The Colorado Rockies, whether you know it or not are breaking barriers for the future.
A win on the coast against the Dodgers, for the first time since last year, was just another example of their hurdle-hopping ways. On top of their triumph against a division foe, several Rockies are finding their footing and reaching personal milestones.
The win, a 4-2 tug-of-war over Walker Buehler was the Rockies’ 67th of the year. It’s saved them from sinking to triple-digit losses, but not from the National League’s bottom feeders.
Josh Fuentes homered, as did Ryan McMahon. Garrett Hampson got a shot at the leadoff spot and Sam Hilliard even made a spectacular grab in center field.
This is what September is supposed to look like for struggling clubs.
The families of the young guys are treated to a glimpse into their loved one’s future while the team does the same. Development is the only option now that the club has been eliminated for any non-regular season competition.
Placing Hampson at the leadoff spot, plus his 1-for-3 night gave a glimpse of what his future could be. Even in the juiced ball and three-true-outcome atmosphere of baseball, he’s a throwback. A smaller player with speed and decent contact skills that will further develop with more chances.
On the year, he’s only mustered a .247 average and 18 extra-base hits in 289 plate appearances. The lack of extraordinary outcomes hasn’t hidden the fact that Hampson has a place in the majors. If Billy Hamilton can still make $5.2 million a year, then his infield counterpart is just as worthy, if not more.
Then there’s Fuentes, who’s homer off Buehler was a rare feat for hitters. On the year, in five chances against the young standout, the Rockies have mustered 18 extra-base hits and a whopping 34 strikeouts.
The long ball was a missile:
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 22, 2019
Expectations are high for Fuentes, even if it’s unfair. The second he became a storyline, so too did his family ties to his cousin, Nolan Arenado — arguably the league’s best infielder.
While it’s unwise to expect Fuentes to catch his cousin, the Rockies have a spot at first base in the near future. Daniel Murphy’s contract runs out after next year, with the club picking up his third-year option looking like a near impossibility.
Fuentes, McMahon who may be shifted by Brendan Rodgers’ return and several prospects are all vying for the lone opening. Making an impression before the latter make their respective debuts would be a boon to his chances.
Then there’s Hilliard.
Power is baked into everything that the young outfielder does. His style in the outfield is full-bore, as is his stroke at the plate. No player has the raw power of Hilliard in the Rockies’ system, but flaws still exist.
In the minors, Hilliard struck out in nearly 30 percent percent of his chances. Now with the Rockies, he’s at a similar 30 percent in only 56 plate appearances,
The real test for the rookie will be next year. Once pitchers have a sample size to dig into when facing him, Hilliard will be forced to similarly adapt. Whether or not he makes the needed adjustments will go a long way in determining his place on the club’s depth chart.
Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl, barring any health issues, are locks to man the corners of the Rockies’ outfield. So far, Hilliard and Raimel Tapia appear to be the logical frontrunners after another below-average season for veteran Ian Desmond.
A litany of developments is occurring for the Rockies’ youth. The Dodgers – also known as the league’s deepest team and system – are a great barometer.