Analyzing Colorado Rockies Hitters for 2020
After a fun 2018 season that was shockingly led by a solid pitching staff, the Colorado Rockies disappointed in 2019. The team finished 71-91, while its pitchers struggled, and its hitters, on the whole, dealt with the dreaded Coors Field splits.
Due to their home field, any hitter who will get any semblance of playing time is worth looking at in fantasy drafts. I’ll make sure to acknowledge home and away splits for each player below, in order to give an accurate portrayal of the hitter you would be drafting.
Last Updated: 10/29/2019
- ADDITIONS: N/A
- SUBTRACTIONS: Yonder Alonso (First Base), Drew Butera (Catcher), Chris Iannetta (Catcher), Mark Reynolds (First Base)
Tony Wolters (C | Batting 8th)
2019: 42 R, 1 HR, 42 RBI, 0 SB, .262/.337/.329 | C #27
2020 ADP: undrafted (C #28+)
The Rockies sent out a battery platoon consisting mainly of Tony Wolters, Chris Iannetta, and Drew Butera in 2019. The latter two were dreadful, putting up 70 and 7 wRC+ in 52 and 16 games, respectively. Both Iannetta and Butera will depart from the team in the offseason, seemingly leaving the backstop duties to Wolters. I would be surprised if the Rockies target a free-agent catcher such as Robinson Chirinos, Jason Castro, or Travis d’Arnaud, but for now, we’ll assume Wolters will be the primary starter in 2020.
As the primary Colorado catcher in 2019, Wolters was…fine. He has never had any power, and not even the 2019 Juiced Ball™ could solve that, as he hit a single round-tripper in 121 games. Wolters did manage to hit .262 with a .337 on-base percentage, which are pretty good figures for a catcher. All that said, he just is not exciting. He would make for a decent second catcher in two-catcher leagues since he won’t kill your batting average and should get playing time due to his above-average defensive skills. However, you can do a heck of a lot better than Wolters.
Weaknesses: Everything else (HR, R, RBI, SB)
Maybe Coors Field blesses Wolters with a .350+ BABIP and he hits .280+. He might even hit a career-high four home runs. He’s probably not worth drafting, but he may be a regular streamer option
He loses his starting role due to being an easily replaceable bat. He’s probably not worth drafting, nor will he ever be picked up. He’ll just sit there gracing the waiver wire with his mustache all season.
2020 Projection: 38 R, 2 HR, 41 RBI, 0 SB, .251/.324/.315
Daniel Murphy (1B | Batting 5th)
2019: 56 R, 13 HR, 78 RBI, 1 SB, .279/.328/.452 | 1B #28
2020 ADP: 183 (1B #21)
When the Rockies signed Daniel Murphy before 2019, many baseball analysts were very excited to see what he could do in Coors Field. There were whispers of a .340 batting average. I was among those who were excited, ranking Murphy 58th overall and sixth at 1B going into 2019. However, after a season mired with injury and general disappointment, Murphy wound up as the 21st most valuable first baseman, playing only 132 games, and sitting against many left-handed starters.
The decision to platoon Murphy is perplexing, as he was actually notably better against left-handers (.320 AVG, .372 wOBA) than righties (.263 AVG, .310 wOBA) in 2019. Hopefully, the Rockies realize this and give him full playing time in 2020.
Murphy was subject to the Coors splits as much as anyone, hitting .317 at home and .237 on the road in 2019. Oddly enough, he hit 10 of his 13 home runs on the road. Taking a closer look, it appears Murphy took a different approach on the road. It’s clear from the table below that Murphy was swinging for the fences away from Coors Field, hitting 42% of his balls in the air and 41.4% to the pull side. At home, he preferred a contact-heavy approach, more often hitting the ball on the ground and spraying it all over the field. This will be a very interesting trend to keep an eye on early in 2020. I think the best version of Murphy will look more like the contact-oriented hitter we saw at home.
Despite the down year, 35-year-old Murphy still has solid upside, especially as a batting average stud. He had a .307 BABIP in 2019, while the Rockies’ team average was .321. If nothing else, we can expect that to positively regress. The biggest question is whether we can expect him to return to 20-25 homer power we saw in 2016 and 2017. If he can stay healthy, Coors Field can do a lot for players with his contact ability.
Strengths: AVG, R, RBI
Weaknesses: HR?, SB
Murphy stays healthy, plays in 150 games, and hits .320 with 20 home runs and 180+ RBI and runs combined. This scenario doesn’t seem all that unlikely. It hinges mainly on his health, which, as we know, is tenuous as best.
