Required Rockies: Corey Dickerson

The only love Corey Dickerson is getting these days is from his mom. As great as that may be, it’s time the rest of the league takes notice. This kid is here to stay.

Dickerson is in just his second season in the majors. The 25-year old has made an impression on manager Walt Weiss these past two seasons.

Corey Dickerson has made the most of his opportunities this season in order to help the Rockies win. (Creative Commons)

Corey Dickerson has made the most of his opportunities this season in order to help the Rockies win. (Creative Commons)

Dickerson’s first season was about as average you can get. He had a .263 batting average, 17 RBI and a .459 slugging percentage that was largely in part to his five home runs and five triples. What he gained from the 69 games he played in has served as a springboard to this season.

The bright lights have shown just how effulgent Dickerson can be. The lefty has improved dramatically is just one season, upping his batting average (.324), on-base percentage (.376) and slugging percentage (.600). He already has posted seven home runs and 18 RBI in 17 fewer games than he played in last year.

Largely considered the fourth outfielder on the depth chart (Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Charlie Blackmon), Dickerson has made the most of his opportunities when they have been given to him.

Screenshot of Corey Dickerson's spray chart. (FanGraphs)

Screenshot of Corey Dickerson’s spray chart. (FanGraphs)

As you can see, he has been reluctant to pick a side of the field he likes to hit to – and that’s a good thing. He’s had 15 hits (43 percent) to the opposite field, eight hits (24 percent) up the middle and 11 hits (33 percent) down the pull-side.

To the opposing pitchers out there: good luck trying to figure out how to pitch him.

Dickerson’s impact hasn’t just been felt in the batter’s box. Though he has started a majority of his games (17) this season in left field, Dickerson has notched nine starts in center field and five as a designated hitter. Any chance Weiss has had, the manager has given Dickerson the nod.

The Mississippi product has yet to make an error this season and has 128 putouts for his career. (Quick, somebody go knock on wood!) He makes the tough plays look easy.

Though he won’t see the field as much as he rightfully deserves due to the glut of outfielders this season, Dickerson will provide the Rockies with a go-to option off the bench in case of injury or if there is a need for a pinch hitter.

And at this stage of his career, that’s just fine.

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Rox Linx

After giving up 11 runs in the eighth and ninth innings against the Diamondbacks, I thought that was rock bottom. This guy would beg to differ. Only one more day until Eddie Butler’s start! Positivity!

Rockies Rumblings

The Colorado Rockies are currently two games out of a Wild Card spot, despite being 28-30. They are in the midst of their worst stretch of the season, losing 10 of their last 12 games. With Colorado being in an awkward position (are they contenders or pretenders?), there have been some rumblings around the organization whether to try to improve the roster via trade or blow the whole thing up and rebuild. Considering how the roster is structured, it would be easy to see both points of the argument.

On one hand, the Rockies could break the backs of their fans by trading Carlos Gonzalez. It’s tough to see him in another uniform, especially with his buddy Troy Tulowitzki still holding it down for Colorado. I don’t envision this happening because Gonzalez, 28, is in the prime of his career. Sure, Corey Dickerson, Brandon Barnes and Drew Stubbs are off to great starts this season. Sure, “CarGo” seems to find himself on the DL more and more. But, at any point, who is more feared by opposing pitchers? CarGo. Who is more clutch and can be counted on when it matters most? CarGo. Dickerson, Barnes and Stubbs will get their plate appearances, but they shouldn’t expect to be starting for Colorado anytime soon.

Despite rumors from MLB's Ken Rosenthal, Carlos Gonzalez should finish his career with the Rockies. (North Platte Post)

Despite rumors from MLB’s Ken Rosenthal, Carlos Gonzalez should finish his career with the Rockies. (North Platte Post)

The haul for CarGo would be juicy. However, with most of them being prospects, how does anybody know they would be able to contribute even half of what CarGo has? I’m squashing this rumbling like a bug.

On the other hand, Colorado could risk its future for the now. Trading for a solid arm, such as Jeff Samardzjia, has been a topic that seems to be lurking in the shadows. Samardzija would have to sign long-term for this to even be considered by the Rockies. The Cubs would be asking for a high price that could include any of Eddie Butler, Jon Gray or Tyler Matzek. The recent call-up of Butler complicates matters because if he does well, Colorado will be hanging on to him for the long haul. If he struggles, he won’t have as much value to the Cubs, thus cancelling this trade.

