Friday, October 22, 2010

Grading the 2010 Colorado Rockies infielders and outfielders

Despite a tough season from most Colorado Rockies at the plate, there still was quite a bit for fans to be happy about. However, that joy is quickly doused by the reality of the young players under performance.

The offensive highlights of the season for the Rockies came from the two players who have not only proven to be great Colorado Rockies players, but have shown themselves to be two of the best young players in the game.

On July 31st, Carlos Gonzalez led the Rockies to victory when he drove a high fastball 464 feet into the third deck in right field. The home run propelled the club to a walk-off win and Gonzalez to his first-ever cycle.

The other memorable moment from Rockies hitters was Troy Tulowitzki's September for the record books.

By the middle of the month, Tulo had 13 home runs and 30 RBIs. The Rockies record for home runs in a month was 12 and RBIs was 34. The shortstop obliterated both of those records, cooling off slightly and finishing with 15 home runs and 40 RBIs. The hot streak was so incredible that analysts were talking about him having a chance to win the MVP, despite missing 33 games with a broken wrist.

Without further adieu, here are the Rockies infielder and outfielder grades for the 2010 season.

Carlos Gonzalez- A

The 24-year old finally showed what all the scouts have been raving about since he was a teenager. His .336 batting average was good enough for the National League batting crown. On top of that, he finished with 34 home runs and 117 RBIs. His OPS was an incredible .974 despite walking only 40 times. There might be some talk about how Gonzalez isn't a great fielder, despite him only committing one error. Throw that talk out, however, as defensive metrics don't tell the true story. Gonzalez passes the eye test in the outfield. He is one of the best in the game.

Many fans are already wondering why the Rockies haven't locked him up to a long-term deal before he gets too expensive. The answer is simple. Gonzalez is represented by Scott Boras. What that means is that there is little to no chance that Gonzalez will ink his name to a long-term deal in the next four years. For Rockies fans, Gonzalez might not be with Colorado forever, but enjoy the ride, this kid is the real deal.

Troy Tulowitzki- A

Rockies fans can only wonder what might have been had Tulo not been out for 33 games in the middle of the season with a broken wrist. Expect him to finish in the top five in the MVP race. The shortstop in no product of Coors Field either. He hit 12 of his 27 home runs on the road and put up a batting average of .291 despite rarely having anyone on to protect him. Keep in mind, no one in the Yankees starting lineup hit over .300, at home or on the road.

Tulowitzki is the undisputed leader of the Colorado Rockies and it is clear that as Tulo goes, so go the Rockies.

Melvin Mora- B

Mora was brought in to be a guy who could play a wide variety of positions. After a month, it was clear that he belonged nowhere near second base. However, he still played a large part in the Rockies success. He was one of the few players on the team who could be counted on to take a professional at-bat. He fouled pitches off when he was behind in the count and hit the opposite way. With Ian Stewart failing to take the next step forward, Mora was able to fill in the holes and provide a good right-handed bat in the lineup. Mora could be back if the Rockies fail to get a right handed power bat through free agency.

Dexter Fowler- B

Fowler getting a B might turn some heads. There is no doubt that he struggled early on, warranting his demotion to Triple-A for a month. However, what he did from there on out was what was impressive. Instead of whining about being sent down, he took the opportunity to slow the game down and learn. He came back and was a completely different player. He was able to hit from the left side and had confidence at the plate. In addition to what he brought to the plate, he also played incredibly in center field. Down the stretch he robbed three home runs, including two game savers, one against the Cubs and the other against the Brewers.

Ryan Spilborghs- B

Spilborghs is one of those guys that everyone wants to have on their team. He can play both corner outfield positions well, and has a good bat against left-handed pitchers. When his name is in the lineup, no one is looking at him as a liability. On top of that, he is well-known for being a guy who lightens the mood in the clubhouse and keeps everyone loose.

Jason Giambi- B-

Despite Giambi hitting just .244, he had a bigger impact than his numbers. Like Mora, Giambi always took a great at bat. No matter what the count was, Giambi never seemed give in. He always fought for his pitch and had a keen eye for the strike zone. His walk off home run against Jonathan Papelbon gets an honorable mention for best moment of the season.

Miguel Olivo- B-

If someone would have said that Olivo would get a B- for the entire season at the All-Star break, no one would have believed them. Despite getting snubbed out of an All-Star berth, Olivo was the best catcher in baseball through the first half of the season.