Murphy is hindered by injury throughout 2020, limited to fewer than 100 games. In the time he does get on the field, he is inexplicably platooned with someone like Ryan McMahon or the ghost of Mark Reynolds. I really hope this doesn’t happen, but the Rockies aren’t always the most, erm, logical of organizations.
2020 Projection: 132 games, 87 R, 19 HR, 75 RBI, 1 SB, .301/.373/.479
Ryan McMahon (2B | Batting 6th)
2019: 70 R, 24 HR, 83 RBI, 5 SB, .250/.329/.450 | 2B #25
2020 ADP: 181 (2B #15)
In the 2019 preseason, most of the hype for the Rockies second base slot was centered around Garrett Hampson. However, after an impressive showing in spring training, Ryan McMahon was the one who got the first crack at consistent playing time, a role he did not relinquish throughout 2019. McMahon will go into 2020 eligible at second and third base in all leagues, and first base in Yahoo leagues, though you’ll likely want to play him at second, as it’s easily the thinnest position of the three.
McMahon is an interesting case when trying to predict power. He hits the ball quite hard at 44% (league average was 38% in 2019). However, he has a 51% ground-ball rate, which is very high for a guy who isn’t a contact-oriented speedster. Luckily, when McMahon does hit a fly ball, he hits it very hard, sporting a 55% hard-hit rate. It seems like McMahon could easily take a step forward if he were to join the Fly-Ball Revolution and focus on lifting the ball more often.
Unsurprisingly, McMahon does his best work at home, where he put up a .270 average, .529 slugging percentage, and .358 wOBA. He isn’t completely useless on the road, though; he managed a .226 average, .347 slugging percentage, and .299 wOBA outside Coors Field…maybe he is useless on the road. However, he mashes at home! It’s worth checking his schedule before your lineup locks to avoid weeks when the Rockies spend the whole week away from home.
Strengths: RBI, Home Hitting
Weaknesses: SB, AVG, Road Hitting
McMahon cuts down on his strikeouts while also elevating the ball more, resulting in a higher batting average and more home runs. He plays 155+ games around the Colorado infield and puts up a near .280 average with 30+ homers.
McMahon struggles out of the gate, likely resulting from his 30% strikeout rate creeping ever higher. He begins to lose playing time to Hampson and whichever washed-up veteran the Rockies decide is getting playing time over their young players this week.
2020 Projection: 72 R, 27 HR, 90 RBI, 7 SB, .261/.334/.479
Nolan Arenado (3B | Batting 3rd)
2019: 102 R, 41 HR, 118 RBI, 3 SB, .315/.379/.583 | 3B #3, #9 hitter
2020 ADP: 9 (3B #1)
Nolan Arenado is a generational talent on a Hall of Fame track. A whiz with the glove and a force at the plate, Arenado doesn’t have many weaknesses. In 2019, he hit 41 homers (his fifth consecutive season with 38+ home runs) with 118 RBI and 102 runs (continuing his five-year streak of 210+ RBI and runs combined). He’s really, really good.
The question for 2020 is where in the first round should he be drafted? The five outfielders (Mike Trout, Ronald Acuña Jr., Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger, and Mookie Betts) have been consistently going ahead of him, usually in some order of Nos. 1-5. In my personal rankings, I have Arenado No. 8, preceded by his teammate Trevor Story, Francisco Lindor, Gerrit Cole, and all of the above outfielders except Betts (who is ninth). Arenado is maybe the safest pick in the first round, but he won’t get you any steals like most of the other first-rounders. If you get Arenado with your first pick, make sure to plan on another player or two to get your steals.
Arenado has had years where he is not very good away from Coors Field. 2019 was not one of those years, as he hit .277 and swatted 20 of his 41 homers away from Denver. That said, he is not immune to the Coors Field splits; his home stats are basically just a cheat code. This past season in Colorado, he slashed an obscene .351/.412/.645. No need to worry about sitting Arenado on the road here. Just keep him locked in at third and enjoy every bit of his amazing production.
Strengths: All of it
Weaknesses: Except SB
Arenado outdoes himself, hitting near 50 home runs and pushing 250+ RBI and runs combined. He has the capacity to be a Top Five overall hitter and is as likely as anyone to be the No. 1 third baseman.
The worst-case scenario (outside of catastrophic injury) may be Arenado hitting only 30 home runs with just 90 RBI and runs each. The floor is very high with Nolan, and I think this is very unlikely.
