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Series Preview # 9 : Diamondbacks vs Rockies

The Diamondbacks will likely win this series.

Brendan Rodgers strives to reach his potential.
Brendan Rodgers strives to reach his potential.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The Diamondbacks and Rockies are each locking in core players to build around. Recently, both the Diamondbacks and Rockies have signed contract extensions with some of their players. They have strategically traded with their cores in mind.

Which team has more core players?

A core player plays the position this season and he is under control for at least two additional seasons. This season, looking at the go-to lineup (8 players), starting pitchers (5 players) and the closer, the surprising answer is the Diamondbacks!

  • The Diamondbacks have more core players locked up through 2024 (12 vs 9).
  • The Diamondbacks players are more affordable because more have not yet reached free agency eligibility (7 vs 2).

The following table shows the core players and the last year of player control.

Data from Baseball Reference.

How will each team build on its core?

The Diamondbacks farm system ranks very high. On 31 March, MLB.com ranked it as the fourth best in the Majors. The Diamondbacks are well positioned to promote from their farm and trade from their farm. Perhaps they are targeting 2024 as the season they compete.

The Rockies farm system ranks low. On 31 March, MLB com ranked it as the twenty-fourth best in the Majors. When they need to add to their core, the Rockies will likely sign free agents. Perhaps they are targeting 2024 as the season they compete.

Watch a top-100 prospect who is struggling in the Majors

In 2015, the Rockies drafted Brendan Rodgers at number 3 in the first round. In 2018, Brendan Rodgers was the ranked the 15th best prospect in baseball by MLB.com.

This season he struggled at the plate in his first 58 PAs. It’s a small sample size, but he struggled mightily. His negative 22 OPS+ was the worst for the Rockies, and it was a drop from last season’s career best 103 OPS+.

Two measures of his defense at second base are inconsistent (plus 3 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and negative 1 Outs Above Average (OAA).

Watch him and decide for yourself whether he is trending better or worse.

“Maybe the most highly-touted prospect in Rockies history, Rodgers has looked lost at the plate.” — Will Peterson, 27 April

The Rockies won a trade.

On March 24, The Rockies traded away Raimel Tapia and Adrian Pinto to receive Randal Grichuk and $9.7 Million cash.

FanGraphs did not rank Pinto in their 2022 list of Rockies prospects. The two main parts of the trade were Tapia and Grichuk. Because their defense this season is roughly equal per DRS (although last season Tapia looked best in left field and Grichuk in right field), let’s compare this season’s offensive performance:

  • Grichuk 142 OPS+, 11 RBIs, 2HRs, in 63 PAs through 29 April. Grichuk is signed through 2023. My prediction is that they extend Grichuk for at least one season.
  • Tapia 77 OPS+, 4 RBIs, 1 HR, in 71 PAs through 29 April. Worth noting is that on 29 April, Tapia had a 4 hit game, which is included in the statistic.

Grichuk is a power hitter whose stats are orders of magnitude better than Tapia’s stats. The Rockies received Grichuk and $9.7 Million. They won the trade.

“With an enormous outfield to call home and considerable power, it wouldn’t be surprising if Grichuk thrived in Denver; his batted-ball profile fits the park well, and if he hits for enough power, he could finally offset his on-base issues.” — Jake Mailhot

The Pitching Matchups.

The Closers are great!

  • The Rockies closer closer is Daniel Bard. This season, he has 5 saves in 6 opportunities.
  • The Diamondbacks signed Mark Melancon as a free agent. This season, he has 4 saves in 4 opportunities. On 29 April, he was placed on the IL likely because of COVID.

Friday 6:40 PM Arizona time, Chad Kuhl (233 ERA+) vs Merrill Kelly (311 ERA+).

In 2019 Chad Kuhl had Tommy John surgery and returned 27 July 2020. After the 2021 season with an 88 ERA+, the Pirates non-tendered him. The Rockies signed him for one year. The Rockies did not request any big changes. Chad Kuhl’s 233 ERA+ showed the wisdom of not changing Kuhl.

“Hey, man I want you to go do you. I’m not gonna put any restrictions on you. I want you to pitch your game.” — Darryl Scott, Rockies’ pitching coach

Scoring runs against Merrill Kelly requires small-ball. Merrill Kelly allowed zero home runs in five games this season. Before this season, in his entire career in the Majors, his longest streak without a homer is 2 games.

Only three Diamondbacks’ starters have an average game score above 60, Zac Gallen, Tyler Gilbert, and Merrill Kelly.

On 30 April against the Cardinals, Merrill Kelly’s 78.6 average game score was the highest for any Diamondback this season. The Diamondbacks shutout the Cardinals!

“…[Merrill Kelly] is pretty much been exactly what we’ve come to expect from possibly the most underrated pitcher in baseball.” — Imstillhungry95

Saturday, Kyle Freeland (91 ERA+) vs Zach Davies (94 ERA+).

After starting the season with 10 earned runs in 9 innings, Kyle Freeland settled down to 4 earned runs in 17 innings. Kyle Freeland is a Rockies’ core starting pitcher.

This season, Zach Davies’ games scores were inconsistent, with 2 below average and 3 above average. In his latest start he allowed zero runs in 5 innings. When he has mastered his process he will pitch well consistently.

“Statistics suggest possible ways to improve his pitching performance. It’s likely he made adjustments in the offseason and spring training. When he has fully integrated those adjustments into his process, it’s likely his pitching performance will be impressive.” — Makakilo

Sunday, German Marquez (64 ERA+) vs Zac Gallen (314 ERA+)

German Marquez allowed 4 earned runs or more in each of his last 4 starts. Will Diamondback batters feast? Likely, the answer is yes. With Marquez facing Gallen, the Diamondbacks are favored to win this game.

In an interview with Steve Gilbert, Zac Gallen said he had internal and external motivations. An internal motivation is to maximize his potential in the fleeting & short window that he can play baseball. An external motivation is to prove people wrong who said he couldn’t do it.

After the first four games this season, Zac Gallen’s ERA was 1.27! That’s a great start, though it may not be sustainable. Zac, prove me wrong in September with an ERA under 1.27!