The only problem was, for as good as his first half was, his second half was just as bad. In the first half the catcher hit .325 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs. The second half was completely different, as Olivo hit just .211 with four home runs and 16 RBIs.

Olivo's problem may have been fatigue, or it may have been reality hitting, regardless, his season was the tale of two halves.

Eric Young Jr.- C+

EY still has a long way to go to prove that he can play everyday in the big leagues. However, his attitude suggest that he will prove that he belongs. There is no one who hustles more than Young. He is a player who when he looks good, he looks really good, but when he looks bad, he looks really bad. His defense is still in question at second base, but having him and Fowler at the top of the lineup is very intriguing.

Todd Helton- C

Helton has become everyone's favorite person to hate. People think that because he makes so much money, he should hit to that level. Nevermind the fact that he is 37-years old. Regardless of his age, Helton still plays with a fire that can be seen despite his calm demeanor. He definitely struggled at the plate in 2010, but people forget that after he came off of the disabled list in July he hit .310 the rest of the way. The key for Helton is that the Rockies have a reliable option behind him that can give him enough days off to stay healthy.


Seth Smith- C-

Mr. Late Night apparently forgot to show up most nights. The lefty was pretty good for most of the season, but after he was given his chance to prove that he could play everyday, saying Smith struggled would be a huge understatement.

After Brad Hawpe was released in mid-August, Smith notched just eight hits. Fatigue may have been a factor with Smith, but if it was, he needs to change his off season workout routine. He should be ready to be an everyday player, even if he was coming off of the bench most nights. On the road, sometimes Smith simply disappeared. When he was on camera, he often looked very tired. Many times I had the thought that he might not sleep well on the road. One way or another, the Rockies need Smith to take a step forward in 2011.

Clint Barmes- D+

It is tough to find someone who doesn't love Clint Barmes. He gives Charlie Hustle a run for his name. However, what has helped Barmes to the big leagues is exactly what hinders his career at this point.

The second baseman is very determined. He has his mind set on being good. However, at the plate, he is also very determined. He is determined to be able to his sliders off of the plate in the dirt. He is also determined to be a power hitter. If Barmes would look at himself in the mirror and realize that if he learns to hit the ball the other way and foul pitches off that he can't drive, he would be one of the best second basemen in baseball. Instead, he finds himself striking out too much and being dead weight at the bottom of the lineup.

Ian Stewart- D

The third baseman seems more concerned with updating his Twitter account than reaching his potential. Less than an hour after the Rockies lost to the Giants in a must-sweep series in Denver, Stewart was raving about his new phone on Twitter. While players have their own lives and have to put games behind them and go on with their lives, telling fans about how cool your phone is while they are still sick about the loss is not a good way to gain respect, especially when your season was as poor as Stewart's. The former first round draft pick was one of the young talents that the Rockies were anticipating would take the next step forward. It didn't happen. In fact, Stewart went backwards. When Troy Tulowitzki was quoted in the Denver Post as saying that there were guys who needed to step it up and be more concerned with baseball than "how many vacations they took" in the off season, the common feeling was that he was referring to Stewart.

The problem for Stewart stems from frustration. He has all of the tools to be an All-Star. He can hit the ball a mile and possesses the talent to be a gold glove third baseman and a middle-of-the-lineup guy for years to come.

One thing to keep in mind with Stewart is that he is still very young. At just 25-years old he still has a chance to find a sense of urgency in the big leagues and hit his stride.

Chris Iannetta- F

At this point, his 2008 numbers seem more like the fluke than the rest of his seasons. He is another player who simply can't find a way to take it to the next level. When he isn't striking out, he is hitting weak pop flies to the second baseman. When he was sent down to Colorado Springs in May, his attitude could not have been more opposite of Fowler's.

When I talked to him when I covered the Sky Sox for the Gazette I asked him what he was working on. He responded "I'm not working on anything. My swing is fine. I have never felt more comfortable at the plate. I don't know why everyone keeps saying there is a hole in my swing, I wish people would stop saying that."

Look no further for a reason why Iannetta hasn't become a star. He already thinks he is one, despite hitting .197 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs. Iannetta fans continue to believe that he should be the everyday starter, but the fact is, he continues to get beat out by the likes of Yorvit Torrealba and Miguel Olivo. When those two faltered, Iannetta was never able to put his foot down and take the job.

It would be great to see Iannetta take the next step forward, but the fact is, it might need to happen somewhere else.

