GM assesses Rockies' season gone awry

September 25th, 2022

DENVER -- Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt took stock of the team’s 2022 season during a media session Saturday, and he did not shy away from what went wrong for the last-place club.

“We didn’t play defense to the standard that we normally play,” Schmidt said before the Rockies’ 87th loss, a 9-3 outcome against the Padres on Saturday night at Coors Field. “Our situational hitting left a lot to be desired at times. Our starting pitching, especially of late … we didn’t lose because of our pitching.

“I would say you always deal with everything, and it’s usually the health -- not having Kris Bryant or the club we envisioned when we were trying to put things together coming out of the lockout. We only had him for [42] games -- a quarter of the season, to that effect.”

Boiled down, the Rockies have a lot of work to do. It must go beyond having a healthy Bryant, who on Saturday made official that he won’t return from a right foot injury that has kept him out since July 31.

Schmidt wants to improve the daily lineup -- leadoff hitter and center field, possibly the same guy, are logical moves -- and the starting rotation.

The future is in the middle and lower parts of their farm system, ranked ninth at midseason, according to MLB Pipeline -- a factor that leads some teams to simply play intervening seasons because the schedule says so.

The Rockies dreamed big -- $182 million over seven years for Bryant and contract extensions for , , Elias Díaz, and  -- yet are in last. But Schmidt refuses to abdicate hopes of contending.

“Hopefully, we’re going to compete next year,” he said. “That’s our expectation -- to win as many games every year as we can.”

How the Rockies go from here to competing, or at least progressing toward competing is the question. Schmidt said the Rockies’ upcoming payroll ($131,276,500 on Opening Day this year, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts) will be determined.

“We have to look at all areas,” he said, when asked about his willingness to deal prospects.

Some points Schmidt outlined:

1. Similar offensive strategy … but make it work
The Rockies’ thought going into 2022 was that power hitting could help them dominate at Coors Field and overcome a dip in road batting average and run production that, until proven otherwise, is a fact of life for a team traveling in and out of altitude.

Cron’s 29 homers met expectations. Everyone else fell short, whether it was injury (Bryant, five homers but none at Coors), pressing after signing a new contract (McMahon, Díaz), an unexpected tail-off in road homers from last season (, three at home and 12 on the road in ’21 compared with 10 home and one road in ’22), dealing with the atmosphere for the first time () or production followed by a downturn ().

It’s not as if the team is going to pivot to a speed-based offense, so players need turnarounds. On Saturday, McMahon homered (his 18th) to open the bottom of the first inning and Grichuk (17th) punctuated his eighth-inning shot by spiking his bat. But much bigger home run shows must become common.

Rookies , and, to a lesser degree, can provide power. Outfielder , the team’s No. 1 prospect and No. 23 overall, per MLB Pipeline, and others could be in line for debuts.

“I believe we have pieces here,” Schmidt said. “We need some more. We’re not where we need to be. I’m optimistic in the young players that are coming and the seasons that they’ve had. Will they be here at the beginning of next year? Probably not, but they’re not far behind.”

This puts the Rockies in many ways where they were this year. If projected regulars perform optimally, unexpected winning could make sense -- even more so if younger players contribute. If not, more development in Denver is the only logical response.

2. Back to normal for Freeland, Márquez
Starting pitchers Kyle Freeland and Germán Márquez both started slowly, and Schmidt theorized that the lockout winter that prohibited contact between teams and players hurt. Both have improved in the second half.

“How much did that affect them and their normal training?” Schmidt said.

3. Manager is in good standing
Last winter, Bud Black signed an extension through next season.

“Buddy came right when we were ready to get good,” Schmidt said of Black, whose first two years (2017-18) resulted in postseason trips. “He led us to some playoffs and he’s very capable of doing it again. It’s not from lack of effort. These guys work hard.”