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Opportunity will knock for 3 key Rockies in '19

Roster turnover will give McMahon, Tapia, Estevez chances to step up
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- The Rockies' news and non-news of last week's Winter Meetings sparked an idea -- to log on to BrainyQuote, where you enter a word and come away with inspiration.

So, let's enter "opportunity" and see how what pops up relates to three lower-service-time players -- infielder Ryan McMahon, outfielder Raimel Tapia and right-handed relief pitcher Carlos Estevez.

DENVER -- The Rockies' news and non-news of last week's Winter Meetings sparked an idea -- to log on to BrainyQuote, where you enter a word and come away with inspiration.

So, let's enter "opportunity" and see how what pops up relates to three lower-service-time players -- infielder Ryan McMahon, outfielder Raimel Tapia and right-handed relief pitcher Carlos Estevez.

Mainstay second baseman DJ LeMahieu, right fielder Carlos Gonzalez and righty pitcher Adam Ottavino are free agents. But the Rockies' only planned major acquisition is one offensive player. The leaves plenty of opportunity for players like McMahon, Tapia and Estevez -- all of whom have displayed positive attributes but also have areas in need of improvement -- to make their mark in 2019.

So here are wise BrainyQuote words, applied to each:

"Everything negative -- pressure, challenges -- is an opportunity for me to rise."
-- Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant

The left-handed-hitting McMahon, who turned 24 on Friday, made the team out of Spring Training in 2018 after playing in 17 games in 2017, but he struggled with the double challenge of sporadic at-bats and a lack of familiarity with opposing pitchers. He had a .180 average through April 30, before the first of two options to Triple-A Albuquerque.

But McMahon learned.

Specifically, compare the body positioning and bat angle in the two pictures -- from a strikeout on June 14 against the Phillies' Vince Velasquez, when McMahon dropped the barrel behind his back, which led to a startling inability to catch up to fastballs, and from his three-run walk-off homer against the Dodgers' JT Chargois on Aug. 11.

Gif: McMahon side by side swinging

The Rockies actually zeroed in on the flaw on June 20, the day McMahon homered off the Mets' Robert Gsellman in an 10-8 victory, and the team sent him down the next day to correct it.

According to Statcast™, before the All-Star break, on pitches 94 mph or faster, McMahon went 4-for-20 (.200) with a .300 slugging percentage. After the break, McMahon hit .370 (10-for-27) with a .593 slugging percentage on such offerings.

So while McMahon has improvement to do with his contact rate, he showed he could catch up to a Major League fastball and hit it solidly when he did connect.

Not only that, but McMahon's athletic ability has the Rockies believing he can step in for LeMahieu. He played primarily first base and made just eight starts at second, but the first play in the GIF below demonstrates quick, natural reaction, and the second is a reasonable imitation of LeMahieu, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner.

Gif: McMahon defense

If McMahon doesn't step forward, there are options. Right-handed-hitting Garrett Hampson showed ability in his brief big league time last year, and he could play a platoon role or more, while the Rockies' top prospect as ranked by MLB Pipeline, Brendan Rodgers, could be ready soon.

"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."
-- Auto magnate Henry Ford.

Call this a second big chance for Tapia, 24.

After at times solid work, mostly off the bench, in 92 games in 2016 and '17 (.283/.322/.394), Tapia had a chance at a regular job last spring. The idea to move Blackmon from first to third in the batting order was predicated on Tapia winning leadoff duty. But Tapia's .242/.284/.355 slash line in Spring Training landed him in Albuquerque, as the Rockies re-signed Gonzalez.

Tapia turned in solid work at Albuquerque (.302/.352/.495), but he never fully gained a footing in the Majors, mainly because he struggled when asked for fundamental at-bats off the bench.

Video: COL@ARI: Tapia belts a go-ahead grand slam in the 7th

Tapia's pinch-hit grand slam on July 20 keyed an 11-10 victory at Arizona, but he went 0-for-his-next-7. His last at-bat in a close game came in the ninth inning of a 2-0 victory at Arizona. After Hampson doubled, Tapia's vain attempts to bunt him to third led to a four-pitch strikeout.

Gif: Tapia bad at bat

But the Rockies can benefit from the speed Tapia displays below -- when he dramatically scored from third on a seventh-inning foul pop toward the Astros' dugout on July 25, and when his liner into the left-center gap resulted in a triple against the Phillies on Sept. 26.