So let me hear it...what do you think? What did I miss? Where was I wrong?
For more on the Rockies visit RockiesReview.com

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5 comments:

  1. Barmes gets a D+? Really?
    I know he is not a fan favorite. I remember that he went 0-for in the NLDS in 2009. I realize he finished with only a .305 OBP. But this is a guy who toiled at 2B most of the season, playing pretty stellar defense, except for that month and a half where he filled in for Tulo at SS, playing pretty stellar defense. This is the guy who had a couple of hot months in the middle of the season to help keep the Rockies in it. This is the guy who was one of the league leaders for 8-hole hitters for most of the season. I just don't see how you could possibly grade him a whole grade lower than EYJ who played terrible defense, and who matched his occasional offensive spark with a propensity to get picked off first base.

    I also understand your frustration with Seth Smith. But the guy turned in a pretty good first half of the season and was team leader in some offensive categories at times throughout the season. His defensive numbers in LF were actually quite good. IMO Jim Tracy should have played him in LF all season and put CarGo in RF. I think Smith is capable of much more than he owed this year, and hopefully the departure of DB will help him next year. A C- seems harsh, but I won't quibble too much with you here, like I did with Barmes.

    Thanks for the article. I like reading your posts.

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  2. Oh, an you forgot Johnny Herrera. I like the cut of that kid's jib.

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  3. Miketober-
    Thanks for the comments.

    I actually really like Clint Barmes. He seems like a great guy and a hard worker. The only problem is, he simply didn't get it done at the plate in 2010. I think part of it was because he is a fastball hitter hitting in the 8 hole, meaning he could be thrown all sliders with the pitcher up behind him. I think he has shown that he is a two hole hitter. Give him an inside fastball and he will pound it. The reason I gave him the grade was because he showed no improvement as far as either learning how to hit the outside slider, or simply laying off of it.

    As far as Seth Smith goes...he did have a decent first half, but I think the problem with the second half was not simply that he lost it at the plate, but that he seemed to disappear mentally. I know the season is a grind, but everyone has to find a way to make it through. On the road when the cameras were on him he almost looked asleep at the end. Im not sure if he was just exhausted or has trouble sleeping in hotels, but when the team needed him the most, he dropped the ball.

    I am a huge Johnny Herrera fan as well. I think he takes a great approach at the plate and gets the job done defensively. I would not mind seeing him get half of the starts at 2nd base next year.

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  4. Hello David, I was curious to read a true Rockies Fan's take on the Rockies and enjoyed your Blog. I followed the link from Todd Helton on Baseball Reference. com (One of my favorite sites).My whole beef with your comments is your lack of acknowledgement on the extreme advantage Coor's field gives to your hitters.
    Please look at the season and career home/away batting splits for Helton, Cargo, etc. and you will see why most Rockies hitters are extremly over-rated. For his career Helton is basically Lou Gehrig at home and Scott Rolen (with less power) everywhere else. The humidor was apparently on the fritz in 2010 as homers at Coors were way up. Batting stats for Rockies hitters must be taken with a grain of salt as it really is not fair when you get to play half of your games "on the Moon". That being said , your pitchers look worse than they really are and do not get enough credit. Tulo did have a great year and apparently benefits less from Coors than most. Also I am no Yankees fan (full disclosure, I am a huge Rays Fan) but give Cano his due, way over .300 both home and away.

    Take care and have a great Thanksgiving

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  5. TRex-
    Thanks for the comment.

    Comparing Helton to Scott Rolen is pretty difficult for me. I can see that the numbers are pretty similar on the road. The only problem I have is that Rolen is a rare case in that he actually hits about the same at home as on the road. The only other player that I can think of with splits that similar is Gary Sheffield.

    Most players hit way better at home than on the road. A-Rod, Derek Jeter...Carl Crawford's OPS is almost .50 lower on the road.

    Also, don't forget the other side of Coors Field. In the NL West you play in three of the biggest pitchers parks in baseball with AT&T, Petco and Dodger Stadium, so you are going from one extreme to the other.

    Take a look at Helton's splits in 2000. Tell me that Scott Rolen has ever had a season that comes anywhere close to resembling those numbers...then tell me why Helton was nowhere close to winning the MVP. That is one of the best seasons in the history of baseball...Coors Field or not. He hit .351...ON THE ROAD.

    Take a deeper look at Helton's numbers, especially before age set in, and tell me if you think he is about equivalent to Scott Rolen.

    Thanks for reading, and for commenting.

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