Jon Gray is the most coveted prospect in the Rockies farm system. Giving him up for anything short of an ace in their prime seems unlikely as he oozes potential to be the cornerstone of the franchise in years to come. Tyler Matzek might not be seen in the same light as Butler or Gray by other organizations. Matzek has had a rough time in Triple-A, showing that he might not be the answer that other clubs are looking for. Like the CarGo trade, this rumbling can be smashed.

A more realistic approach would be to improve the roster by trading proven players for proven players that help out both teams. The final rumbling is a trade involving the Red Sox. Though there are no specifics given, both the Rockies and Red Sox seem to be terrific trade partners.

The Rockies need help with left-handed bullpen relief. Current southpaws in the bullpen, Rex Brothers and Boone Logan, have ERAs of 5.47 and 5.87, respectively. The Red Sox have two solid, proven veterans in their ‘pen that can help this issue.

Andrew Miller is a lefty who owns an ERA of 2.55, which is impressive considering he pitches in a toughest division in baseball – the AL East. Hitters are only batting .196 and left-handed hitters have collected a total of seven hits against Miller.

Andrew Miller can help the Rockies bullpen with his experience and ability to get left-handed hitters out. (Creative Commons)

Andrew Miller can help the Rockies bullpen with his experience and ability to get left-handed hitters out. (Creative Commons)

The Red Sox need outfield help just as badly as the Rockies need a southpaw reliever. The best outfielder for Boston, Shane Victorino, is hitting .242 with only 10 RBI. The worst-hitting outfielder, CarGo, is hitting .255 but has the potential to be a MVP candidate when healthy.

Meanwhile, every Rockies outfielder has an OPS of at least .730. The best OPS number for the Red Sox comes from Jonny Gomes – .713.

I can see a deal of Barnes or Stubbs for Miller happening. Both teams have dire needs and both can be filled without giving up players with high potential or large contracts. I’ll let this rumbling stick around for a bit.

The Rockies can improve their organization without breaking the backs of their fans or the structure of their farm system. All they have to do is find the right trade partner.

 

 

Rox Linx

It’s hard to be giddy after a 4-2 loss to the Diamondbacks, but with Eddie Butler being called up, Rockies fan have something to celebrate.

Rox Linx

Started off my day with some Jefferson Starship. Is there a better song to exemplify the Rockies right now?

Haters gon’ hate

We’ve all heard that phrase. Now, it’s time to put it to good use.

This segment will explore one topic about the Rockies that I just don’t like, thus deeming me as a “hater.”

The issue: Why can’t the Rockies reach base on the road?

It shouldn’t matter if you draw a walk or get a hit – you get on base both ways.

Right now, the Rockies seem to be reaching for that hit instead of being patient at the plate and drawing a walk on the road this season. After torching the Reds in Cincinnati earlier this month, the Rockies were hitting .300 on balls in play. That average has dropped 15 points in just six games away from Coors Field. We can only hope this is just a string of bad luck.

Michael Cuddyer and Co. need to find a way to get on base away from Coors Field. (Creative Commons)

Michael Cuddyer and Co. need to find a way to get on base away from Coors Field. (Creative Commons)

Colorado hitters have drawn the fourth-fewest walks this season and only the Diamondbacks have a lower percentage of walks in total plate appearances. When you play in a ballpark that allows a majority of balls in play to drop for hits, that isn’t a bad thing. However, when you are in an unforgiving ballpark, simply making contact just isn’t going to get the job done.

Getting runners on base is the goal of every manager going into each game, especially on the road. The Rockies are not doing that as their 6.3 percent walk rate tops only the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL.

The impatience at the plate has cost Colorado, as its on-base percentage on the road is .291, which is fifth-worst in all of baseball. Below are the road numbers from players with over 50 plate appearances:

(Screen grab of FanGraphs)

(Screen grab of FanGraphs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Now, Troy Tulowitzki is the exception to this vent session. He has shown discipline at the plate with a 17.2 percent walk rate away from Denver. Is it a coincidence that he has a high walk rate during an MVP season? There may be other factors to his outstanding season, but it certainly has helped.

What needs to improve is the on-base percentage of Carlos Gonzalez, Wilin Rosario and DJ LeMahieu. Those three need to pick it up and set themselves up for teammates to knock them in. Combined, the trio has 15 walks on the road compared to 30 by Tulowitzki.

CarGo’s batting average of .200 of balls in play still isn’t the worst on the team. Rosario checks in with a .167 BABIP. This has lead to an elevated swing rate and more outs from the four and five hitters in the lineup.

