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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Chirps from the Rockies-Indians finale

Well, this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. The Indians brought their brooms to the ballpark on Sunday and swept the Rockies. Colorado dropped to 2-7 on this road trip. Below are some tweets from the 6-4 loss, including fan reaction, professional analysis and even a web gem nominee from MLB.

The Rockies have a travel day on Monday before beginning a series against the Diamondbacks at Coors Field on Tuesday.

Video: Rockies travel to Cleveland for a weekend series

The Colorado Rockies are coming off of a three-game stint in Philadelphia. Here is a recap of that series, what we can take from those three games as well as what lies ahead in Cleveland.

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.

Tulowitzki is baseball’s crown jewel in 2014

Let’s role-play for a bit. Say you are about to ask your girlfriend to marry you. What type of engagement ring do you buy? Is it one that costs a lot of money and has one flaw that everyone will overlook just because of its size? Or, do you get one that will initially look the part and is really cheap but fade out because it comes from a foreign land and has internal, structural issues? Maybe you pay a big price but have the assurance that you are getting an all-around rock that will keep your lady happy for the rest of your days?

I don’t know about everyone out there, but that last option sounded pretty good.

Each one of those questions could symbolize three polarizing figures in Major League Baseball.

The first symbol is Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers. Cabrera could go down as one of the game’s best hitters of all time. The two-time American League MVP is hitting .291 this season and leads his team with 29 RBI. However, his one flaw is defense. Despite not having an etched-in-stone position, Cabrera owns a -109.4 UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games). This means that he is on pace to allow 109 runs throughout the season just from his lack of defensive ability.

Cabrera is even known to avoid making a tough play every now and then. Everyone overlooks this analytic due to the fact that he can set the world on fire with his hitting prowess and he is the last person to hit for the Triple Crown since 1967.

The second symbol in this dilemma is Yasiel Puig. The enigmatic Cuban right fielder signed for a reasonable price of $42 million over seven years, but has shown on the field that the Los Angeles Dodgers got him for quite a bargain. The runner-up for 2013 NL Rookie of the Year is having another good season, hitting .318 with six home runs and 25 RBI.

What has gotten Puig in trouble is his reputation that he has mustered in his short stint in the United States. Whether he hits a walk-off home run or gets charged for reckless driving, one thing is for certain: you can always find a story about him.

Finally, it’s time we take a look at that glamorous third option. This rock is currently a Rockie (see what I did there?). His name is Troy Tulowitzki and he is the most dominant shortstop in baseball. Tulowitzki is leading the major leagues in batting average (.395), on-base percentage (.497) and slugging percentage (.766). Not only are those numbers impressive by themselves, but the way he has separated himself from the other candidates is astounding.

Troy Tulowitzki is showing why he is the best player in MLB this season (Creative Commons/Keith Allison).

Troy Tulowitzki is showing why he is the best player in MLB this season (Creative Commons/Keith Allison).

“Tulo” is ahead of teammate Charlie Blackmon by .043 for the batting crown. The Rockies phenom leads Shin-Soo Choo of the Texas Rangers by .041 in the on-base percentage lead. As if those two weren’t enough, Tulo is the only hitter to slug over .700 and leads Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox by .146.

Does playing half of the games at Coors Field help? Of course. However, Tulo has a batting average of .302, an on-base percentage of .361 and a slugging percentage of .613 on the road this season. Although those numbers aren’t gaudy, they do provide credibility to Tulo’s impressive season.

Still not sold? Take a look at his fielding.

Using the same metric as I did with Cabrera, Tulo holds a 22.2 UZR/150. Using that math, Troy saves 22 runs when he is in the game. That means he is on pace to save 87.2 more runs per season than Cabrera.

When it comes to reputation, I challenge you to find an article by a reputable source that shows how Tulo hasn’t been a role model since he was called up in 2006. So, not only is Tulo better on the field than Puig (compare numbers above), but also off it.

