Rockies Rebuild

The Rockies trading away Nolan Arenado was not surprising.  They are beginning a rebuild around one of the best young shortstops in the game in Trevor Story and to be able to afford his impending free agency, moving on from $215 million seems like a no brainer.  What was really surprising is the reported return for the 5-time All-Star.  The Rockies did not get any of the top 7 prospects in the Cardinals system.  They got one major league ready player in Austin Gomber but injuries and inconsistencies have made him a question mark at best as to what he will be in the future.  Still the Rockies did add more prospect depth to their system and freed up a lot of money, they still have a lot of work to do to raise their farm system ranking (currently 27th).  If they are committed to full rebuild they have a few players that could bring them value.  I am going to rank the best value they have excluding Trevor Story.  

5. Ian Desmond, 35, OF

Three years ago Ian Desmond wouldn’t have been worth the paper his contract was written on. Desmond sat out the 2020 season and is building off of a solid 2019.  Desmond has versatility and an affordable contract for $8 million in 2021.  He has a club option for 2022 which can be exercised if he has a productive season.  Desmond has versatility and power that teams are looking for.  He won’t bring in the top prospect for any organization but his 20 homers over the last two active seasons still gives him value.  He can get a few nice pieces at the lower level, with the current situation the Rockies are in they need a lot of depth.  

4. Kyle Freeland, LHP

Kyle Freeland looked like a pitcher that the Rockies were going to build around after a stellar 2018 season.  The former first round draft pick stumbled hard in 2019 and was up and down in 2020.  Freeland is still just 27-years-old and has arbitration for the next two years.  

Freeland has had trouble getting out right-handed hitters, giving up big power numbers to the opposite side of the plate.  A large portion of those fingers were given up at Coors Field.  Take Freeland out of Coors and he could return to his 2018 form.  If he is anything close to that he can be a great addition for a playoff team looking for a fourth starter with years of potential.  

3. Scott Oberg, RHP

Scott Oberg dealt with some serious injuries in the 2020 season, which forced him to miss the entire year.  The 30-year-old right hander began a throwing program in November and should be ready to go for 2021. Oberg’s last two active seasons he was a high level reliever in a place that is not friendly for pitchers.  Oberg had two straight seasons with elite level ERA+ with 193 (2018) and 230 (2019).  Oberg will be a commodity if healthy at the trade deadline.  If he comes back from his injury and shows the ability that he has he can be a great trade deadline piece for a team that needs bullpen help.   

2. Charlie Blackmon, OF 

Charlie Blackmon has been a part of trade rumors for multiple seasons. Blackmon has two years left on his current contract with $44 million due.  His player option for the next two seasons makes him a gamble for most teams, which will reduce the cost on the market for the 34-year-old.  

Blackmon is still an effective player at the plate.  He is matchup proof, having no problem with lefties, crushing 14 homers against them in 2019.  His numbers away from Coors Field are always a question mark, but his OPS in away games is still above league average and his ability to play multiple OF spots also makes him an asset.   

1. German Marquez, RHP

German Marquez is a 25-year-old starter with three years left on his current contract.  He has 41 wins over the last four years.  Marquez has great swing and miss stuff that will translate to any team and any park.  Over the last three seasons Marquez has featured an xFIP of 3.83 or below. His contract has two years left on it with a third year club option, any organization that makes a move for him will get him in his prime years for his second contract.  

Marquez is an asset, he has the most potential of anyone on the Rockies pitching staff.  Teams like the Twins, Yankees, Braves and Rays are all loaded in the farm system and could really use more starting pitching help.  

Preview and Predictions for AL first round.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Toronto Blue Jays

The Tampa Bay Rays took the #1 seed in the American League by playing every matchup perfectly throughout the season.  Dealing with injuries up and down the lineup and rotation they seemed to find the right mixes to be successful no matter what.  They will face an opponent that knows them very well in the Toronto Blue Jays.  

