  Thus far in 2017, albeit a small-sample size, Hoffman has an impressive Fangraphs Soft-Contact Rate of 20.4%, similar to Max Scherzer (21%), Jacob deGrom (20.6%), and Zack Greinke (20.3%).

Hoffman is scheduled to start on Saturday against the Cubs, which will be a solid test for the 24 year-old to prove his dominance is legitimate.  After this week, Rockies’ manager Bud Black will have to decide whether or not to keep Hoffman in the rotation as Tyler Anderson will be coming off of the 10-day DL.  If Hoffman has a strong outing against the defending World Series champs, the Rockies may have no choice but to let their new ace take his rightful place in the rotation for the long haul.