The concept of time has become warped to many in America during the past year as COVID-19 has running rampant. The majority of citizens in this nation have at least one “wait, that was only HOW long ago???” moment where it time seems to have moved at a snails pace within the past 12 months. For me, this most mind jarring moment was realizing that the 2018 Colorado Rockies not only made the playoffs for a second consecutive year, but they made it past the Wild Card round. They won 91 games! Wade Davis was a closer who was still above average! Carlos Gonzalez was a starter! These factoids feel feel closer to a decade old than less than two full seasons of games ago. Now? The Rockies are entering the start of a “rebuild” where they are going to go their darnedest over the coming years to strip their team of costs in order to maximize profits while not putting in any effort to win.
This is where we get to the point where I vent about the Nolan Arenado trade. He’s gone, shipped off to St. Louis as he enters his 30s, solely for the purpose of the Rockies avoiding paying him the 8-year contract that he signed less than 365 days prior (if you ever wondered why players don’t take home town discounts, this is why). The Rockies got a 27 -year-old swing man Austin Gomber and one Top 20 prospect in the Cardinals system for a guy who was an All-Star, Gold Glove winner, Top 8 MVP vote getter, and Silver Slugger for five straight seasons prior to the small sample size year that was 2020. The guy is everything you want in a baseball player, but because he cuts into the team’s profits and they are choosing to not be competitive, he’s given away just to get him off the books. Not that it wasn’t already clear, but baseball has an ownership problem.
With that angry diatribe out of the way, let’s look at the players this franchise is going to trot out onto the field to play baseball games they don’t care about winning:
Catcher: Elias Diaz, Dom Nunez, Willie MacIver, Chris Rabago, Jose Briceno, Max George, Brian Serven
Despite playing in the “thin air of Colorado” which is an all but dead moniker, none of this grab bag of catchers are getting drafted in the Top 30 at their position. Diaz is the presumptive favorite to land the starting role now that Tony Wolters left for Pittsburgh, but as a player with 42 career home runs across all levels in 12 seasons he isn’t bringing the pop even in a juiced ball era. Mix that in with a middling .248/.300/.355 career big league slash and he is very much a defense first catcher who has put up twice as much negative defensive fWAR has he has positive over the past four years. Dom Nunez was profiled as a bat first catcher throughout his minor league rise, but he seemed to have fallen out of favor in 2020 and his outlook is a bit of a mystery heading into his age 25 season. If Nunez gets at bats, he is a nice speculative add, but a team that is looking to rebuild is going to play their “glove guy” more often than not in order to boost their pitching values in whatever way they can, so I don’t expect Nunez to get more than 40 percent of the starts unless his bat explodes.
First Base: Ian Desmond, Ryan McMahon, Josh Fuentes, CJ Cron, Greg Bird, Colton Welker, Michael Toglia, Grant Lavigne, Sean Bouchard, Connor Joe, Nick Longhi
If you’re looking for season long value, you will not be finding it here. Desmond is the big ugly contract that the team will let make the Opening Day roster in hopes that he is able to rehab his value enough to get flipped as soon as anyone expresses any remote interest. McMahon is the hybrid 1B/2B/3B left handed power hitter who the Rockies desperately want to become Max Muncy but instead has shown 2+ full seasons of 83 OPS+ ball. That’s good enough to hold a roster spot at the league minimum but not good enough to be an every day first baseman. Fuentes is the guy who showed promise in just over 100 PAs in 2020 but also had a OPS over under .750 in the PCL in AAA in 2019. Cron is the classic “well he’s probably the best of the bunch but also the player the team will get the lowest ROI if they give playing time to and subsequently trade” NRI signing, so barring a huge spring and/or injuries from the guys ahead of him it’s really hard to see the Rockies paying him 6.1M when he isn’t leaps and bounds better than his fixed costs alternatives. Bird is the discount store CJ Cron option who is really just looking to latch on in AAA if the Rockies offer it to him. Welker, Toglia, Lavigne, and Bouchard are all prospects who have Major League upside but don’t project to sniff the field until late in the year. There are a bunch of options here, and they’ll all probably get at bats, and they’re all probably not worth your time for any value in 2020. Outside of getting the right add, the right week, with the right matchups, you’re not getting anything but a hot streak. Cron and McMahon are currently the highest drafted of this bunch around 40th 1B off big boards and given the amount of players with multiple position eligibility, this is honestly be too high. If you’re in a league that is drafting 40 1B eligible players, try and draft ones that have a clearer path to playing time than these guys.
Second Base: Brendan Rodgers, Garrett Hampson, Bret Boswell, Coco Montes, Matt McLaughlin
The first Rockies who have any value beyond deep leagues, this is a position battle that will be worth monitoring through Spring Training. Hampson has been a breakout candidate since 2018 as he has been a tantalizing mix of contact and speed atop the Colorado lineup. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, Bud Black has yet to ever fully commit to the speedy Hampson and former No. 3 overall pick Brendan Rodgers appears to be “the guy” the franchise wants to go forward with. Rodgers has shown elite MIF power in the minors averaging 18 homers in his age 19, 20 and 21 seasons, and in his age 22 season in 2019 he put up impressive numbers even for the PCL slash .350/.413/.622 before getting called up to the bigs. Despite these impressive minor league numbers and lofty draft status for a middle infielder, Rodgers prospect shine has worn off as he enters his age 24 season. In only 102 PAs in the show, he has a gross .195/.235/.227 slash with a OPS+ of just 15, but when you look at it as only 102 PAs, that’s one terrible month for a 22/23 year old adjusting to the big leagues for the first time. Should Rodgers win the job in camp, he is definitely the a player to target. Hampson is getting drafted in the mid 20s for 2Bs while Rodgers can’t crack the top 40, both of these guys have Top 20 upside and are great draft day buys.
