So we did the bottom four organizations: Marlins, Tigers, Royals, Orioles. It’s pretty inarguable that those four franchises are cut off clearly from the rest in terms of short-medium term outlook. The other 26 organizations all appear in pretty decent shape to me, at least if you look at it a certain way. Ultimately, I think that the Colorado Rockies appear here at 26th out of 30 MLB teams, not so much for reasons they can easily control. The positional player development has provided a continuous flow of talent, and really for the first time in maybe ever, the Colorado Rockies stable of young arms is quite impressive…
…in a vacuum.
But as we know, the Rox do not play in a vacuum. On it’s face, Jon Gray and German Marquez make for an exciting 1-2 punch at the top. Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland had some nice moments last year as rookies, and carried some prospect standing to back it up. But both pitcher’s effectiveness waned as the season dragged on, as did the effectiveness of many of their relievers. The humidor appears to have mitigated the disaster of a pitching environment somewhat, but the tolls of Coors Field as home ballpark to a pitcher, in terms of the challenging mental aspects of pitching, diminished break on breaking pitches, amount of room for hits to drop in the outfield, and how easily balls stay in the air, we are still yet to see the Rockies ever truly support a nice pitching staff for more than a few months at a time. This inherent challenge that no other MLB team faces has dogged the franchise since it’s existence, and plays a major role in this ranking.
But there are other reasons we are ranking the Rockies, fresh off a Wildcard appearance, this low. Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado both produced MVP level type WARs last year (Blackmon was worth 6-6.5 WAR and Arenado 6-7 WAR depending on source). But Blackmon will hit the free agent market after this season, and Arenado is one year behind. While some very nice position players prospects such as David Dahl, Raimel Tapia, Brendan Rogers, Ryan McMahon, Ryan Vilade and Colton Welker offer some very nice depth all over the diamond, it is fair to say that replacing those 12-13 Wins each year at two positions will be a very difficult task. While the Rockies might be able to resign one of those two stars, it puts a cast on the medium-term outlook.
So what to make of the most expensive bullpen in baseball? Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee and Wade Davis comprise a steady stable of arms that should ensure a very high floor for bullpen performance for the next couple of years. But again: Coors Field. This bullpen is still very much, just floor. There is no Yankee bullpen ceiling here.
In terms of overall scouting and development, the Rockies are solidly middle of the pack. Riley Pint was taken 4th overall in the 2016 draft after reaching triple digits on the fastball as a prep arm. However, while Pint still has impressive velocity, everything else is a mess right now. Inconsistent offspeed offerings and very poor command plagued Pint during his first full professional season. Ryan Castellani, Peter Lambert, Sam Howard, and Yency Almonte are a nice collection of arms, but again, Coors Field. Things are not what they seem at Coors Field, where top pitching prospect Jeff Hoffman threw 99 innings in his MLB debut and struggled to a 4.80 FIP. Or did he? He also posted a solid 1.1 fWAR in that time. I think the lesson here is, it’s just so hard to have a great amount of confidence in Rockies pitching, both present and future.
So while the Rockies figure to be competitive for the short term, and if things break right with their nice collection of minor league talent, maybe the medium term as well, there exists major doubts as to whether the Rockies can take that step to the next level, where they are genuinely viewed as a top-tier team in the National League. This is not the worst outcome given the environs, but enough to place them 26th out of 30 MLB teams.