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Series Preview for Spring Training Games: Diamondbacks against Rockies

What’s new with the Rockies and Diamondbacks?

Jose Iglesias and Rafael Devers celebrate.
Jose Iglesias (newly acquired by Rockies) and Rafael Devers celebrate.
Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

We reached the light at the end of the tunnel known as negotiating a new CBA. It’s the opening series for spring training. Thursday and Friday, the Diamondbacks and Rockies will play two games. Trades and free agent signings are far from over – perhaps a surprise will happen before game time.

Let’s cheer when Diamondbacks score runs.

In spring training, wins and losses are NOT a priority. Diamondbacks scoring runs would bring joy and happiness to fans.

My first game of bowling in decades happened Tuesday. Cheers were loud because my first frame was a strike! In bowling, three strikes in a row are called a turkey. Let’s call each spring training game with the Diamondbacks scoring at least 3 runs a golden turkey. And five consecutive golden turkeys would be a wonderful batting streak per this AZ Snake Pit article.

In addition to scoring runs, let’s see newly acquired players in action. Let’s see highly ranked prospects show their talents. Without further ado, let’s consider what’s new.

Newly acquired players.

Alex Colome will likely be this season’s closer for the Rockies. He will replace Daniel Bard. In 2021, Colome’s 103 ERA+ was better than Bard’s 92 ERA+. His got-the-job-done (my personal reliever measure) showed Colome’s 67.2% as better than Bard’s 62.7%.

Mark Melancon will likely be this season’s closer for the Diamondbacks. In 2021, his 175 ERA+ was awesome. It was an order of magnitude better than the Rockies closer. His got-the-job-done (my personal reliever measure) of 73.4% was better than Colome’s 67.2%.

An old friend Ian Kennedy returned to the Diamondbacks. From 2010 to 2013, he started 119 games for the Diamondbacks. In those games he was credited with 48 wins and 34 losses. He is now 37 years old and a very excellent reliever. In 2021, his 136 ERA+ was awesome. Kennedy’s got-the-job-done (my personal reliever measure) of 70.9% was better than the Rockies’ closer and nearly as good as Mark Melancon’s 73.4%. Perhaps Ian Kennedy will be the eighth inning setup pitcher.

Jose Iglesias will play short stop for Rockies. He will replace Trevor Story. He was affordable because he struggled in 2021 due to a hamstring injury. He has potential to shine as a batter and shine at short stop.

  • Batting. For the 2020 season, his .956 OPS ranked 25th and his .400 OBP ranked 20th in the Majors. In September 2021, his .915 OPS ranked 56th and his .406 OBP ranked 23rd in the Majors. Data from Baseball Savant, 100 pitch minimum.
  • Defense at shortstop. Each season he played between 2013 through 2020, his Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) at shortstop ranked in the top 25 per The Fielding Bible.

Chad Kuhl will pitch for Rockies. He will likely take a place in the rotation that was previously was held by Jon Gray. The last four seasons Chad Kuhl’s bWAR was the definition of replacement level, while Jon Gray averaged 1.7 bWAR per season.

In 2018, Chad Kuhl had Tommy John surgery. His 4-seam and sinker average velocities (94.3 and 94.1 mph) are approaching his prior averages of 95.3 mph per Baseball Savant.

Nevertheless, Kuhl’s pitching fits well with the Rockies’ pitchers. Three opinions follow:

“Something interesting regarding Kuhl’s fastball lies with its location. The Pirates insisted on Kuhl throwing the pitch up. However, his heater gets well below average vertical break, meaning it’s better suited to play lower in the zone, much like the rest of the Rockies rotation.” — Tyler Paddor

“The one thing we always have to realize is, how does he [a potential Rockies pitcher acquisition] handle the beast of Coors Field?” — Bill Schmidt, GM of the Rockies

“Yes, we know you’ve spent years developing the high four-seamers and low breaking stuff that have become so popular in the sport, but neither of those pitches work here [at Coors Field]. Also, on average pitchers strike out 12% fewer batters here.” — Stephanie Apstein

Will the Rockies Acquire Kris Bryant?

The Rockies are ‘aggressively pursuing’ Kris Bryant. For details, see this MLB Trade Rumors article.

Despite their recent losses of star players, perhaps the Rockies see themselves in a win-now mode. Perhaps Bill Schmidt, the Rockies GM, wants to add a batter that can, “ you win a championship,” like Ryan McMahon, Brendan Rodgers, Charlie Blackmon and C.J. Cron.

What are the Rockies thinking?

It would be worthwhile to listen closely to Bill Schmidt. My guess is that the Rockies found a subtle and yet powerful way to improve Kris Bryant, albeit he is great. Bill Schmidt has received awards for his scouting, such as West Coast Scout of the Year in 2019, and Legends of Scouting.

Another reason to listen closely to him is that Bill Schmidt intends to build up the Rockies’ analytics and build a focus on the mental aspects of baseball. How are the Rockies executing those build-ups?

Who will play third base for the Diamondbacks?

Although performance during spring training may be an important factor in deciding who will play third base during the season, it’s a significant insight to see who plays third base in the early games of spring training. Let’s keep an open mind to many possibilities before forming a more demonstrative opinion.

Top Prospects.

Watching top prospects play baseball at a higher level would be great! According to FanGraphs’ Roster Resource, the Diamondbacks and Rockies have five top prospects who are expected to arrive in the Majors this season:

  • Alex Thomas, OF, #2 prospect of the Diamondbacks.
  • Geraldo Perdomo, SS, #4 prospect of the Diamondbacks.
  • Ryne Nelson, SP, #5 prospect of the Diamondbacks.
  • Ryan Vilade, OF/1B, #4 prospect of the Rockies.
  • Elehuris Montero, 3B/1B, #6 prospect of the Rockies.

Additional Diamondbacks’ prospects expected to arrive in the Majors next season:

  • Corbin Carroll, OF, #1 prospect of the Diamondbacks.
  • Drey Jameson, SP, #8 prospect of the Diamondbacks.

“An open mind leaves a chance for someone to drop a worthwhile thought in it.” — Mark Twain