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Series Preview # 2: Diamondbacks at Rockies

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The D-backs look to climb out of the basement

The Arizona Diamondbacks visit the Colorado Rockies this week for a three game series beginning tonight. The division rivals will square off 19 times this year, with 9 of the games in Coors field and 10 in Chase field.

After beating the Los Angeles Dodgers on opening day, the Rockies dropped the next three games and are tied for 4th place in the NL West with the Diamondbacks, who dropped 3 of 4 to Padres in their opening series.

Rockies Offseason:

The big news out of Colorado this past off season was the trade of All Star third baseman Nolan Arenado to the St. Louis Cardinals for a collection of prospects and suspects. Still owed $200M through 2026 on an extension he’d signed just a year earlier, this was a straight salary dump. The Rockies are even paying his full salary of $35M in 2021.

They signed free agent C.J. Cron to play first base. They also brought back former Diamondbacks Chris Owings and Jhoulys Chacin. Ian Desmond opted out for the second consecutive year over Covid-19 concerns.

Despite dumping Arenado they are still estimated to have a 2021 payroll of $118M, (compared to the Diamondbacks $99M.) The money still being spent may not be done wisely though, as they are projected to win just 69 games, 4 behind the D-backs projected 73 wins.

Injuries:

Much like the Diamondbacks, the Rockies have been hit hard by injuries early in the season.

  • Scott Oberg is dealing with blood clots again and his career may be over.
  • Kyle Freeland is likely to miss the month of April with a shoulder strain
  • Brendan Rodgers has a hamstring injury and is expected to miss all of April as well

Raimel Tapia and Jon Gray are listed as day to day, but I expect to see them this series.

Lineup:

Mainstays Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon, plus the newly acquired Cron make for a decent 3-4-5, but the rest of their lineups look anything but impressive. Owings had a good series for them in L.A. though, going 4 for 10, with a double, a triple, and two walks for good measure.

Bullpen

2020 feel good story and former Diamondback Mental Skills coach Daniel Bard is closing for Colorado. Mychal Givens, Tyler Kinney and Yency Almonte appear to be the primary back end guys before Bard and Ben Bowden is their lone lefty in the pen.

Links to help you out:

Rockies Baseball Reference Page

Rockies Fangraphs Depth Chart Projections Page

Diamondbacks Baseball Reference Page

Diamondbacks Fangraphs Depth Chart Projections Page

The Diamondbacks salvaged the final game of their four game series with San Diego.

They were outscored 20-12, and hit just .217/.265/.377, .642 OPS. They were 3 for 31 with RISP, including 12 strikeouts. Other than a 4 homer outburst in the 5th inning of game one the offense was largely held in check. There were a few bright spots however.

Ketel Marte was red hot, going 9 for 16, with 2 homers, 2 doubles, and 2 walks.

Carson Kelly went 5 for 8 with a double and showed a good opposite and all fields approach. Tim Locastro, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Stephen Vogt all homered in the series.

This production was offset by Eduardo Escobar going 0 for 11, and despite a few hard hit balls, Christian Walker managed just 2 for 14 in the series. David Peralta was also just 3 for 14, although he did hit a pivotal two run triple in the first inning Sunday. Hopefully these guys all get it going in Colorado.

On the mound Madison Bumgarner, Merrill Kelly, and Caleb Smith took turns putting their teams in big holes in three short outings, allowing 12 earned runs in just 11 innings. Taylor Widener restored order on Sunday shutting out San Diego for 6 innings.

The bullpen (see link) looked ok for the most part, throwing 16 innings and allowing just 6 earned runs and a .250 batting avg, .744 OPS against. But the team suffered yet another blow as presumed relief ace Joakim Soria left the game on Sunday with a calf strain. Those are seldom good and can take a long time to heal. He’s been placed on the IL and Matt Peacock has been called up. They already lost Tyler Clippard with a shoulder strain for 60+ days.

STARTING PITCHING MATCHUPS

Be sure to note the ERA+ number, as that is park adjusted. This is more important for Colorado pitchers who pitch in such an extreme environment. A 5 ERA for a guy pitching half his games in Coors Field is league average, which is about 100 ERA+. Anything under 4.50 is a really good ERA for a Rockies pitcher. For example German Marquez 118 ERA+ with a career 4.23 ERA has the same ERA+ as Madison Bumgarner who has a 3.13 career ERA pitching most of his games in pitcher friendly AT&T park.

Luke Weaver is coming off a very poor 2020 and a very bumpy spring training. While his fastball and changeup can be borderline elite at times, his slider and curveball are inconsistent. This is his first start of the year and he needs to start producing results right out of the gate or his rotation spot could be in jeopardy when Zac Gallen returns.

German Marquez was great in 2020. He had a short outing on opening day vs. the Dodgers however, walking a career high 6 batters. He managed to just give up one run, and was fortunate to do so. When throwing strikes Marquez upper 90’s fastball and terrific curveball make him dominant.

Madison Bumgarner continues efforts to reinvent himself as a finesse pitcher. While he has looked a little better than he did last July and August, his first outing was another disappointment, going just 4 innings and giving up 6 runs on 7 hits and 2 homers.

Antonio Senzatela got crushed by the Dodgers in his first start, giving up 7 runs on 9 hits in just 3.1 IP. 2020 was a breakout season for him. He mixes a mid 90’s fastball with a very tough slider. He’ll also throw the occasional changeup and curve. But the slider is the show stopper here.

Merrill Kelly gave up 3 runs in 4 innings on 5 hits and 3 walks in his first start vs. San Diego. He seemed to tire by the 4th after some long innings and notably saw his velo drop about 2-3 MPH by the middle of the 3rd inning. Coming off Thoracic Outlet surgery he had a healthy spring and will look to continue to build strength.

Jon Gray had a good outing against the Dodgers last week, going 5 innings and giving up just one run. He left the game with full body cramps but is expected to make his start. He is coming off a very rough 2020, but has been a quality starter prior to that.

SERIES OUTLOOK

Coors field is a tough place for pitchers and a great place for hitters to get healthy. While it’s never an easy series, since 2017 the D-backs have actually outscored Colorado in Coors Field 210-193.

If the D-backs are a better team than they project to be on paper, these are the types of series they need to win, against a weaker opponent on the road.