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Updated: 2017-04-25T12:00:01-06:00


The Rockies’ bench is struggling, but it’s about to get better


The impending returns of Ian Desmond, David Dahl, and Tom Murphy should address—either directly or indirectly—one of the Rockies’ main weaknesses. The Colorado Rockies are off to a National League-best 14-6 start and have seen their playoff odds shoot up to 37.8 percent (it’s early, yes, but that figure didn’t eclipse 7 percent in 2016). They’ve been able to take full advantage of terrific defense, an improved bullpen, and an inconsistent-but-explosive starting lineup to go 7-3 both at Coors Field and away from it. The good part of this is that things could be—and may get—even better. Other than the rotation, which currently includes three rookies and has been plagued with injury and inexperience issues from the start, the club’s biggest weakness has been its bench depth. The four players who have made 10 or more trips to the plate—Dustin Garneau, Stephen Cardullo, Alexi Amarista, and Cristhian Adames—have combined to hit just .134 (11-for-82) with five walks and 33 strikeouts. Adames, in particular, has struggled to adjust to his role, starting the season 0-for-10 with five Ks. Colorado’s brass started to address this issue by recently promoting Pat Valaika, whose two-out double in the seventh inning set the stage for Charlie Blackmon’s go-ahead homer in a win over the Washington Nationals on Monday. The Rockies believe Valaika has a bright future as a utility and bench player despite his relatively modest minor league numbers (.261/.311/.414 in five seasons). For them, it’s more about process than the results at this particular development mile marker, and Valaika has earned a reputation for having a strong approach offensively and flashing an above-average glove at multiple positions. Beyond that, the Rockies will soon see the return of Ian Desmond—and, not long after that, David Dahl and Tom Murphy. With Mark Reynolds playing at an absurd level, Desmond likely won’t occupy first base when he joins lineup, instead taking up residence in the outfield. That could push Gerardo Parra, who is playing above-average defense (3 Defensive Runs Saved) to go along with a .327/.364/.462 batting line, to the bench. That scenario could also affect Carlos Gonzalez, perhaps giving the soon-to-be free agent more days off as he continues to navigate through a slow start (.214/.273/.314). Desmond would likely take the roster spot occupied by Cardullo, but adding Dahl to the big league club would be trickier unless Reynolds cools off or the Rockies decide to move him to the bench otherwise. Still, struggling to find a spot for a dynamic player who hit .315/.359/.500 in his first exposure to big league pitching last season is a good problem to have. At worst, Dahl may spend a little extra time getting back into game shape at Triple-A Albuquerque, where in 2016 he punished Pacific Coast League pitchers to the tune of a .484/.529/.887 line prior to his July promotion. Murphy’s path to the 25-man roster is theoretically much clearer. Garneau, in what has been essentially a straight platoon with Tony Wolters, is off to a suboptimal start offensively, hitting .152/.222/.333 in 36 plate appearances. Murphy, based on his minor league pedigree combined with his major league performance in a decent sample (.266/.341/.608 in 88 PAs), would seem to have a leg up on that roster spot once he’s healthy. However, don’t discount Garneau completely as of yet. The Rockies are awfully high on his presence behind the plate, and for good reason: Garneau defensively is a top 10 catcher in all of baseball so far in 2017, according to Fangraphs, and Colorado pitchers have a 2.36 ERA with him receiving as opposed to the 4.74 ERA the club has posted with Wolters serving as the backstop. In short, the Rockies face a few tough decisions once their injured position players are healthy enough to return. But, those tough decisions are good problems to have—and, in almost every scenario, the club will be better at the end of the day regardless of which way it decides to lean. Ah, the power and beauty of depth. [...]

