Editor’s note: Fourth in a series for the 2022 Rockies. Today: the outfield.
The Rockies outfield was one of the least productive of major tournaments in 2021, which is why new general manager Bill Schmidt must find a way to add a power bat during the offseason.
The Colorado outfielder combined to hit .259, seventh-best in the majors. But that average was due in large part to playing half of their games in the batting paradise known as Coors Field. The Rockies outfielder hit just 46 home runs, placing 29th, and their .719 OPS was 21st.
The outfielder’s 81 WRC + was the worst major tournament ever. Much like OPS +, wRC + takes into account the value of a batter to create runs and then adjusts it for park and league factors. Like other adjusted stats, a wRC + of 100 is considered the league average.
It’s hard to say which outfielder the Rockies might try to land, but Chris Taylor of the Dodgers, Nick Castellanos of the Reds (if he retires) and Michael Conforto of the Mets would be good choices. If the Rockies can afford it.
Here’s a breakdown and ratings for each of the Rockies’ outfielder’s performance, with a forecast for their 2022 season:
RF Charlie Blackmon (0.270 avg, 0.761 OPS, 13 HR, 78 RBI)
Blackmon remains in excellent shape, but he’s 35 and his power is waning, much like Todd Helton’s power faded at 35. a .904 OPS. The Rockies would like to see a similar production of Blackmon, which will earn $ 21 million in 2022.
In 2019, when Blackmon hit 32 home runs, his home run percentage was 5.1%. In 2021, it fell to 2.2%. Blackmon is still an accomplished hitter, but he needs to bounce back.
Defensively, Blackmon has had a solid year at right field, but he is likely to spend some time as a designated hitter in 2022. Rating: C-less
DE Sam Hilliard (0.215 avg, 0.757 OPS, 14 HR, 34 RBI)
Hilliard, who plans to hone his swing during the Winter Ball, has every chance of winning the starting position in center field. He has raw power, speed on the bases and the ability to handle the great outdoors at Coors Field.
But there are still flaws in his approach to home plate, as illustrated by his base percentage of .294 and his strikeout rate of 36.6%. He was sent in for a tune-up and played 53 games at Triple-A Albuquerque, although he continued to struggle upon his return to the Rockies. However, there were signs towards the end of the season that Hilliard was more comfortable with his modified swing. It reached .243 with an .849 OPS in August and .243 with an .812 OPS in September and October. Rating: D
LF / CF Raimel Tapia (0.273 avg, 0.699 OPS, 6 HR, 50 RBI)
As it stands, Tapia will be the starter in left field next season, although Connor Joe could replace Tapia. It is even possible that Tapia is involved in an offseason trade.
Tapia’s season, like her career, has been hot and cold. There was a lot to like: 20 stolen bases, a 13.1% strikeout rate, the lowest in the career, and a 7.5% walk rate, the highest in the career. But there have been periodic falls and a lingering toe injury in the second half of the season has slowed him down considerably.
Tapia shows occasional power, as exemplified by his six circuits, but he’s a free trader who imposes himself too much. In fact, when he puts the balls in play, he hits the Grounders at a rate of 67.4%.
He continues to make progress on defense and base lines, and he hit .295 with the runners in scoring position. Note: B-less
CF / IN Garrett Hampson (0.234 avg, 0.669 OPS, 11 HR, 33 RBI)
Hampson arrived as an infielder, but mixed his speed and hard work to become a solid center fielder. If the Rockies don’t acquire an impact outfielder, they could form a pack in Hampson and Hilliard (a left-handed hitter).
Hampson, however, is a dazzling player. He reached 0.338 in June in 23 games (15 starts), but then hit 0.176 in July in 23 games (16 starts). He stole 17 goals and is the team’s best punter, but has a 0.289 percentage on goals. Rating: C-less
LF / 1B Connor Joe (0.285 avg, 0.848 OPS, 8 HR, 35 RBI)
Manager Bud Black is very attached to Joe and the outfielder has become a fan favorite. A place in the starting lineup is certainly possible in 2022, but Joe only played 63 games before being sidelined by a hamstring injury. The jury is therefore still out.
Still, the Rockies love his baseball intelligence and ability to get to base (0.379 OBP, 12.3% walk rate). As a defensive player, both on the left and at first baseman, he remains a work in progress. Note: B-plus
DE Yonathan Daza (0.282 avg, 0.688 OPS, 2 HR, 30 RBI)
Daza is an excellent outfielder with a good arm, but he doesn’t strike for power. His 2021 season was marred by two stints on the injured list and that undoubtedly affected his performance. Daza came out of the door hot, reaching 0.327 in June, but reached 0.181 in 35 games after July 1. He’s out of options, so with a crowded outfield, his future on the 40-man roster is questionable. Rating: D
DE Ryan Vilade (.000 avg, .143 OPS, 0 HR, 0 RBI)
Vilade, 22, was a late-season summons that saw limited playing time (three games, six plate appearances). He is ranked fifth best prospect in the Rockies by MLB Pipeline and the team will take a hard look at him during spring practice. Vilade hit .286 / .339 / .420 with seven home runs in 447 home plate appearances for the Triple-A Albuquerque. While his triple-A home run tally is low, as Vilade gets stronger, the hope is that he can hit 25-30 home runs per season. Note: Incomplete