The Blue Jays have a powerful lineup, seeing a surge from Lourdes Gourriel Jr. over the last month to go along with Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero and Teoscar Hernandez.  Toronto actually has the advantage on the offensive side, averaging 5 runs per game.  The Blue Jays offense will be the lone advantage they have in this series.

Tampa Bay marches out a rotation of Blake Snell in GM1, Tyler Glasnow in GM2 and Charlie Morton in GM3.  Their rotation along with the best bullpen in baseball will be enough to hold down the Toronto offense.  Tampa Bay’s offense plays the matchup game very well and will be too much for the Blue Jays. Toronto’s best chance will be in game two when they have off-season signing Hyun Jin Ryu who brings some experience in a playoff setting, but the Rays have some great right-handed bats that will thrive. Rays are built for this situation. 

Pick: Rays in 2

Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees

The Yankees narrowly avoided a matchup with their “daddys” in 2020 the Tampa Bay Rays.  Instead they get the Cleveland Indians and potential MVP and guaranteed Cy Young winner Shane Bieber in game one.  Bieber versus Cole in game one will be a classic matchup of two bulldog pitchers that will go deep in the game and the first one to miss a spot is going to likely give up the game. The big problem for the Indians is that their lineup doesn’t feature nearly the amount of hitters that can provide the big pop when needed. 

Cleveland’s pitching will give them a chance but their team batting average of .228 and a major lack of power ranking 27th in the league in team ISO.  Jose Ramirez has carried the offense of late but he will need help against the powerful Yankee bats.  New York is healthy again and has the horses in the bullpen to clean up any trouble the starters run into.  Indians don’t have enough to pull this one out. 

Pick: Yankees in 3

Minnesota Twins vs. Houston Astros

The Twins have not won a playoff game in a very long time, losing 16 straight playoff games dating back to 2004.  This series should give the Twins their first game win and series win.  The Astros have dealt with a loss of injuries in 2020, yet somehow found themselves in the playoff due the new expansion. Houston has been offensively challenged at times in 2020.  Recently seeing a resurgence of power with George Springer and Alex Bregman.  Still the Astros have a team ISO ranking 18th in the league and team batting average of .240 ranking 20th in the league.  

Minnesota has the advantage with their rotation for the first two games going with Kenta Maeda and Jose Berrios in the first two games.  At this point the Astros have only announced Zack Greinke as their game one starter with the other TBD.  Minnesota loves right handed pitching, as a team they are #1 in the league in overall home run percentage versus righties.  That is a big factor in the Minnesota offense as they are a team that thrives on scoring runs due to the long ball.  

The Astros haven’t announced who will start game 2 or game 3 yet, my money would go on Framber Valdez to offset Minnesota’s dominant numbers against right handed pitching. The Twins have more depth in the bullpen, rotation and lineup.  They have to get over the mental hump of consistent playoff losses.  They have the talent and should make quick work of the injury riddled Houston Astros. 

Pick: Twins in 2

Oakland Athletics vs Chicago White Sox

I’ve reviewed the Oakland Athletics numbers over and over again and still can’t figure out how the Athletics score runs.  Horrible seasons from Matt Olson, Khris Davis, Marcus Semien and Ramon Laureano, coupled with losing Matt Chapman for the season has left the lineup underwhelming. The pitching staff has stepped up to mask the offensive problems.  The Athletics bullpen has been impressive, leading to the Athletics having a record of 27-0 when leading after the 7th inning.  Liam Hendricks, Yusmeiro Petit, and Jake Diekmann have been lights out for the Athletics all season.  

The Athletics are going to go with Sean Manaea in game one despite the immaculate White Sox record against left-handed pitching. Breakout starter Chris Bassit will likely pitch game 2. Oakland is going to have to get a lead early and that will be tough against the White Sox top two starters Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel. 

The White Sox offense is better in nearly every single position bat for bat and if they are able to grab a lead I can’t see the Athletics offense being able to come back.   Chicago has found a niche in the back end with Alex Colome being set up by Matt Foster, Aaron Bummer and their new weapon rookie Garrett Crochet.  The White Sox have more talent and better pitching.  The Athletics have the experience.  The talent will win out in a short series.  