All these numbers (minus Tulo’s) scream that the Rockies need to take a more balanced approach when batting on the road. This will lead to more wins and an improved road record. Colorado is 12-17 away from home, which ranks 23rd in the majors.

If the Rockies don’t improve this key statistic, their road record will remain that poor. This could lead to a missed opportunity at the playoffs and a lot of unhappy fans. Just remember, there’s no crying in baseball.

 

Grades by Memorial Day

Memorial Day marks a day where we as Americans can express our gratitude for all those serving our country. Though this is just one day set aside for our troops, every day should provoke thought and hope from US citizens nation-wide.

As it pertains to baseball, Memorial Day is the first gauge that we as fans can look at our club and see if we are contenders or pretenders.

Below are my grades on a few notable Rockies up to this point in the season.

Troy Tulowitzki, A-plus. What else is there to say about this guy? Tulo is a prime candidate for NL MVP this season. He leads the league in batting average (.378), on-base percentage (.480), slugging percentage (.720) and is ranked in the top-5 in RBI (36), home runs (14) and hits (62). Tulo committed his first error of the season on Monday, bringing him back down to earth along with the rest of majors.

Charlie Blackmon, A. It’s officially “Fear the Beard” season in Denver. Blackmon has embraced the leadoff role for the Rockies and has thrived doing so. He has a batting average of .319, nine home runs and 33 RBI thus far in 2014 – all are career-highs. The 27-year-old is in his first season as a full-time starter. The only reason he is not an A-plus is due to his regression this past month. After a scalding April, Blackmon is hitting .253 and has struckout 13 times thus far in May. Sure, we all saw the regression coming, but how we he respond to a disappointing month? Go show us what you’re made of, Chuck.

Charlie Blackmon has been a nice surprise to Rockies this season in centerfield. (Creative Commons)

Charlie Blackmon has been a nice surprise to Rockies this season in centerfield. (Creative Commons)

Justin Morneau, A-minus. Whomever was going to man first base this season was surely going to have high expectations, due to the large shoes Todd Helton left. Morneau has welcomed the challenge and passed with flying colors in the first two months of the season. The Canadian is hitting .315, with nine home runs and 32 RBI. A move to Coors field has treated Morneau well, as he slugging .607 with an OPS of 1.005 in Denver. He needs to show more consistency on the road and fend off pitches. Morneau has struckout 15 times on the road as opposed to only seven at home. Let’s hope he remains healthy and keeps his mind right. If he does, he is in for a terrific season.

Jordan Lyles, B-plus. Two months in and it is apparent that the Rockies destroyed the Astros in their offseason trade. That largely is credited to Lyles and his ability to stay in the rotation. Lyles has done an excellent job keeping the ball on the ground, owning a 55-percent ground ball rate. This has led to a .268 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) – a career-best. What has exposed Lyles is when he leaves the ball up in the zone as he experienced in his last start against the Padres on May 15. Here’s to hoping the 23-year-old keeps hovering around the 3.50 ERA mark all season long.

Carlos Gonzalez, B-minus. What has gotten into CarGo? The two-time All-Star has battled a couple of injuries and is only hitting .270 on the season. The power is still there as he has seven home runs and 29 RBI, but there is something that is troubling with CarGo. His plate discipline has been a cause for concern this season. He is swinging at an alarming 39 percent of balls outside the strike zone. He is also swinging at a career-high 53 percent of all pitches. Pitchers are aware of this statistic and will keep pitching around CarGo until he learns to hold his swing. Once he gets back to form, the average will blossom and we will see the old CarGo.

Carlos Gonzalez needs to get back to being patient at the plate as the 2014 season progresses. (Creative Commons)

Carlos Gonzalez needs to get back to being patient at the plate as the 2014 season progresses. (Creative Commons)

Jouhlys Chacin, C-minus. After having a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 5.9 last season, it was time for Chacin to solidify himself as one of the top pitchers in the NL. Instead, he has gotten off to a horrendous start this season. Starting the 2014 campaign on the DL with shoulder issues didn’t help. Chacin was rushed back to the Rockies and it has shown how rusty he is. In five starts, Chacin is 0-4 with an ERA of 5.20 and a WHIP of 1.48. What myself and other Rockies fans need to realize is that he just needs time. The 26-year-old is still young and has shown us how well he can pitch throughout his tenure in Denver. Optimism is key to Chacin’s grade as he will improve with more starts under his belt.

