The Colorado Rockies have been lacking in many categories over the last several seasons but one that we can’t help but keep coming back to is their general lack of identity.
This 2022 squad was supposed to be built around solid starting pitching and hitting some home runs and neither of those things have panned out as anything close to strengths.
Moving forward, it is difficult to see a clear direction beyond the fact that the farm system has been dramatically improving and we may be looking at a youth revolution by 2024. But what about before then?
It’s still hard to say but one thing has emerged pretty clearly that we can comfortably project going forward; the Rockies should be able to boast pretty great infield defense.
Of course, defense can only really be a big deal if you’ve got quality pitching and hitting, but at the very least there should be something we can analyze in the positive with relative certainty.
Oddly enough, this comes at the end of a campaign that began and was marked by truly ugly play. Errors were piling up and their Gold Glove contender from a year ago (who was snubbed) Ryan McMahon was right in the middle of the struggles.
But as he righted himself, a teammate on the other side of the diamond was going through a renaissance eerily similar to what we saw from RyMac in 2021.
Second baseman Brendan Rodgers has very quickly become one of the best defenders in the league according to both the eye test and the advanced metrics that we have available.
“The numbers are speaking loud but just watching him play you can tell that something special is happening there,” says infield teammate Ryan McMahon, who went through a similar renaissance a year ago.
“I think it was just [a matter of] getting his feet wet, getting his reps,” McMahon says of Rodgers’ sudden leap in terms of fancy stats like Defensive Runs Saved. “Kinda like me at second, it took me a couple of years to figure it out.”
“He’s really good on the run away from first base, it’s not an easy play and he just whips it over there, it’s impressive,” McMahon adds, also saying he’s a particular fan of the diving plays back up the middle that Rodgers is starting to make a normal occurrence.
Primarily a shortstop for most of his life, Rodgers is getting his first extended look at second and is now among the league leaders in several defensive categories at the position and also leads the Rockies in bWAR almost entirely thanks to his glove.
This pairs nicely with McMahon over at third who, after recovering from an oddly rough start to the season that afflicted most of the fielders, has resumed showing us that he will likely be among the best at the hot corner for years to come.
RookieMichael Toglia has also been tabbed by many scouts and evaluators as a potential Gold Glove candidate in the future thanks to excellent athleticism and instincts that have been further honed by guru Todd Helton.
“He’s super active over there, man, ready to go both ways, that’s the hard thing,” McMahon says of Toglia. “A lot of first baseman, myself included, we like to lean toward the bag or try to get over there early, but he’s really impressed me with how quickly he gets there but how ready he is to go away from the bag. It’s been exciting to watch him.”
Veteran shortstop Jose Iglesias’ best days defensively are behind him, but he’s been solid in the “make the plays you should” type of way. The future looks potentially very bright there as well though with top prospect Ezequiel Tovar ready to take over potentially by the beginning of next season. “From what I saw in spring, he really knows how to handle himself,” says McMahon.
When it all comes down to it, the best fielder the Rockies have had for a few years running sees the infield getting better and better. And with the new rule changes limiting shifting, athletic defenders are likely to be that much more valuable, especially at Coors Field.
“Outs need to be outs,” he says. “And some hits need to be outs.”
The Rockies are still a long way off from having an identity that scares the National League. But they do appear on the cusp of having one of the most dynamic and exhilarating groups of infielders we have seen in a while.
McMahon. Tovar. Rodgers. Toglia. Coors Shield 2.0.