Colorado Rockies 2022 lineup, now with more punch

CJ Cron hits a home run. Credit: Orlando Ramirez, USA TODAY Sports.
CJ Cron hits a home run. Credit: Orlando Ramirez, USA TODAY Sports.

There’s a great scene from Game of Thrones, long before the writers ruined that show for everyone, where the worm-tongued politician Littlefinger has a back-and-forth with Queen Cersi.

During the exchange, Littlefinger declares, “Knowledge is power.”

As he smirks, thinking he has cornered the monarch with information, she orders her guards to kill him, stopping them just before they do. As he sits, all the confidence in his face replaced with panic, she leans in and replies, “Power is power.”

For the last couple of seasons, the Colorado Rockies have been trying to pull off a trick in their lineup that never quite came together. They didn’t have traditional power, despite playing in a place that truly rewards it, and so they tried to sneak their way into it.

That didn’t work.

And it also helps to explain Thursday’s trade of Raimel Tapia and a minor leaguer to the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielder Randal Grichuk.

The consensus logic around these parts was that if they were to move an outfielder, Tapia made the most sense as he had the most reliable resume of the group. Plus, he really didn’t fit well defensively with Kris Bryant now on the roster and cemented in left field.

But there was also the general belief that the team should target pitching in such a move. Instead, they moved an outfielder for another outfielder who now stands a bit in the way of players like Garrett Hampson, Connor Joe and maybe even Sam Hilliard.

So, what was this move about?

You could argue defense to a degree.

Tapia had proven to be a very good defender in left but his propensity for bad decisions and unfamiliarity with center and right at Coors left a lot of doubt in the minds of his coaches about whether it was wise to move him there.

The 30-year-old Grichuk used to rate out excellently as a defender but has, in recent years, declined, especially in center. Which is unfortunate for the Rockies since that is where they could have used him most.

Still his -2 Defensive Runs Saves in CF a year ago is likely better than they would have gotten from Tapia if he had been forced into the spot, and his +6 DRS in right field is definitely better than the Rockies were going to get out of anyone on the roster but Yonathan Daza. And Daza doesn’t have this bat.

That brings us to the big thing; power.

Home runs aren’t just high quality entertainment, they swing ballgames more than anything else in the modern game and the Rockies have been left behind.

Last year, the team that plays a mile high had only three guys hit more than 20 home runs and one of them plays for Boston now.

And yet, suddenly, the Rockies have a lineup full of guys who can blast ’em over the wall.

Thinking only of maximizing the dingers, Colorado could run out a lineup something like this:

  1. Brendan Rodgers (2B)
  2. Charlie Blackmon (DH)
  3. Kris Bryant (LF)
  4. C.J. Cron (1B)
  5. Ryan McMahon (3B)
  6. Elias Diaz (C)
  7. Sam Hilliard (CF)
  8. Randal Grichuk (RF)
  9. Jose Iglesias (SS)

Other than Iglesias, every one of those players should hit double-digit homers given health. And each one of them could get to 20 without it being anywhere close to a total shock.

Of the group, Blackmon actually hit the fewest last season with 13. But he hit 20+ in the four full seasons before that and some time in the DH to keep his legs fresh could easily see him return to that form. Maybe the longest shot if he just continues to decline with age.

Hilliard hit 14 big blasts a year ago but he did it in just 81 games. There is absolutely no question about whether or not Slam “HillYard” has the power to go yard with regularity. The question is only about whether or not he can make enough contact in general. Slight improvement in that area could mean he makes he biggest leap forward in this category.

Rodgers put up 15 round trippers, notably hitting 12 of them on the road, and did so in 102 games of what truly amounted to his rookie season. Development that is expected by just about everyone makes Rodgers another 20-home-run guy.

Diaz, after getting off to a truly dreadful start in 2021, fell just short of the 20-jack club with 18. He and Dom Nunez combined to give the Rox 28 out of the catcher spot in the first season that either was given regular opportunities.

Beyond that, Grichuk has hit over 20 every year since 2016, McMahon has hit 24 and 23 in his two full seasons of work. Cron has been comfortably clearing that mark since 2018 and paced the club last year with 28, and the best bet to hit 30 or more is Bryant.

Interestingly, the club has a few young players who aren’t likely to get the at-bats but who also have intriguing power in Ryan Vilade, Colton Welker, and especially Elehuris Montero.

Of course, things happen. Guys slump or get hurt. Few expected just 13 dongers out of Blackmon a year ago. There are always caveats.

GM Bill Schmidt, though, very clearly identified an area of weakness and attacked it. The Rockies didn’t have nearly enough power a year ago and they have a lot more now.

It doesn’t solve everything. They might not win considerably more games.

But they are going to send the baseball over the wall a lot more often this year. And be honest, we all love the longball.

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