Colorado Rockies bullpen has been surprisingly dominant


What has been the biggest surprise of this bullpen? The Rockies currently own the best record in the National League West and one of the strongest aspects of the team has been the bullpen. Through Sunday, the relief corps has a 2.76 ERA and 2.08 FIP in 62⅔ innings. They’ve excelled where they should, as the group has amassed a league-best 3.76 Win Probability Added (the second place Orioles have put up 2.46 WPA). Free agent acquisition Greg Holland is leading the bullpen with nine saves in nine appearances with a 2.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts per nine innings. Several members of the Purple Row staff recently had a discussion about this surprisingly dominant bullpen. Below is a transcript of that discussion, edited for length and clarity. Question: What has been the most surprising part of the Rockies bullpen thus far? Nick Stephens: I think I'm almost equally as surprised about Scott Oberg as I am about Holland. I didn't think either would be nearly this good. Ryan Schoppe: I think there's been long stretches where I may have been the only person outside of the Rockies coaching staff and his own family that still believed in Oberg. NS: I saw the potential. But he just seemed to have no idea how to reach it. After this weekend watching him pitch, I'm sold on him being decent. RS: I think being the fifth or sixth guy in the pen helps, but he also made some good strides with Daryl Scott right before the injury last season. Jordan Freemyer: I always knew Oberg had the stuff, it was just, “Can he keep it out of the middle of the plate consistently?” NS: If this Oberg is the real Oberg, and he's your 5th or 6th guy, things look very good. RS: Eventually he can be one of the "the guys" but for now getting to pitch in lower leverage situations will help him develop where a walk won't kill him. RS: I think a lot of that was being put in situations where he was falling behind guys and couldn't afford to walk them because of the situation and grooved it. Now he's not falling behind guys as much, and when he does he can walk the guy because the Rockies are up 8-0 JF: The ability to use guys like Oberg and Carlos Estevez in the 6th or 7th instead of the 8th or 9th is huge. Richard Bergstrom: Bud Black seems to have a good gauge on when a pitcher should stay in or come out. Both Oberg and Estevez think Black gives them more confidence than Weiss did. Ryan Freemyer: Black's bullpen management has been nearly perfect so far. RB: I don't know if I'd say perfect. I think he could use Jordan Lyles and Chris Rusin more for some spots. But I've got no right to complain either. RF: Hey now, I didn't say perfect. I said nearly perfect. JF: Black gives everybody more confidence than Weiss did. NS: Even when he left Chatwood in the other week and he gave up a homer, I wasn't even really upset. RF: I loved the other day when he was coming to the mound to pull someone (Mike Dunn?) who had gotten both of his hitters out. You could read his lips saying, "That's what I'm talking about!" He exudes confidence himself, something Weiss never did. NS: I noticed that! So awesome. Also absolutely loves how he personally does mound visits. RS: Getting a good manager and two more really good bullpen arms sure can fix a pen in a hurry. RS: Dunn and Holland replace Jason Motte and Jason Gurka in the pen. That's a pretty big improvement. RB: This pen would've been good even if Holland needed more time this spring. JF: Also Good McGee replacing [redacted] Bad McGee. RS: Funny thing about Jake McGee is I still don't think he's getting the trust. JF: I think he's behind Dunn in the LHP pecking order, but Dunn's earned that. NS: I think Dunn's beard has made him a new pitcher. Should be required to have a beard as a reliever, imo. RS: McGee's appearances are only ahead of Lyles and Rusin. Might have something to do with his spring training regiment getting so screwed up with the World Baseball Classic, though. Add good Oberg, Estevez and Rusin to that pen and it makes Lyles the worst pen arm and even he's doing pretty soli[...]