2020 Projection: 104 R, 39 HR, 121 RBI, 2 SB, .303/.369/.581
Trevor Story (SS | Batting 1st)
2019: 111 R, 35 HR, 85 RBI, 23 SB, .294/.363/.554 | SS #2, #5 hitter
2020 ADP: 11 (SS #2)
I want to say this first: Arenado is a better player than Trevor Story. That said, I rank Story higher than Arenado because his skill set is better suited to fantasy baseball. Outside Acuña and Yelich, Story is the most likely player to get a 30-30 season in 2020.
After he posted two years of 35+ home runs, 23+ stolen bases, and a .290+ batting average I have him ranked fifth overall in my 2020 rankings. His power is undeniable, and he is among the fastest players in the game with a 29.2-feet-per-second sprint speed (the fastest player in MLB is D-backs outfielder Tim Locastro with an obscene 30.8 ft/sec). Story has all the tools to continue his superstar performance we’ve seen the past two seasons. He is a no-doubt first-rounder, but early mocks have him going closer to the first-/second-round turn. If this trend continues, he could be a great bargain for managers in the latter half of the draft order.
When it comes to his home-away splits, Story is no more immune than his teammates. However, much like Arenado, his are the difference of good on the road and great at home. Outside Colorado, Story hit .260 with 11 of his 35 home runs (fun fact: Story has hit exactly 11 home runs on the road in each of his four major league seasons thus far). At Coors Field, Story crushed a .328/.402/.662 slash line with 24 homers. His steals come both at home and on the road (11 and 12, respectively, in 2019), so he is definitely worth starting no matter the location.
Strengths: AVG, R, HR, SB
Weaknesses: Can you call 80+ RBI a weakness?
Story continues his impressive power-speed work, hitting around .300 with near 40 homers and pushes 30 steals. I firmly believe Story has the potential to be the No. 1 player in fantasy in 2020.
Story’s strikeout rate creeps back up toward his 2017 figure (34%), limiting his batting average and overall production.
2020 Projection: 128 R, 38 HR, 89 RBI, 29 SB, .297/.367/.581
Brendan Rodgers (INF | Bench)
2019 (AAA): 37 games, 34 R, 9 HR, 21 RBI, 0 SB, .350/.413/.662
2020 ADP: 449 (SS #43)
Brendan Rodgers is an interesting case. He has graced the top end of prospect lists for years and, up until a down season in 2018, was seen as a future cornerstone infielder for the Rockies (prior to Story’s ascension to stardom). It seemed as if Rodgers was having a bounce-back year at the beginning of 2019, prompting a call-up to the majors for his MLB debut. Unfortunately, Rodgers only hit .224 with a 33% strikeout rate in 25 games with the Rockies before he injured his shoulder and was sidelined for the remainder of the season.
It is apparent that Rodgers is a very talented hitter, however, there doesn’t seem to be much of an opportunity for playing time for the 23-year-old. The Rockies are infamous for slow-roasting/ignoring their prospects (see Raimel Tapia and McMahon losing playing time to Ian Desmond), so I would be surprised if we see Rodgers get a true opportunity for regular at-bats without an injury in the infield.
Should he get that opportunity, he could be an NL Rookie of the Year candidate, potentially putting up a slash line in the area of .280/.330/.490 with 20+ homers. If the ball remains juiced, Coors Field could bless him with even better stats! It will be a matter of playing time, health, and continued development for Rodgers. In deeper leagues or NL-Only, he might be worth a very late-round pick as a stash, but he’s likely not a target in standard 12-team leagues.
Strengths: AVG, R
Weaknesses: SB, Playing time
Some injury, trade, or other situation results in Rodgers being given full playing time. He makes the most of it, hitting near .300 with 25+ home runs and vying for the NL Rookie of the Year.
Injuries continue to mire Rodgers’ progress, OR he spends the entire season in Triple-A, OR he gets minimal playing time with the MLB team but continues to disappoint like in 2019.
2020 Projection: 68 games, 47 R, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 3 SB, .254/.297/.398
Charlie Blackmon (RF | Batting 2nd)
2019: 112 R, 32 HR, 86 RBI, 2 SB, .314/.364/.574 | OF #10
2020 ADP: 43 (OF #13)
Charlie “Chuck Nazty” Blackmon is no longer the stolen-base threat he was four to five years ago, but he is still a fantastic hitter in the best hitter’s park. In 2019, Blackmon did his usual thing: getting 630+ plate appearances, hitting for average (.314) and power (32 homers), and scoring a ton of runs (112). Charlie’s underlying hitter profile is much the same as it has been, though he did put the ball in the air a bit more and, like many MLB players in 2019, put up a career-high hard-hit rate.