2020 MLB Breakout Candidates

Dinelson Lamet, P,  San Diego Padres

Dinelson Lamet quietly had a dominant second half of the 2019 season.  Lamet averaged 12.9 K/9 ranking third just behind Gerrit Cole and Chris Sale.  From July 18 – Sept 18 Lamet lowered his ERA by nearly three runs while opponents hit just .224 against him. Lamet brings a 96mph fastball to go along with a devastating slider that held hitters to a .129 batting average last year. Surprisingly Lamet’s biggest concern was his troubles in his home park, hitter friendly Petco Park was not kind to him.  Giving up a 5.25 ERA and a surprising .432 slugging percentage.  

At just 24 years old the Padres have a potential ace to continue to progress along with fellow flame thrower Chris Paddick.  Lamet’s biggest issue is his control averaging 3.71 walk per nine last season, actually improving from his career mark of 4.04.  Lamet brings ace caliber stuff to a team that should be much improved in 2019 with the full time production of Fernando Tatis Jr.  Lamet will be a steal for fantasy owners as well as the Padres. Big things are coming for him in 2020. 

Jesus Luzardo, P, Oakland Athletics

Luzardo would have cracked the Athletics rotation out of spring in 2019 if an injury hadn’t derailed his season.  The 22-year old Luzardo eventually had his chance during the tail end of last season and immediately made an impact with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings and showing the ridiculous stuff that have baseball scouts drooling.

Luzardo is projected to be the 4th starter for the A’s which means he will daily be matched up with pitchers that don’t even scratch the surface of his ability.  Luzardo has the stuff to become an ace as long as he stays healthy.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr, INF, Toronto Blue Jays

Gurriel has serious holes in his game. His 25% strikeout rate and his subpar defense are both things that need to be improved on.  Despite his issues Gurriel still brings a lot of power to the table, 20 homers in just 84 games last year show’s what he has the possibility to do in a full season.  Gurriel’s .264 ISO and .541 SLG allow him to be in the middle of any lineup. The Blue Jays have a young core of hitters Vlad Guerrero Jr, Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette are the headliners of the organization while Gurriel is still just 24 year old and will be a mainstay in the lineup for years to come. 

Austin Hays, OF, Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles have become the 76ers of baseball.  Since losing the 2016 wild card game Baltimore went into the cellar of the AL East and the entire league.  The Orioles moved all players with any major league success in order to rebuild the organization from the bottom. Austin Hays ranked as high as the 21 in the MLB Pipeline prospect rankings.  Hays got a surprisingly September call up in 2019 and he immediately paid off. 309/.373/.574 in 21 games during the month forced the organization to move quickly inserting Hays as the prospect to watch heading into 2020.  

Hays will have the chance to start the year in th majors during the upcoming season.  His defense in center along with his potential should make him a pre-season candidate for AL Rookie of the Year.

David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies

David Dahl has been a preseason favorite of mine for a number of years.  2020 seems like the time for Dahl to take the next step. Injuries have continually derailed Dahl’s potential.  From 2016-2019 Dahl played only 63, 77 and 100 games, missing the entire season in 2017. Dahl’s splits favor Coors field as do many of the players that wear the Rockie uniform, he still brings together a great mix of power and speed. What sets Dahl apart from others is his ability to produce versus both lefties and righties.  His slugging percentage and batting average are similar no matter who he is facing.  

A healthy David Dahl will be placed right in the middle of the Rockies lineup either right behind Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story or right before them.  It really doesn’t matter what part of the lineup Dahl ends up, if he is able to stay healthy he will be in for a season that should make him a household name by the end of the season.

