Weekend Mailbag

Just like the Walkers…I’m baaaaack! Great questions continue to pour in. Want to get involved? You know where you can find me.

Jordan from Santa Monica, Calif. writes: Which prospect do you think the Rockies should’ve grabbed in the MLB Draft this weekend but didn’t?

Cody Voga: There will certainly be plenty of great talents that come out of the draft and won’t be in Colorado, Jordan. One player I wish the Rockies would have picked is actually from around your area. Aaron Brown is a pitcher and center fielder from Pepperdine University who is an all-around player that could have helped Colorado in many areas.

The 6-foot-1 southpaw was the Player of the Year in the West Coast Conference, hitting .306 with 12 home runs and 47 RBI. He is currently 13-1 with a 1.95 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 115.2 innings. I say currently because the Waves are in the Super Regionals and are playing for a chance to make it to the College World Series on Monday.

Brown was picked No. 81 overall by the Phillies and has a chance to make it to the majors as fast as anybody in this class given his array of talents.


Bryce from Des Moines, Iowa writes: Now that we have had time to digest Eddie Butler’s debut, what do you make of it?

Cody Voga: There are certainly two ways to look at it, Bryce. Positives are always good, so we will stick with that.

Butler was thrown to the wolves by manager Walt Weiss – and I think that was a good decision. Butler won’t face a better lineup this season than that of the Dodgers. He did record two strikeouts on Yasiel Puig, making the Cuban look foolish on both of them.

Eddie Butler didn't have the best debut, but showed glimpses of why the Rockies called him up. (Denver Post)

Eddie Butler didn’t have the best debut, but showed glimpses of why the Rockies called him up. (Denver Post)

Despite picking up the loss, Butler didn’t shy away from Los Angeles hitters as he pounded the strike zone all night. 61 percent of his pitches were in the zone, showing he had no fear of the competitors. We also saw the full arsenal of Butler’s repertoire. He mixed in his slider, curveball and changeup very well with his fastball. He also showed that he is unafraid to throw any pitch during any count.

Do you think Franklin Morales would have done any better? As his numbers show, I would highly doubt it. It was good to toe the rubber in Denver for the first time for Butler. Only better starts are on the horizon.


Martin from Colorado Springs, Colo. writes: With a plethora of outfielders, do you see a trade in the future for the Rockies? How about for a left-handed reliever?

Cody Voga: You and I think very similarly, Martin. I recently posted a scenario in which the Rockies would be trade partners with the Red Sox.

I can see a trade happening with the Red Sox because they have a drastic need in the outfield. Shane Victorino has been the best outfielder all season, and he is just hitting .242. Jackie Bradley Jr. has done well defensively in center and has shown some of the potential that Boston has been banking on. The other outfield spot is certainly up for grabs.

Shane Victorino has been the best outfielder in Boston, though he has lower numbers than all the Rockies outfielders. (Creative Commons)

Shane Victorino has been the best outfielder in Boston, though he has lower numbers than all the Rockies outfielders. (Creative Commons)

As much as it would pain me to see Brandon Barnes or Drew Stubbs go, either of those two could pull Andrew Miller to the Rockies. Miller would give the Rockies a solid southpaw that they have been lacking this whole year. Miller’s 2.81 ERA would rank first among Rockies left-handers if he were to land in Denver.

The next trade will show just how committed to winning the Rockies organization is.

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Video: Butler gets the call

Despite an abysmal performance by the Rockies against the Diamondbacks on June 3, this was a night dedicated to one of Colorado’s top prospects – Eddie Butler. Butler will make his first start in the majors on Friday against the Dodgers. The wait is now over!

Triple Play: A look into the upcoming series versus the Diamondbacks

The Rockies returned home Monday to begin a 10-game homestand against the Diamondbacks (June 3-5), Dodgers (June 6-8) and Braves (June 9-12). After getting swept by Cleveland, Colorado drug its feet back to Coors Field after going 2-7 on the nine-game roadtrip. June will be a telling month for any postseason hopes. It all starts with the Diamondbacks.

Here are three things that I would like to see in the series against Arizona:

1. Quality outings from the starters.

Jorge De La Rosa, Jordan Lyles and Juan Nicasio will toe the rubber against the Diamondbacks. De La Rosa (six), Lyles (seven) and Nicasio (five) are the top three pitchers for the Rockies, in terms of quality starts.

Jorge De La Rosa, Jordan Lyles and Juan Nicasio have combined for 16 of Colorado's 28 wins. (Creative Commons/Denver Post/Creative Commons)

Jorge De La Rosa, Jordan Lyles and Juan Nicasio have combined for 16 of Colorado’s 28 wins. (Creative Commons/Denver Post/Creative Commons)

De La Rosa has dominated Arizona throughout his career. In 21 starts, the southpaw has held the Diamondbacks to a .233 batting average, .301 on-base percentage and has amassed 86 strikeouts. De La Rosa is on a hot streak, picking up six wins in his last seven starts.

Lyles has been a jerk to opposing batters this season. He has relied heavily on the two-seam fastball, throwing it 40 percent of the time. Using a fastball with movement causes the ball to sink as is evident with Lyles inducing 104 ground balls, nine of which were turned for double plays. Arizona has grounded into 40 double plays thus far into 2014, so this should be a dream matchup for Lyles.

Nicasio enters the series after a largely successful month of May. The 27-year-old picked up four wins with three coming at Coors Field. What has helped Nicasio is the run support he has gotten from his teammates. The Rockies scored 33 runs in Nicasio’s six starts last month. He leads the majors with an average of 6.36 runs of support per start. Look for a lit-up scoreboard in the final game of the series.

2. Troy Tulowitzki to break out from his recent slump.

Since appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Tulowitzki is 1-for-16 with six strikeouts. He couldn’t get back to Coors Field fast enough on Monday. Tulowitzki is hitting .521 with eight home runs and 24 RBI in just 21 homes games this season. Granted, he may be getting help from his buddy, Dinger.

Like he has to most teams, Tulowitzki has torched the Diamondbacks this year. In 15 plate appearances, the MVP candidate has collected eight hits including two home runs and six RBI. He has also shown good discipline drawing six walks against the NL West rivals.

3. Three wins for Colorado.

I’m not asking for a lot. The horrible road trip is over, so it is time for the Rockies to get back to their winning ways. The Rockies are 14-10 against the other four teams in the NL West, including a 4-2 mark against the Diamondbacks. Arizona is in the midst of a tumultuous season and has seemed to lose interest in challenging for a playoff spot. What better way to add to their misery than by sweeping the Diamondbacks?

June is set to be a huge month for the Rockies. May did not go by the script, but the good news is that it is over.

Colorado fans, don’t stop believin’ in our guys.

 

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.

 

 

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.