Isotopes strike early and often to beat Rainiers


Bats come alive to back up a shaky pitching performance The Albuquerque Isotopes have had their issues scoring runs this season. Since taking four of five from Salt Lake to open the year, Albuquerque had scored more than four runs in a game just twice. Then came Monday night, when the Isotopes’ lineup erupted for a 12-8 victory over the visiting Tacoma Rainiers. “You know, this is the (Pacific Coast League), right?” manager Glenallen Hill said. “So we’re going to have games like that in this league.” Once again, it was a matter of throwing the first punch. The Isotopes (9-10) scored five times in the first inning. Raimel Tapia led off with a double, Derrik Gibson singled him home and, two batters later, Noel Cuevas belted a two-run homer to left. Rafael Ynoa added an RBI single and Ryan Hanigan had a sacrifice fly to cap the initial outburst. Tapia’s two-run single highlighted a three-run third. Hanigan scored on a double-play grounder in the fifth. Ynoa had another RBI single and Hanigan another sac-fly in the sixth. Jordan Patterson capped the onslaught with a solo home run in the seventh. “It’s good to see Jordan Patterson grind out some at-bats,” Hill said. “I think if he talked to him, he’d tell you the same thing, just grinding them out. That’s part of what hitters go through.” Cuevas finished 3-for-5, falling a triple shy of the cycle. Ynoa was also 3-for-5. Tapia went 3-for-6. Chris Denorfia was 2-for-3 and walked twice. Hanigan had a single, a walk, two sac flies and was hit by a pitch. Veteran Domonic Brown joined the roster from extended spring training Monday. He started as the designated hitter and went 1-for-4 with two runs and a walk. “Domonic Brown had some good at-bats,” Hill said. “He’s been playing in extended. He’s ready to go.” Albuquerque needed all the runs, as Harrison Musgrave was not terribly sharp on the mound. The lefty only gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks, but he only tossed 4 1/3 innings as it took him 92 pitches to just get that far. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the second (straight) outing that Musgrave was not able to get out of the fifth,” Hill said. “That’s definitely something that we’re going to have to take a look at.” Musgrave threw 55 pitches in the first two innings. “I think if it was more midseason, I think we’d be more OK with him getting to the 90- to 95-pitch mark in the fifth, or giving him some leeway to get through that,” Hill said. Out of the parade of relievers, C.C. Lee (1-0) was the most effective, allowing just one run on two hits and no walks while striking out four across two innings. Rehabbing Rockies reliever Chad Qualls needed 23 pitches to get just two outs in the sixth inning. He gave up three hits, a run and a walk. The Isotopes will wrap up their series with the Rainiers (10-8) today at 11:05 a.m. before taking Wednesday off. A to-be-announced pitcher will start against Tacoma lefty Dillon Overton (1-0, 8.44). [...]

Rockies prospects Ryan McMahon and Yency Almonte take Weekly Awards


Weekly updates, quotes, news, and notes from the Hartford Yard Goats, the Double-A Eastern League affiliate of the Colorado Rockies from April 18 to April 24 The Hartford Yard Goats (7-10) are slowly climbing up the Eastern League standings after a week where they went 4-2. They still find themselves in fourth place, but only three games back of the Portland Sea Dogs (9-6) in the Eastern Division. This week the Goats won with pitching and lost with pitching. In their four wins they allowed a combined six runs, including two shutouts. Unfortunately, in the two loses they allowed a combined 16 runs. The sum total is their ERA improved by a full run in the past week, from 5.45 to 4.32, but they are still second to last in the Eastern League and have still allowed (by far) the most unearned runs in the league (21). Ryan McMahon has actually cooled off a little from his absurd .413/.462/.783 start and is now hitting “just” .391/.443/.667 in 77 plate appearances. True, he is still hitting .405 over his last ten games, so “cooling off” is quite a relative term this early in the season. He has 18 RBI, tops in the EL, and is hanging out at the top of the leaderboard for most offensive categories. It continues to be feast or famine for Ryan Castellani (no. 9 PuRP). On the bright side, he leads the Eastern League in K/9 among starters (10.9). On the other hand, he has been struggling to go deep into games (he hasn’t pitched in the sixth inning since Opening Day) and allowed three more walks in his last start. His 4.79 ERA and 1.31 WHIP aren’t too much higher than his 2016 in Modesto, and there should still be some consideration given to adjusting to Double-A hitters. There’s more on Yency Almonte (no. 12 PuRP) below but suffice it to say his transition to Double-A has gone swimmingly. He still owns one of the best ERAs (1.53) and WHIPs (0.91) in the league, and is only behind teammate Castellani in K/9 (10.7). Dom Nuñez (no. 14 PuRP) has managed to raise his batting line from a putrid .091/.259/.227 to a merely bad .121/.293/.303. Really, he just had a 2-for-11 week but one of those was a home run, meaning half of his four hits have now gone for round trippers. Parker French (no. 26 PuRP) continued his run of success at Double-A. In his lone start this week on April 21 he went six innings and allowed one earned run on six hits and two walks. He didn’t have a strikeout and now has a 8:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 161⁄3 innings to go with his 2.76 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. Honorable mention PuRP Jack Wynkoop made two starts last week. On April 18 he struck out one and allowed seven earned runs in five innings. On April 24 he struck out two and allowed zero earned runs in eight innings. So clearly Jack should try striking out more batters. It’s science. New Rockies relief prospect James Farris is tied to the team lead with seven relief appearances; he’s allowed just two runs in eight innings so far and is one of three Yard Goats to have recorded a save in 2017. Max White continues to be the most reliable hitter not named Ryan McMahon in Hartford’s lineup. He had two three-hit games last week, including a 3-for-5 performance against New Hampshire on April 23 where he also hit a home run. Spotlight On: Goats sweep Eastern League weekly awards McMahon and Almonte Win Weekly Awards | Eastern League Those good weeks mentioned above? Folks outside of the Goats organization have taken notice. For the period from April 17 to April 23, Ryan McMahon was selected the Eastern League Player of the Week thanks in part to his huge 5-for-7 with 6 RBI game on April 17. Mac was astounding last week, going 11-for-25 with a homer, two doubles, a triple, and, in case you thought it was a pretty one dimensional performance, added four walks and two stolen bases for good measure. As we stated last week, this is exactly what you want to see out of a player repeating a level, even a level as challenging as Double-A. Honored for the same timespan, Y[...]

