Colorado Rockies Infield Remains a Strength Despite Struggles

Rockies Infield

The Colorado Rockies infield has been a strength for several years. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story have anchored a unit that has both power at the plate and defensive reliability. It has seen some struggles in 2020 with the rest of the team but it is still the strongest group of players on the team.

Colorado Rockies Infield is a Strength

The infield begins with Arenado and Story on the left side of the diamond. Arenado had a tough 2020 campaign hitting just .253/.303/.434 with 76 OPS+ and just 1.0 FanGraphs WAR but he was still one of the team’s top three hitters. Story would potentially be an MVP candidate if he could reproduce his 2020 results over a full season though. The 27-year-old has hit .295/365/532 with a 123 wRC+ and 2.6 WAR. He is eighth in total WAR on FanGraphs’ current leaderboard.

The two are also starting to get some help in the form of Josh Fuentes at first base with Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson platooning at second. Fuentes is Arenado’s cousin and has seized control of first base from the veteran Daniel Murphy, Fuentes is an exciting piece going into 2021.

McMahon and Hampson have been perfectly fine as the primary second basemen this season. McMahon leads the position in WAR with .2 but Hampson also has .1 despite also being in center field for chunks of the season. Finally, McMahon has a solid 10.1 percent walk rate and is third on the team in home runs with seven. Both have positive marks in Defensive Runs Saved as well. The team needs to pick one of them as the regular for next season but they are a fine platoon duo at this time.

Areas of Improvement

Murphy has been a huge problem. He has been utterly worthless since joining the Rockies in 2019. Fuentes has .3 WAR in just 88 plate appearances this season while Murphy has failed to produce any positive value in Colorado. He has -1.0 WAR in over 500 plate appearances, which is purely unacceptable for someone hitting at Coors Field. Under no circumstances should Murphy return for 2021 when the team has so many prospects for first base, including Fuentes.

And while second base has two average options, the problem with both is that they strike out far too much. McMahon has the highest strikeout rate of any second basemen with over 100 plate appearances at 35.2 percent. Hampson isn’t much better at 30 percent either. It’s concerning that both players saw strikeout rates increase by more than three percent. Both of them are just 25-years-old so it’s not as though they should be losing anything at the plate.

The presence of both McMahon and Hampson also complicates things for the team’s top prospect. Brendan Rodgers has to be frustrated with how he’s been handled in the past two seasons. He had an awkward debut in mid-May 2019 and struggled to a .224/272/250 slash line in 81 major league plate appearances. Rodgers was even worse in 21 plate appearances this year at just .095/.095/143. This is from a player who has only two seasons with a wRC+ below 100 in the Rockies’ minor league system. The Rockies drafted him third overall in the 2015 Amateur Draft but have shown zero interest in letting him adjust over a full season. They are almost at a point where they need to trade Rodgers while he still has value or one of the other two so he can get regular playing time.

New Faces Ready to Support

Despite infuriating choices regarding playing time, the Rockies still have a strong farm system when it comes to the infield. Rodgers and Fuentes headline the crop of youngsters and they aren’t alone. Several top prospects remain in Colorado’s player pool which could mean they are close to the majors for 2021. None of them will have 2020 stats but they are still worth examining.

Colton Welker leads the way after a strong 2019 where he reached AA-Hartford and hit .252/313/408 with 10 home runs. The former fourth-round pick from 2016 struggled in the Arizona Fall League and he might not have ideal power for first base but he has good plate discipline. Welker played in Hartford alongside one of the team’s few middle infield prospects in Alan Trejo. The San Diego State product hit .243/290/391 for the Yardgoats in 2019. He could be on the way to the majors in late 2021 as he is already 24-years-old. Both should reach Triple-A at some point next season.

Also, watch and see if Aaron Schunk makes some noise in the Rockies infield in the next couple of seasons. The former Georgia Bulldog only played in short-season A-ball but might move quickly through the team’s farm system. He is one of the team’s few prospects that look good enough on defense to handle third base full-time if Arenado ever departs or is seriously hurt. The Rockies have a below-average farm system but the infield is the best part of it. It’ll help keep the current infield among the Major League’s most competent.

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