Honorable Mention:

Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers (Get well soon)

Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays

Milwaukee Brewers 2020 Season Outlook

The Milwaukee Brewers made it to the National League Wild Card game in 2019 thanks to a dominant second half of the season.  The Brewers went an amazing 42-29 in the second half propelling them into the playoffs and nearly catching the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead.  What made this even more amazing is that they had much of their success without the league’s MVP Christian Yelich. 

Key Losses:  

Position Players: Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames and Trent Grisham


Pitchers: Jordan Lyles, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Drew Pomeranz and Junior Guerra

Key Additions: 

Position Players: Luis Urias, Jedd Gyroko, Omar Narvaez, Avisail Garcia and Ryon Healy

Pitchers: Eric Lauer, Josh Lindblom and Brett Anderson

Lineup Questions:

How do you replace Yasmani Grandal?

Yasmani Grandal signed a bargain deal with Milwaukee in 2019, he paid off his price giving the Brewers a 5.2 WAR, ranked just second behind JT Realmuto.  Grandal was a major reason that the Brewers were able to handle the loss of Yelich providing stability in the middle and sometimes top of the order.  

With Grandal out the Brewers went out and added Omar Narvaez.  LOVE this move. Narvaez is the perfect replacement on the offensive end for Grandal.  Quietly one of the best upcoming offensive catchers in all of baseball, Narvaez smashed 22 homers last season in Seattle and was able to produce a comparable slash line with Grandal

Grandal: .246/.380/.466

Narvaez: .278/.353/.460

Narvaez doesn’t bring the pitch framing that Grandal does but he is serviceable and will be a perfect split with defensive minded Manny Pina in 2020.

Whos on the corners? 

Milwaukee will have to replace all of their corner infield players in 2020.  Ryan Braun will be moving to first base a position he has little experience playing while third base projects to be a mix of the returning Eric Sogard, Luis Urias and Jedd Gyroko.  

Eric Sogard is coming off of a career season splitting time between the Blue Jays and Rays, providing both teams with a consistent bat finishing with a 2.8 WAR.  Sogard will likely be primarily a 3B/SS option for Milwaukee as they have established Keston Hiura as the face of the franchise along with Christian Yelich.  

The Brewers would love for Luis Urias to take over 3rd base.  Urias could see time at shortstop if Orlando Arcia is not able to hit at the major league level.  Picking up Urias was a great move by the organization, adding a guy that was recently a top 35 prospect. Arcia has shown the ability to be a defensive force but the offense has not had an impact on the major league level. I could see Urias being the full time shortstop by the end of the 2020 season.

Does the rotation have enough to compete?

Milwaukee has found success without the need of a strong rotation for two years.  They have found a way to piece together wins by getting the most out of the starters they have and utilizing a stellar bullpen. 2020 will see a similar approach.  The rotation will be headlined by 2019 All Star Brandon Woodruff. Woodruff was establishing himself as the ace of the staff before an oblique injury sidelined him for most of the second half of the season.  With Woodruff the Brewers have a starter that they can build their rotation around. The organization moved on from mainstays Zach Davies and Chase Anderson in the offseason to open up spots for a few question marks. 

The projected rotation at the moment according to ESPN and Rotochamp would be Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Josh Lindblom, Brett Anderson, Eric Lauer and Brent Suter.  If you were counting that would be six names for five spots. The Brewers will most likely go with a five man rotation but outside of Woodruff the pitchers behind him have not been known for their ability to pitch long into games.   

The most intriguing players that will be given a chance would be former Padre Eric Lauer, 25, has the most potential of the projected starters.  Lauer is still young and was able to provide a terrible Padres squad with a 2.4 WAR in 2019 but his xFIP was pedestrian at 4.77. If Lauer can handle the smaller confines of Miller Park he should be a valuable piece in the long term for Milwaukee.  

Josh Lindblom is an interesting piece to the puzzle.  2019 saw a revitalization of his career while pitching in the KBO, receiving the Most Valuable Player award.  Lindblom has spent time in the majors with four different clubs most recently with the Pirates in 2017. Can he have similar success as pitchers like Miles Mikolas have had after seemingly reinventing themselves in other leagues?  Only time will tell. 