Rockies pitching prospect Peter Lambert puts on a clinic



Rockies farm and prospect report for games from April 24, 2017

Twenty-year-old Peter Lambert has been on a lot of radars since his great full season debut last season. In Asheville, Lambert racked up a 2.97 ERA through his first half, showing excellent ability to command the zone. Dominating hitters sometimes as much as three years older than him, Lambert impressed both fans and scouts alike with an exciting season.

This year, in the much more hitter friendly California League, Lambert has continued to show dominance and an exciting ability to keep runs off the scoreboard. Last night was no different. The former second round pick threw six strong innings in Stockton, striking out ten and only allowing four hits.

Allowing only two runs (both on solo homers), Lambert kept Stockton off the base paths all night and showed improved wipe-out pitches with the 10 strikeouts. Lambert now has 25 strikeouts in 22 innings for Lancaster and sports a very pretty 2.45 ERA.

Lancaster unfortunately couldn’t pick up the win for Lambert. They lost on a walk-off single and fell to 7-11 on the season.

Other news and notes from around the affiliates are below:

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 12, Tacoma Rainiers 8

Raimel Tapia (No.4 PuRP): 3-for-6, 2B, 2 RBI

Jordan Patterson (No.13 PuRP): 1-for-4, HR

Harrison Musgrave (No.25 PuRP): 4 13 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 K

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 5, Portland Sea Dogs 0

Ryan McMahon (No.7 PuRP): 2-for-5, R

Jack Wynkoop: 8 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 2 K

Drew Weeks: 2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI

Single-A Advanced: Stockton Ports 4, Lancaster JetHawks 3

Brendan Rodgers (No.1 PuRP): 1-for-4 (season debut)

Peter Lambert (No.11 PuRP): 6 IP, 10 K, 0 BB, 2 R

Single-A: Columbia Fireflies 3, Asheville Tourists 2

Riley Pint (No.3 PuRP): 3 IP, 3 H, 2 R 3 K (struck out Tim Tebow)

Jose Gomez (No. 30 PuRP): 3-for-5, 2B, 3B

Willie Abreu: 2-for-4

Tuesday Probables:

Triple-A Albuquerque: TBD vs. Tacoma

Double-A Hartford: Yency Almonte (1-0, 1.53 ERA) vs. Portland

Single-A Advanced Lancaster: TBD vs. Stockton

Single-A Asheville: Alejandro Requena (0-0, 0.49 ERA) vs. Columbia

Rockies prospect German Marquez to start tonight and Ian Desmond injury update


Colorado Rockies news, notes and links for Tuesday, April 25 German Marquez to start for Rockies vs. Nats | What everyone has been suspecting for the last week finally became official (almost). German Marquez will be filling in for Rockies ace Jon Gray. Thanks to a pair of off days, the Rockies have used a four-man rotation since Gray was placed on the 10-day DL. While Marquez joined the team last night, he has not yet been added to the active roster, so expect a move later today. Cristhian Adames being designated for assignment or Pat Valaika being optioned are the two most likely options. Marquez will be on a 90-pitch limit as he continues to get stretched out. Thankfully the Rockies have a well rested bullpen so it shouldn’t be a problem. Rockies' Ian Desmond takes batting practice | Ian Desmond took his first batting practice of 2017 and the results were very good Ian Desmond takes live BP for first time since injury at spring training #rockies— Jenny Cavnar (@jennycavnar) April 24, 2017 The Rockies plan for Desmond to continue to take batting practice with the team and then travel to Arizona with them, where the surgeon that operated on his hand is. If things go well he will start his rehab shortly thereafter. Are the Rockies and Diamondbacks about to take over the NL West? | FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal explores the new order in the NL West and whether or not the two upstarts have what it takes to take down the old guard. The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have the two largest payrolls in the National League. However, the Rockies and Diamondbacks appear to have their number. Not only are they sitting ahead of them in the standings they have earned those positions by beating the Dodgers and Giants frequently. Real or not? Nationals make statement, Rockies best in West | ESPN Prior to their four-game series that started last night with a Rockies win, ESPN broke down what was the two hottest teams in baseball. The Rockies appear to be the real deal so far this season, and while some things, like their perfect record in one-run games, will not last, there’s a lot of the good kind of regression from the offense that should compensate for it. Why April is Different for the 2017 Rockies Than Years Past | Rox Pile Rox Pile delves deeper into why the Rockies are not the mirage of years past. This has not been a case of everything going right for the Rockies. They’ve suffered their fair share of injury luck and bad offensive performances. However, the bullpen has been a huge neutralizing force. MLB Power Rankings: A major shake-up in the top 10 | FOX Sports Ranking the MLB teams after Week 3 of the season | Don’t look now but the Rockies are making some significant headway in convincing the national media that they are here to stay. [...]

Colorado Rockies rally for 8-4 win over Washington Nationals



The offense and bullpen picked up Tyler Anderson after a rough top of the sixth.

The Colorado Rockies continued their winning ways, taking their seventh victory in eight games with an 8-4 win over the Washington Nationals.

With the win, the Rockies move to 14-6, the best record in the National League, just percentage points behind Baltimore for the best record in baseball.

Tony Wolters got the Rockies on the board against Nationals starter Jacob Turner with a single to drive in Carlos Gonzalez, who had a base hit earlier in the inning. It was the first of three hits on the night for Wolters, who raised his average to .351 this season.

The game remained 1-0 in the Rockies’ favor as starter Tyler Anderson cruised through the first five innings, allowing just two hits and a walk. However, Anderson ran into trouble in the sixth, allowing three straight hits with one out to give Washington a 2-1 lead. After he retired Daniel Murphy, a two-run home run by Ryan Zimmerman chased Anderson from the game and gave the Nationals a 4-1 lead.

Fortunately, the Rockies also got to Turner in the sixth, as a Nolan Arenado triple (yes, you read that correctly) set the table for a two-run home run by Mark Reynolds that cut the Rockies’ deficit to 4-3.

After reliever Carlos Estevez retired the Nationals in order in the top of the seventh, the Rockies took the lead in the bottom half. With two outs, pinch hitter Pat Valaika doubled and Charlie Blackmon hit a two-run home run against Washington reliever Enny Romero, giving the Rockies a 5-4 lead.

The Rockies blew the game open in the bottom of the eighth, starting the inning with five straight singles against Nationals reliever Blake Treinen, extending the lead to 7-4. The Rockies added an eighth run on a ground out by Blackmon, taking a four-run lead.

Closer Greg Holland came on in the ninth, and despite allowing a double and a walk, finished off the 8-4 win.

The Rockies will look for their fifth straight win on the homestand tomorrow night, with a pitcher to be determined (likely German Marquez) taking on the Nationals’ Joe Ross. First pitch will be at 6:40 p.m. Mountain time.

Colorado Rockies prospect Brendan Rodgers reinstated from disabled list



Rodgers is expected to make his season debut this week

Brendan Rodgers has been reinstated from the minor-league disabled list. Rodgers is expected to make his Lancaster debut this week according to Jason Schwartz, the Lancaster JetHawks broadcaster. After missing the JetHawks opening-day game with a hand injury, Rodgers was placed on the seven-day disabled on April 7.

The Rockies are pretty close-mouthed about minor-league injury information, so we may or may not get any more details about the severity or even type of injury that one of his hands suffered. Hopefully, the length of the stay on the disabled list was due to the Rockies being cautious with their top prospect and Rodgers will have no lasting effect. And in any case, his playing time and performance will offer a good indication of his health.

Voted the number one PuRP in Purple Row’s prospect rankings, Rodgers was also the consensus top prospect in the Rockies system this past offseason among national publications. He is also widely considered one of the top 15 prospects in all of baseball.

Rodgers was expected to post some ridiculousness with the bat in the extreme hitting environment that is Lancaster. While his debut has been delayed, he still has a lot of time to perform up to those expectations.