2020 Prospect Opportunities — Rockies

Alas, we finish our 2020 Prospect Opportunities series discussing potential opportunities for prospects to earn starting jobs at positions currently manned by a player at risk of losing his job if his poor play continues. Last team up is the Rockies.

American League Prospect Opportunities

National League Prospect Opportunities

At Risk: Tony Wolters
Replacement: Dom Nunez

It’s difficult to hold a starting job on the Rockies when you’ve posted a career .285 wOBA over 1,123 plate appearances. But Tony Wolters has managed to do so thanks to his defense. How bad does his offense have to get so that he’s a net negative and his defensive value simply isn’t enough to overcome his weak offense? He’s a risk every year because of his complete lack of offensive contributions.

Dom Nunez earned a cup of coffee with the Rockies last year after a Triple-A breakout. A massive power spike fueled the breakout, as his HR/FB rate more than doubled from previous years that bounced around the high single to low double digit marks, surging all the way to 23.9%. Similarly, his ISO hopped over .300, after sitting in the low-to-mid .100 range for the majority of his minor league career. This all came in just 213 at-bats, but he has also walked at double digit clips and has hit a high rate of fly balls. So even if his power spike isn’t totally for real, he seemingly could be a strong offensive contributor behind the plate.

At Risk: Ryan McMahon
Replacement: Josh Fuentes

Ryan McMahon enjoyed a decent breakout last season, but even that performance surge only resulted in a .330 wOBA. When you call Coors Field home and play first base, that’s just nothing special. He needs to both cut down on his strikeouts and hit more fly balls to better take advantage of his home park and actually contribute positive offensive value. With Daniel Murphy around to move back to first base from DH to steal playing time, McMahon can’t afford a slow start.

Technically, any prospect could steal McMahon’s job as Murphy can slide back to first base, opening up the DH slot to any hitter. However, Josh Fuentes played some first base last year and recorded 56 plate appearances with the team as well, so it’s possible he gets first shot. Fuentes wasn’t a top prospect and is already 27 years old. But his power has remained solid, bouncing around the .200 ISO level throughout most of his minor league career, and his HR/FB rate spiked last year to the highest of his professional career. He needs to work on his plate discipline, but anyone with power that gets an extended look with the Rockies is a possibility to go on a fantasy boosting hot streak.

At Risk: Garrett Hampson
Replacement: Brendan Rodgers

We don’t know for sure who the Rockies plan to open the season with at second base, but we figure it’s Garrett Hampson. If that’s the case, it won’t be because of his performance last year, as he posted just a .292 wOBA with a negative UZR.

Fantasy owners have been waiting for Brendan Rodgers’ debut, and they got it last year. Unfortunately, he did little with it and then got hurt, an injury that required season-ending surgery. This is a guy who has shown excellent power in the minors, and strikeout rates typically below 20%. It’s an exciting profile when you call Coors Field home.

Options: Sam Hilliard, Raimel Tapia, Yonathan Daza

With Ian Desmond opting out, the left field job is up in the air. Heck, right field may be open as well depending on how quickly Charlie Blackmon can get back on the field. So rather than name the at-risk player(s), I’ll just name some of the options available.

Sam Hilliard is the sleeper the savvy fantasy owner wants to win the job. Though as a lefty, he might end up in a platoon in a best case scenario. The 26-year-old is the team’s sixth best prospect and earned a callup last year. He strikes out a lot, but enjoyed a power breakout last season, as his HR/FB rate nearly tripled from the high single digits to the mid-20% range, while his ISO nearly reached .300, after declining to just .126 in 2018. To go along with the budding power, he stole 22 bases. He has been an exciting power and speed threat in the minors, which is fantasy gold on any team and even more intriguing on the Rockies, given their home park.

Raimel Tapia is a former sleeper who finally earned a significant amount of playing time last season. He showed a bit of power and speed and a strong BABIP, which is exactly what fantasy owners were banking on. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly enough of each, and it all resulted in just a .307 wOBA. He needs to walk more often, which he has never shown the ability to do, or at least get his strikeout rate back below 20% like he did in the minors. There’s less fantasy upside here than for Hilliard.

Like Hilliard, Yonathan Daza also got his first shot last year, but posted a measly .221 wOBA. He’s not the prospect Hilliard and Tapia are/were, but he has posted low strikeout rates for most of his minor league career. That’s huge in Colorado as balls in play fall for hits more often than in other parks. In addition, he finally showed some power, as his HR/FB rate more than doubled off his 2018 Double-A mark, while his ISO jumped for a second straight season to .183. He has also shown a touch of speed, swiping 12 bases last year, and stealing as many as 31, back in 2017.

At Risk: Anyone not named Jon Gray or German Marquez
Replacement: Don’t bother

It doesn’t need to be said that unless you’re an elite prospect, you don’t want to bother monitoring Rockies prospect starting pitchers. Every starting pitcher on our depth chart, aside from Jon Gray and German Marquez, is projected for an ERA over 5.00.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

Comments are closed.