The Brewers rotation will be the biggest question as they head into spring training.  Their success beyond just the division will be determined by their health and progression.

Conclusion

The Brewers made a lot of changes in the offseason.  Players like Avisail Garcia and Omar Narvaez should thrive in more hitter friendly atmospheres. A full year of Keston Huira and  Christian Yelich being healthy for opening day should also be a spark to the offense. Josh Hader and company will be great as they have been for the last few years.  It’s about the rotation, if the rotation can take big strides in 2020 Milwaukee will be a force in the central again.  

If the Brewers find themselves in need of help going into the trade market they will have some problems as they have depleted what was once a very promising farm system.  Currently they rank 29th in baseball according to Bleacher Report. This team is built to compete right now, they are young and have a terrific manager in Craig Counsell. I would project them as a clear contender for a Wild Card spot heading into the season, anything past that would be a surprise.

A “Rockie” bullpen

The Colorado Rockies found themselves in the National League Wild Card game in 2017, losing to the Diamondbacks.  The players looked at the season as a huge step forward for a young club.  With young starters like Jon Gray, Chad Bettis and Tyler Anderson carrying the load of the rotation as well as a offense packed with talent the Rockies had a clear hole to fill in the back end of the bullpen.  They needed depth and a new closer, enter Wade Davis.  Davis and Colorado agreed to a three-year, $52 million contract. The deal included a four-year vesting option that could take the total value up to $66 million if he finishes 30 or more games in the 2020 season.  The former Royal and Cub signed a historic contract pundits of the deal called it a classic “Coors overpay”.  Fans of the contract saw the final piece of a potential championship puzzle.

Davis joined free agent signee former Indian Bryan Shaw (3year, $27million) and the resigning of Jake McGee (3year, $27million). Along with the rebranded and dominating Adam Ottavino the Rockies thought they had shaped a bullpen that would be able to handle the pressures of Coors Field.  Unfortunately for Colorado their bullpen has been more rocky then the mountains they were named after.

If you exclude Ottavino the other top five Rockies bullpen arms based on usage:

Bryan Shaw 39 games, 7.08ERA, -1.5 WAR

Jake McGee 30 games, 5.40ERA, -0.1 WAR

Chris Rusin 23 games, 7.45ERA, -0.6 WAR

Mike Dunn  23 games, 9.00ERA, -0.5 WAR

Wade Davis 30 games, 4.55ERA, 0.3 WAR

Five players making a combined $130 million in contracted salary have combined to make the worst bullpen in the entire league with a combined ERA of 5.75.  Davis leads the league in blown saves followed directly behind him is Bryan Shaw, both have 4 blown saves for a team that is still looking to fight their way into a playoff spot.  Davis has also been uncharacteristically wild during the first two months of the season, sporting a 33.6 percent Zone% that is the second-lowest among qualified relievers.

The Rockies cannot blame the entirety of their troubles on their bullpen.  The starting rotation hasn’t been top level and the offense has been nearly non-existent at times during the season.  The Dodgers have had early season struggles and the Diamondbacks have been falling off from their red hot start.  The Rockies are still in the mix for the National League West despite being four games under .500. Colorado will need a drastic turn around from their bullpen to have a chance to make up ground with in the division.

The Nationals made the first move to improve themselves before the All-Star break acquiring Royals Closer Kelvin Herrara.  With some much money locked up in their current relievers its seems unlikely the Rockies will be able to go outside the organization for help.  They will have to rely on their players to overcome their problems.  There is hope despite recent struggles Wade Davis has had his moments including 18-20 saves before June as well as holding hitters to a .274 Xwoba at dreaded Coors field.  Adam Ottovino has established himself as a dominate reliever.  Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee are not young players, you would have to believe that they will find a way to figure out what is going wrong.

The NL West has done one of the worst things they can possibly do, allow a team that has underperforming talent stick around.  If the Rockies find a way to fix their bullpen they will leave their mark on the National League soon.