Third Base: Elehuris Montero, Aaron Schunk, Jose Gomez, Taylor Snider, Danny Edgeworth, Kyle Datres
None of these guys will likely play for the Rockies in 2021. The top option at the hot corner is likely to be a guy we’ve mention before, either McMahon, Fuentes, Welker, Rodgers or Hampson, meaning the best result for fantasy owners would be the Rodgers and Hampson both holding down the everyday 2B/3B. The likely result is a big hodgepodge of platooning between all these guys throughout the year with no one ever separating themselves as a daily starter for any lengthy period of time. Just like at 1B and 2B, McMahon is being drafted as borderline Top 40 at his position player, and while he may get decent playing time across the infield, he has not shown he’s worthy of being a fantasy starter at any point across his nearly 1,000 career PAs. Montero is the top prospect the Rockies got in the Arenado trade, but he’s does not profile as multi-year starter, and given the current state of the Rockies he definitely does not profile as someone getting meaningful ABs in 2021.
Shortstop: Trevor Story, Eric Stamets, Alan Trejo, Ryan Vilade, Scott Burcham, Mateo Gil, Jack Blomgren
Clearly the guy who doesn’t belong with the rest of this offense, Trevor Story is an elite SS and fantasy option, currently the consensus No. 3 SS behind Fernando Tatis Jr. and Trea Turner and he has somewhat quietly been one of the best all around fantasy players since his MLB debut in 2017. Story’s career numbers come out to four-year averages of 150 games, 94 runs, 37 doubles, six triples, 34 homers, 20 steals and a triple slash of .277/.343/.535 and an OPS+ of 114. These numbers put him in my conversation for the No. 1 overall pick prior to the Arenado trade, but now without any real protection or reliable on base guys around him, his overall ADP of 9.7 seems about right. I can’t fault you if you still want him as your No. 1 overall SS and as a Top 5 pick, but the lack of help in the lineup makes me feel like a slight regression is in store. The wild card with Story ownership is he has the possibility of getting moved this year, and it’s hard to know if leaving Coors will help him (better team, better lineup & will see better pitchers) or hurt him (not playing his home games in Colorado). Despite having a decent amount of question marks for a first-round pick, Story still has an insanely high floor and is the type of piece I’d buy with confidence despite not having the sexiness of a guy like Tatis Jr.
Outfield: Charlie Blackmon, Sam Hilliard, Raimel Tapia, Yonathan Daza, Jameson Hannah, Wynton Bernard, Brenton Doyle, Daniel Montano, Niko Delcolati, Casey Golden, Isaac Collins
Blackmon is the immediate name that fantasy owners know, as he’s been a high end OF option for the better part of a decade… but he’s now entering his age 34 season and no longer has any help hitting behind him in the lineup with Arenado shipped out of town. Right now he’s getting drafted as an early 20s OF which is too low? Sandwiched between Ketel Marte, Trent Grisham, Austin Meadows, Teoscar Hernandez, JD Martinez and Cavan Biggio, he’s the OF I’d want to have the most shares of in this group besides Grisham. Sure, there is plenty of reasons to now want to invest in anything Colorado right now, but would you take this line: 82 runs, 27 doubles, three triples, 16 homers, five steals with a .287/.335/.440 slash? You’d probably be disappointed as that’s a slightly underperforming line, but those are also the worst numbers he’s put up in each of those categories over the past seven years. Blackmon is really good, and sure fading age is never a bad decision, his floor is still extremely high and he makes for a good draft day buy right now. Now, the other presumptive starters Sam Hilliard and Raimel Tapia are both guys who have put together nice hot streaks (Hilliard’s 2019 and Tapia’s 2020) but their entire career packages suggest that these were outliers in small enough samples. Tapia does appear to have a bit more “it could be real” since his was more recent and over a larger sample (206 PAs to 87 PAs) but his lack of HR power (only one last year) mixed with moderate speed make both of these guys middling options without strong upside. Tapia is going off the OF board around No. 80 and Hilliard at No. 115 which is about right but there is probably an owner in your league who thinks both have higher upsides than they really do. Now, someone who does have a good price (not anywhere in the top 120 OFs) is Yonathan Daza. On the surface his .494 OPS in 105 PAs in 2019 is nothing of note. The fact he go no at bats in 2020 makes him seem like a pure depth piece, but when you consider the fact Hilliard and Tapia are lefties (along with Blackmon) and Daza is the only right handed hitting, strong defensive OF and CF on the 40 man roster (Ian Desmond can play the corners, but he’s not get CF platoon at bats). Daza should get the opportunity to mash lefties and as a guy who .364/.404/.548 in his most recent season in the admittedly very offensively friendly PCL. Daza is a very good bet to put up usable numbers when he starts. At his current price (nothing), he’s a very solid buy and his only roadblocks to playing time is a poor spring and the team picking up someone on waivers or on a new minor league deal at the end of Spring Training.
This team has a really funky looking offense. You have one Top 10 talent, one more Top 50 talent, and then some guys who are on your radar but not rostered in a 12-man league. It’s going to be rough few years in Colorado, but when teams are going into a rebuild there are usually some sneaky good buys on players who don’t have superstar potential, and these 2021 Rockies are no different. It’ll be a bad season, but you can win or lose your fantasy league by finding value on teams that are going to have bad seasons.