While the Rockies are still comfortably sitting in the second Wild Card spot, there are a handful of players who need to step up in the second half to help a playoff push.
After a hot start to the 2017 season that put the Rockies atop the entire National League as late as June 20, a slump leading up to the All-Star break has seen the Blake Street Bombers fall 9.5 games back of the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
The five players that need to step up in the second half of the season to help the Rockies into the playoffs fall into three categories: Slump Busters, There’s More in the Tank, and Show Us What You Got.
Category 1: Slump Busters
These guys are slumping hard. The need to at least bounce back to their average selves to push the Rockies deep into October.
In the first half of the 2017 season, Carlos Gonzalez has hit a measly .221/.299/.338. If these numbers all continue, it would be the single worst statistical season of CarGo’s career. As it stands now, Gonzalez has been worth one full negative win above replacement (WAR) in the 74 games he has played, meaning a replacement level player (Raimel Tapia, for example) would be better for the Rockies right now. If CarGo doesn’t make some sort of adjustment or improvement, he could be en route to posting just the second negative WAR season in his entire career. The only other time this has happened was in 2014 when injuries robbed Gonzalez of most of his season and he only played in 70 games.
Relief pitcher Adam Ottavino has had his worst year in Colorado through the first half of 2017. While Ottavino is enjoying an increased strikeout rate with 11.2 K/9, career worsts in walk rate and home run rate (6.6 and 1.7 respectively) have led to an ERA spike from a career average of 3.96 to a 2017 mark of 5.74. The higher walk rate is indicative of the control issues Ottavino has struggled with in the first half. The big righty must bounce back in the second half and get his command issues under control.
Category 2: There’s More in the Tank
These players have been playing at or just below a league average level, but their career numbers show that they can be better than average.
The second-year shortstop’s numbers are down pretty much across the board from his impressive rookie year in 2016. The regression isn’t as extreme as that of Gonzalez, but it’s pretty clear that Story isn’t playing to his potential so far in 2017. After playing in 97 games in 2016, Story has already played 75 before the All-Star break this season. The biggest difference between this season and last for Story is that he isn’t hitting the ball as hard. While Story’s batting average and on base percentage have both dropped by 30-40 points, his isolated power and slugging percentage have plummeted by more than 120 points each. For the Rockies to seriously contend in October, Trevor Story needs to play closer to his potential.
The veteran lefty’s ERA is close to his career high through the first half of the season, but other than that, Dunn hasn’t had a bad season. Based on his career numbers, Dunn is an above-average reliever, usually good for between a half and a full run above replacement-level pitching. In 37 appearances in 2017 he is showing pretty much exactly league average talent which shows that there is room to improve in the second half. Dunn is giving up walks and home runs at a career high rate, however, which has been the story for most of the Rockies’ bullpen this season (minus Greg Holland and Chris Rusin). If Dunn can play more like his career numbers suggest he can, then it will go a long way for the Rockies to pick up a few games on other contenders for the Wild Card and NL West.
Category 3: Show Us What You Got
A player that has shown flashes of greatness in limited time due to missed time with injuries.
Gray was limited to just five starts in the first half after a stress fracture in his foot keep him out for about two and a half months. In his two starts since returning to the rotation, Gray has been lights out, going 2-0 with an ERA hovering right around 3.00. There have been rumors floating around about the Rockies targeting a front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, but with how high the market price is (the Cubs gave up their top two prospects to get Jose Quintana), it’s possible the Rockies don’t make that sort of move before the trade deadline. If the Rockies stand pat, Gray will have to be the ace in the second half. The Rockies will have more than a fighting chance in October if he can continue to produce.