Looking toward 2020, I expect the 33-year-old to continue his productive play. That said, after only two steals in 2019, it is now clear he isn’t going to be a reliable source of speed. For me, that will push him to the end of the third round or even the fourth. That said, he will likely produce in the other four categories and almost undoubtedly help whichever team drafts him.
Throughout his career, Blackmon has been the poster child for Coors Field splits and 2019 was no exception. At home, he was ridiculous, slashing .379/.435/.739 and hitting 22 of his 32 homers. Away from Colorado, Blackmon was near league average, slashing .256/.299/.432. If one were looking for weaknesses in Blackmon’s game, an argument could be made that he could be left out of your fantasy lineup when he plays on the road. That’s a bit of an overreaction in my opinion, but it will be worth monitoring his away performance in the early months of 2020 in case he slips further.
Strengths: R, AVG, HR, Consistent playing time and health
Blackmon somehow finds his step on the basepaths again, stealing 10-15 bags while batting over .300 and hitting 30+ homers.
He continues to struggle on the road, limiting his overall value and dragging his down his overall numbers to a line closer to .270 and 20 home runs.
2020 Projection: 119 R, 29 HR, 80 RBI, 4 SB, .301/.355/.501
David Dahl (LF | Batting 4th)
2019: 100 games, 67 R, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 4 SB, .302/.353/.524 | OF #53
2020 ADP: 122 (OF #37)
I have a theory. Troy Tulowitzki played his last game as a Colorado Rockie on July 27, 2015. Almost exactly one year later, David Dahl made his MLB debut on July 25, 2016. In that 168-game gap, the team played to a 77-91 record, which was nothing to write home about. I believe that, much like the Starks in Winterfell, there must always be a talented yet ridiculously injury-prone player in Coors Field.
Anyways, Dahl played only 100 games in 2019 after playing just 77 contests in 2018. While he may struggle with health, all he does is produce when he is on the field. He hit .302 with 15 homers, 61 RBI, and 67 runs in his abbreviated 2019 season. If we were to extrapolate those numbers t0 show his production over a full season, he would have had 23 home runs, 95 RBI, and 104 runs in 155 games. Clearly, the talent is there. His value simply depends on his ability to stay on the field. If you plan to draft Dahl, make sure to get a backup outfielder who you’d be comfortable slotting in to replace him when he inevitably misses time.
It’s hard to get a proper gauge on Dahl’s home-away splits since we only have 921 total plate appearances in his MLB career. So, with the caveat of small sample size, it appears that Dahl is no more immune to the Coors effect than his teammates. He hit .349 at home in 2019, compared to .256 on the road (210 vs. 203 PAs, respectively). Similar to his talented teammates, Dahl will put up stud numbers at Coors, but is still worth playing on the road.
Strengths: AVG, R, RBI
Dahl is able to avoid injury in 2020, playing in 150+ games and batting near .300 with 190+ RBI and runs combined.
Dahl spends the majority of the year on the injured list. Unfortunately, I feel like this is not all that unlikely.
2020 Projection: 80 games, 61 R, 15 HR, 56 RBI, 6 SB, .297/.349/.532
Ian Desmond (OF | Batting 7th)
2019: 64 R, 20 HR, 65 RBI, 3 SB, .255/.310/.479 | OF #79
2020 ADP: 302 (OF #79)
Ian Desmond isn’t very good. 2019 was the first time in his career that he stole fewer than 13 bases, totaling a measly three steals. Meanwhile, he continued his mediocre hitting, slashing .255/.310/.479 and hitting 20 homers in 140 games. If I had it my way, Desmond would be traded or released, allowing Hampson and Tapia a shot at regular playing time and consistent development.
Desmond will have to play his way into a regular spot in the lineup in 2020. Both Hampson and Tapia are better fielders than Desmond and have the potential to out-hit him. Maybe the biggest thing Desmond has going for him is the $15 million that the Rockies will pay him in 2020 with a full no-trade clause. Still, if he doesn’t perform better than the two younger outfielders, Desmond can expect to find himself on the bench.
To put it bluntly, Desmond is not worth playing on the road. When he was away from the friendly confines of Coors Field in 2019 he slashed just .216/.263/.394. Yet, in Colorado, he managed a great .293/.353/.560 slash line. The splits here are so drastic, that Desmond is likely no more useful than a streamer when he’s at home.
Strengths: Um…his home park?
Weaknesses: SB, AVG, playing time
Desmond has a renaissance season, improving his launch angle and hitting near .275 with 25+ homers.
