The Colorado Rockies, through their words and actions, have made it abundantly clear that they are hyper-focused on their outfield when it comes to improving the club in the immediate and long-term future.

Unlike the infield, which as we already discussed rates out as one of the best elements of the team, there are a ton of question marks roaming the great expanse at Coors Field. Or hoping to.

It begins with Kris Bryant in left field. Signed to a mega deal last offseason, he brought the swagger of phrases like “former MVP” and “World Series Champion” to Denver but spent the vast majority of the 2022 campaign on the trainer’s table rather than on the baseball diamond.

Despite the fact that this was only the second full season of his career where he played fewer than 100 games and only the third in which he played fewer than 140, the narrative has begun to grow that Bryant is injury prone and perhaps past his prime.

While that feels a bit hasty for a player who just turned 31 and is still younger and healthier than plenty of guys who just got massive deals this winter, it is still the case that Rockies fans have yet to experience the version of Bryant they were hoping to see.

How he responds in 2023, first by staying in the lineup and then with whatever he does in the batter’s box, will go a long way toward determining how productive the Colorado outfield can be.

That’s due at least in part to the fact that neither we nor they can be entirely sure who will be manning the other two spots for most of the season.

Centerfield was the job of Yonathan Daza last year and while he is a plus defender and base runner with a pretty great contact skill, he is essentially devoid of any power whatsoever (maximum two home runs a year) and so limits the potential of the offense.

Over in right, Charlie Blackmon had been the guy for the better part of a decade, but he has transitioned into being the primary Designated Hitter at this late stage of his career, leaving another spot essentially open especially with fellow veteran Randal Grichuk set to miss the start of the season. 

The intent appears to be to slide Daza into a fourth-outfielder role, something he is much better suited for, and hope that one of two of five players can step in and give the team a boost: Brenton Doyle, Sean Bouchard, Michael Toglia, Nolan Jones, and Zac Veen.

Veen has gotten and will get plenty more attention and also probably won’t arrive until midway through the season so let’s set him aside for now.

Toglia and Jones represent the ceiling of potential production here. Both bring massive, elite power… when they make enough contact. Both also bring some pretty compelling defensive profiles with Toglia touted as a Gold Glove caliber defender, especially when he slots in at first base, and Jones being seen to have one of the best arms in the league while he can also slide into the corner infield if needed.

Like a lot of these kinds of players, though, the concern (as it was with Sam Hilliard before them) the bottom line is that none of that extraordinary athleticism will matter if they can’t find their way on base often enough. There’s just a huge range of outcomes from both guys. Either or both could strike out so much they flame out but it’s also not out of the realm of possibility that one or the other (probably not both) become integral members of the team for several years to come.

On the flip side, Sean Bouchard and Brenton Doyle are far more polished prospects who never came with a ton of hype but have continued to show their ability up through every level of the minors.

Bouchard was quietly the best of the Rockies late-season call-ups in 2022, posting an on-base percentage of .454 over 27 games and smacking a trio of homers. His defensive profile limits him to the corners and he likely rates out as about average there and he isn’t seen as having any elite tools but his patience at the plate could be his salvation. It is a skill the Rockies desperately need added to their lineup.

Doyle meanwhile is easily the best candidate to take over in center… at least defensively. He should be able to match Daza’s production on that side of the ball as well as on the base paths. He also hit 26 home runs across Double-A and Triple-A last season, precisely what the club will be hoping can translate to the Bigs soon.

For more on Doyle, check out his appearance on the 20th and Blake Podcast from last season.

It’s tough to decide quite how to grade this group. A healthy and resurgent Bryant along with a prospect or two taking that next step and this is a pretty solid unit. More injury troubles and slow starts or flameouts and the Rockies might again have one of the least productive outfields in MLB.

As such, it seems like the best thing to do is aim right smack dab in the middle and give this part of the team a C grade. It could go either way and it’s tough to get super excited about them now. But check back with us in a month or two.