The staff of Mile High Sports has come a long way.
Early in the year, when predictions were flying, each person that gave an opinion shared a similar outlook: the Colorado Rockies would be good. While no one voiced a World Series chance, the common sentiment was that the club would contend once again.
Instead, the Rockies have fallen from grace. The staff sat down once again to breakdown the leading storylines of a campaign marred by regression.
Ahead are their thoughts.
1. Which Rockies’ player has surprised you most?
Aniello Piro: Jon Gray has surprised me the most this season.
Considering Gray’s struggles in 2018, I have been pleasantly surprised with how he bounced back in 2019. Unfortunately, his season has been cut short due to an injury which is a shame considering how well he had pitched. Gray has undoubtedly been the Rockies’ best pitcher this season.
Between his improved demeanor and presence on the mound, Gray has looked like a totally different pitcher this season. His campaign, paired with the expected improvement of German Marquez and Kyle Freeland, should make Rockies’ fans optimistic that the rotation can bounce back in a big way next season.
Ronnie Kohrt: Kyle Freeland. It’s really hard to fathom – even at Coors Field – how someone can be so good last year (2.85 ERA) shattering all the narratives around pitching at Coors Field, then completely fall off the table like a bowling ball with a nightmare season. A season that involved him staying relatively healthy and sporting an ERA that starts with a seven.
It’s baffling, surprising and hard to explain. His failures earlier in the year hurt Colorado big and really put them behind the eight ball for the rest of the year.
Luke Zahlmann: It’s easy to pick out surprises on the Rockies’ roster this year. For me, it’s Tony Wolters, otherwise known endearingly as “Tony Two Bags”.
It seemed nearly unanimous among Rockies’ pundits that Wolters – along with the rest of the club’s backstop situation – was a glaring weakness on the team. They failed to find an upgrade, despite players like Yasmani Grandal signing for mediocre contracts.
In the face of doubt, Wolters has quickly become one of the best young catchers in the league. He’s not only been a leader behind the plate as a pitch framer and tyrant to would-be base stealers but has also hit nearly-or-above .300 for most of the year. The breakout comes after he entered the year with a .226 career average and only 139 hits in three years.
With three more rounds of arbitration left, the Rockies appear to have found the future of their catching position. Dom Nunez behind him could create a great 1-2 punch for the club in future seasons.
2. Which Rockies’ player has disappointed the most?
Aniello Piro: Kyle Freeland, without a doubt. After a stellar 2018 campaign in which he finished in the top-five of Cy Young voting, Freeland was expected to be the anchor of the Rockies’ rotation this season.
Unfortunately, 2019 has been a rough patch for Freeland. The southpaw has never been known for his overwhelming velocity as he’s relied primarily on effective pitch location. Command has, inversely, been his biggest issue this season as well as surrendering home runs.
Freeland has appeared dazed and confused on the mound throughout the season which has certainly affected his confidence. However, after a stint in Triple-A, Freeland has looked somewhat competent on the mound which is positive. An injury will likely sideline the youngster for the rest of the season which might not be the worst thing in the world. With a bevy of talent, maybe time away from the game to clear his head will help him in 2020.
Ronnie Kohrt: Wade Davis. We’re talking about a top-seven closer – and getting paid like it – having the worst year of his career. Davis is broken at Coors Field with an ERA of over 10 and rightfully, lost his closing job because of it.
Luke Zahlmann: Regression was expecting, but the fall that Kyle Freeland has endured has been unfathomable.
Last year, he posted one of the best seasons in Rockies’ pitching history. Since then, everything has seemed to go wrong for the southpaw. Blisters, a groin injury and mechanic miscues have all caused Freeland’s year to spiral.
Even after working on staying on-line towards the plate when he was in Triple-A Albuquerque, Freeland’s still fighting through struggles that were foreign last year. In 2018, he allowed five-or-more earned runs once in 33 starts. This year, he’s hit that mark nine times in 20 starts.
The talent and drive are there, but Freeland’s road ahead is one that’s utterly unpredictable.
3. What would you like to see for the rest of 2019?
Aniello Piro: I would love to see the Rockies continue to roll out their young players. 2019 has been a complete and utter disaster for the Rockies, and they would be wise to provide their young players with extensive playing time down the stretch. Next year will be a make-or-break season for Colorado, so they need to see what they have coming up through the pipeline.
Bud Black acknowledged the club will play more young players, and I think it’s the proper move. This year is a lost cause, so better to prepare for what’s ahead.
Ronnie Kohrt: Keep as much of a fighting spirit as you can in a bad situation. You’re going to learn a lot about certain individuals in this tough time. Those who mail it in or appear to have waved the white flag don’t need to be on this team in 2020.
Luke Zahlmann: A lot of rest. Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, German Marquez and Charlie Blackmon – among others – should each be given multiple-game breaks.
The Rockies’ veterans have given their full efforts, and more, to get the club back on track. Though the efforts have been unsuccessful thus far, the draining effect is everpresent. Allowing each to have periodic days of rest, with young players in their stead, would set the club up best for next year.
David Dahl and Freeland both come to mind as well. The pair have injuries that could put them out for the year, or result in a September comeback, at best. Allowing both to completely get over their muscle injuries and prepare for next year makes more sense than risking their health for meaningless games.