A.J. Ellis’ ability to celebrate, F. Don’t fret, Rockies fans. I haven’t lost my mind. Yes, Ellis plays for the Dodgers, but he needed to be included in this report card due to unfortunate landing on the DL. Oh, those Dodgers.

 

 

Michael Cuddyer should not be in Denver on Aug. 1

Though the July 31 trade deadline is 74 days away, it is never too early to talk about improving the squad.

I firmly believe that if the Rockies want to remain a contender, trading Michael Cuddyer is their best option.

The 2013 National League batting champion set career-highs in batting average (.331), on-base percentage (.389) slugging percentage (.530) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.919) last year.

With those kind of numbers, why should the Rockies move him?

After winning the NL batting title, Cuddyer might be looking for a new home on July 31. (Creative Commons)

After winning the NL batting title, Cuddyer might be looking for a new home on July 31. (Creative Commons)

There are a few reasons, but the main argument is the glut of outfielders that the Rockies have.

Charlie Blackmon has emerged as one of the top leadoff men in baseball, ranking in the top-20 for batting average (.333), home runs (9), RBI (30) and on-base percentage (.364). He has also shown his versatility, starting in all three outfield spots this season. Blackmon has put an emphasis on defense, having only committed two errors with a .974 fielding percentage.

Corey Dickerson is in his second season with the club and has shown that he is here to stay. The lefty has pieced together an impressive start to the 2014 season, owning a .344 batting average, four roundtrippers and 11 RBI in just 26 games. Dickerson has yet to commit an error in 114 chances in the huge outfield of Coors Field.

Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes have been nice options off the bench for manager Walt Weiss this year, after both being acquired in the offseason. Stubbs is having a career year at the dish, hitting .326, slugging .500 and getting on base 36.2 percent of the time. He is also a certifiable thief, having swiped over 130 bases during his six-year career. Barnes has been a great two-way player for the Rockies this year, hitting a career-high .325 and starting in every outfield position with only one error.

Finally, Carlos Gonzalez is, well, Carlos Gonzalez. One of the few five-tool players in the league, “CarGo” has gotten off to a slow start in 2014, hitting .270, slugging .485 and getting on base 31 percent of the time. You would have to go back to his rookie year in 2008 with the Oakland A’s to find numbers that low. Since joining the Rockies, he has won a batting title (2010), three Gold Gloves (2010, 2012, 2013), made two All-Star Game appearances (2012, 2013) and has proven to be the second-best asset (Troy Tulowitzki) on this team.

With these five outfielders, and the solid play of Justin Morneau, there seems to be a surplus of talent in Denver at all four spots where Cuddyer can play.

The next set of reasons would be Cuddyer’s contract and age. The 35-year-old outfielder is in the final year of his contract and is set to make $10.5 million off of a three-year, $31.5 million he signed back in 2012. Cuddyer is on the downhill run of his prime, but can net a substantial return if dealt to a contender in need of a bat.

The Atlanta Braves are currently in a tie for the NL East crown at 22-19 and are ranked near the bottom in the major batting categories. They sit in 25th in slugging percentage (.368), 28th in batting average (.231), 29th in on-base percentage (.289) and 30th in runs (129). Though they have lost pitchers Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlan to Tommy John surgeries, they still have six quality starters battling for only five spots. Gavin Floyd, Aaron Harang, Ervin Santana, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Alex Wood all have at least two quality starts (6 IP, 3 ER or less) and ERAs below 4.25 this season.

Of that list above, Ervin Santana seems to be the best fit for what Colorado needs – a top of the rotation, shutdown pitcher. Santana is 4-1 on the season with 46 strikeouts, an ERA of 2.76 and a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.14. Santana makes the most sense to trade for Cuddyer because of his abilities and contract situation.

Santana signed a one-year, $14.1 million deal with the Braves earlier in the offseason. Adding another prospect or two with Cuddyer’s $10.5 million can balance out the salaries and needs for both teams. Plus, if both Santana and Cuddyer do not prove worthy of another deal, their contract is up at the end of the season and both teams would lose nothing.

The Braves should be all over this deal as they need to find a way to keep B.J. Upton out of the lineup.

When July 31 comes rolling around, I wouldn’t expect Cuddyer to stay in Denver – and neither should he.

Rox Linx

Another day, another victory over the Giants. Ah, life is good. Below are a few links for you to peruse through during your lunch break. Hope everyone brought their brooms to work today – we’re going for the sweep!