When someone asks who is the crown jewel of baseball in 2014, one could debate Miguel Cabrera, Yasiel Puig or Troy Tulowitzki. However, maybe there really isn’t a debate after all.

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!

Rox Linx

This is the first installment of “Rox Linx” in which we will link other stories based on recent happenings in the Rockies community. This is much easier knowing you can enjoy a nice cobb salad and reminisce about that 8-2 slaughter of the Giants last night.

Mailbag Monday

Hoping you all had a safe and enjoyable Easter weekend. If you are already sick of hearing Pitbull rap about the NBA Playoffs (excuse me, PLAYOFFS!) like I am, then I have just the cure: let’s do a mailbag. As always, any inquiries can be sent to cody.j.voga@gmail.com or @Purple_Mondays.

With that said, let’s jump right into it.

Dylan from Stockton, Calif. writes: Being in the NL West where some of the best pitching staffs in baseball exist (and that being a glaring weakness for the Rockies), do you see Colorado making any significant moves to help them compete?

Cody Voga: Great question, Dylan. I think the biggest thing holding the Rockies back is not having a bona fide ace. Young, power arms such as Jordan Lyles, Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler should develop into solid rotation pitchers, but all have a few knocks on their game. Jhoulys Chacin, currently the best arm on the staff, is rehabbing a shoulder injury that he injured early in Spring Training.

As for potential moves? I see one that would cost a pretty penny. Chris Sale of the White Sox would be the best option. The hard-throwing, deceptive southpaw is only 25 and has a career ERA of 2.93 in the AL. He has also lowered his WHIP the past three seasons to an astounding .841 which is fourth in the AL and 10th in the MLB.

Chris Sale would look really good in a Rockies uniform by the end of the season. (Creative Commons)

Chris Sale would look really good in a Rockies uniform by the end of the season. (Creative Commons)

He is stuck in an unfortunate situation as his team is a few years from competing. In order to get him the Rockies would need to unload at least two of their top five prospects. That can include any combination of Gray, Butler or shortstop Rosell Herrera who has shown flashes of brilliance.


Ron from Norfolk, Neb. writes: It’s early in the season, but do you think CarGo has a legit shot to be the NL MVP?

Cody Voga: Wouldn’t that be nice, Ron? If he can get back to 2010 form, I don’t see any doubt at all. His biggest competition may be his own teammate, Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon has emerged since the Dexter Fowler trade, hitting .426 with 10 RBI already on the season from the leadoff spot. Are you kidding me?! This guy needs some love!

Getting back to CarGo, he has had some tough luck as of late. He had multiple hits taken away from him by some outstanding defense from the Padres and Giants on the last six-day road trip. CarGo still owns a .286 batting average, which should improve after a few more games inside the friendly confines of Coors Field. He is coming off of back-to-back seasons in which he won a Gold Glove and was voted an All-Star, so I think the voting is out there. Just waiting for him to break out.


Kelsey from Arvada, Colo. writes: When Jonathan Gray gets the call-up, who from the rotation will get bounced?

Cody Voga: That is a tough one, Kelsey. Due to the Chacin injury, there have been two spots that have been at stake so far this season. When it is all said and done, I believe the rotation will be Chacin, Anderson, Chatwood, Lyles and Gray.

Gray will have to get it figured out as he has struggled mightily in Double-A ball for the Tulsa Drillers. The No. 12 overall prospect according to Baseball America is 1-1 with an ERA of 6.57. He has a devastating slider and can heat it up to 100 miles per hour, but has struggled with his command. Once he gets it all together, the rest of baseball had better watch out.

The odd men out would be Franklin Morales, Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio. Morales would serve as a great long relief pitcher out of the ‘pen, while de la Rosa and Nicasio would most likely be used as trade chips. It’s hard to imagine either of them being bullpen specialties, but it would give the Rockies the best chance to win.