Desmond is usurped by Hampson and Tapia, spending the majority of the year on the bench, and totaling fewer than 300 plate appearances.
2020 Projection: 100 games, 53 R, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 7 SB, .241/.303/.419
Garrett Hampson (INF/OF | Batting 7th)
2019: 105 games, 40 R, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 15 SB, .247/.302/.385 | OF #106
2020 ADP: 270 (OF #73)
Hampson was America’s Sleeper™ in 2019 drafts, seen as a great mid-late round flyer for stolen bases and batting average. However, after losing out to Ryan McMahon for he 2B job, Hampson only saw 327 plate appearances this past season. In that limited time Hampson did steal 15 bags while only getting caught three times, but disappointed otherwise. He only hit .247 while striking out 27% of the time.
You need only look at Hampson’s 2018 season at AAA to see the potential that got him drafted within the top 200 players last season. In that AAA season, he played 72 games, slashed .314/.377/.459 while stealing 17 bases in 21 attempts. That is a nearly 40 SB pace, and while we’ve yet to see the batting skills translate to the majors, it’s clear that Hampson is a big threat on the basepaths and the Rockies are willing to let him run.
Finding playing time may be an issue for Hampson at the beginning of the season. However, I think the Rockies may be willing to sit Ian Desmond for Hampson, especially if Hampson improves at the plate. His draft stock has dropped to a late-round pick in 2020, and I’m definitely interested in betting on a 2B/OF eligible player with great speed and a contact-oriented swing playing half his games at Coors.
Weaknesses: RBI, HR, playing time
He takes over regular duties in center field, hitting around .285 while stealing 40+ bases.
We see Hampson continue to struggle at the plate, prompting an extended stint at Triple-A.
2020 Projection: 135 games, 85 R, 9 HR, 49 RBI, 38 SB, .268/.325/.414
Raimel Tapia (OF | Bench)
2019: 138 games, 54 R, 9 HR, 44 RBI, 9 SB, .275/.309/.415 | OF #86
2020 ADP: 465 (OF #117)
Tapia has been a personal favorite player of mine since his prospect days. I’ve always thought his heavily contact-oriented swing would thrive at Coors Field, and I’ve gone on record stating that Tapia will win a batting title if he stays in Colorado (which I 100% still believe). Tapia finally saw semi-consistent playing time in 2019 and fared well, hitting .275 in 447 plate appearances.
Playing time will, of course, be Tapia’s biggest obstacle in 2020, as it has been for much of his career. With Blackmon and Dahl locked into the corners (though Dahl is almost guaranteed at least one IL stint), Tapia is left to contend with Desmond and Hampson for center field. He is a capable defender, but it will likely come down to whether he can outproduce the two at the plate.
Tapia is going undrafted in the majority of leagues, currently being taken 465th overall. He isn’t worth a pick in a standard-sized league, but I think he’d a great late-round target in NL-only leagues. He may not get you much power, but he has the potential to hit near .300 and steal 10+ bags.
Weaknesses: RBI, HR, playing time
Tapia outhits both Desmond and Hampson, hitting near .310 and steals 15 bases. I absolutely believe this is possible in 2020, however unlikely.
Due to a crowded outfield, and likely no real fault of his own, Tapia finds himself back in Triple-A for a large chunk of the season.
2020 Projection: 95 games, 50 R, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 10 SB, .284/.319/.439
Playing Time Battles
As outlined above, the center field job is up for grabs. Desmond will likely get the first shot, but Hampson and Tapia will definitely be pushing for their opportunities as well. A dark horse in that race will be Sam Hilliard, who got an opportunity in September 2019 and made the most of it, slashing .273/.356/.649 with seven homers in 27 games. Hilliard had a massive Triple-A season last year, hitting 35 homers and stealing 22 bases. With so many options, I would not be at all surprised to see the Rockies platoon any of these four throughout the season.
Should McMahon get off to a slow start, either Hampson or Rodgers could get a chance at second base. While I think this is ultimately unlikely, I will be interested to see how playing time up the middle shakes out for the Rockies during spring training.
The Colorado Rockies have a mix of super high-end and middling hitters. The majority of their infield is locked in for regular playing time, while the outfield is almost certain to be a fluid situation (save for Blackmon in right field). Keep an eye on both second base and center field playing time during spring training to see who may be a late-round value pick. As far as potential free-agent signings, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Rox go after a new catcher, but I expect they’ll use the rest of their money to bolster their pitching staff.
The Coors effect will be worth monitoring for any Colorado hitters not named Arenado, Story, or Blackmon, as some hitters may struggle to produce away from Denver.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)