Gif: Tapia speed

Should the Rockies find a bat for first base, right-handed-hitting Ian Desmond can move to the outfield to join lefty hitters Blackmon and David Dahl. However, Tapia's left-handed bat could earn him playing time.

Desmond hit .280 against left-handed pitching but just .216 against righties last season. Additionally, Tapia could help the Rockies drop Blackmon in the order and to a corner outfield spot with Tapia playing center.

With Tapia out of Minor League options, meaning he'd have to be exposed to waivers to be sent down, it's a year for him to establish himself.

"Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play."
-- Football Hall of Famer Mike Singletary

Estevez, 25, didn't get much chance to play last year. He suffered an oblique injury while bending over to pick up a baseball during Spring Training. During his Minor League rehab at Albuquerque, he was sitting in the dugout between innings and hurt an elbow ligament while pushing into the bench to stand up.

Estevez has at times been a real threat. He was closer as a rookie for part of 2016 and was used down the stretch in '17. But his command and control can come and go. However, as he demonstrated when he struck out the Giants' Hunter Pence with the bases loaded in a tight Rockies win on Sept. 5, 2017 -- with no pitch slower than 98.7 mph -- he can be a weapon.

Gif: Estevez strikeout

That type of pitching could mean he could step into a greater role, the way organization product Scott Oberg did in 2018. Estevez is currently pitching in the Dominican Winter League.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page. Manny Randhawa contributed to this report.

Colorado Rockies, Carlos Estevez, Ryan McMahon, Raimel Tapia

Rockies use Winter Meetings to window shop

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

LAS VEGAS -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich went to the Winter Meetings to browse for the offensive impact his team needs, but there are plenty of shopping days before the 2019 season begins.

Having hired Dave Magadan as hitting coach and then focused on filling the hole at first base, Colorado engaged in discussions with the Mariners about Carlos Santana and the Indians about Edwin Encarnacion, but saw them traded for each other Thursday morning. The Rockies still have plenty of options.

LAS VEGAS -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich went to the Winter Meetings to browse for the offensive impact his team needs, but there are plenty of shopping days before the 2019 season begins.

Having hired Dave Magadan as hitting coach and then focused on filling the hole at first base, Colorado engaged in discussions with the Mariners about Carlos Santana and the Indians about Edwin Encarnacion, but saw them traded for each other Thursday morning. The Rockies still have plenty of options.

Biggest remaining needs
1. Offense: The latest possible targets are free agents Daniel Murphy, Neil Walker and Logan Morrison, and trade possibility Justin Smoak. Infielder-outfielder types Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Harrison have been listed among possibilities.

Video: Justice on Marwin Gonzalez's appeal as a free agent

2. Bullpen: It's constant. With dollars going to improving the offense and Colorado still paying on big investments last offseason (Wade Davis, Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw), it would be extremely difficult to bid on retaining righty Adam Ottavino, who was one of the National League's most effective relievers last season. But that doesn't preclude a lower-salary find.

3. Catcher: The search for depth here is also constant. While it's hard to imagine a big financial splash, there could be a move to bolster the spot. Colorado has Chris Iannetta, Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy on the 40-man roster, and picked up Brett Nicholas (formerly with the Rangers) last month on a Minor League contract.

Rox shift 1B/2B search to short-term options

Rule 5 Draft
The Rockies did not draft anyone in the Major League phase, but lost right-handed reliever Brandon Brennan when he was chosen by the Mariners.

Brennan, 27, split last year between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte in the White Sox organization and was recently signed by the Rockies to a Minor League contract. He was 4-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 40 outings (one start) with Birmingham and 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in four relief appearances for Charlotte.

2018 Rule 5 Draft results

In the Minor League phase, Colorado re-acquired Chris Rabago in a circuitous manner.

Rabago was on the 40-man Major League roster last season, but was claimed off waivers by the Yankees on Aug. 22 when Colorado needed a spot for veteran reserve Matt Holliday. On Tuesday, the Royals selected Rabago from the Yankees, then sent him to the Rockies for cash considerations.

GM's bottom line
"It's tough to come here, start something and finish something. You pick up on conversations that precede these meetings and you hope to advance those conversations down the field. I think we've done that in a couple of different areas." -- Bridich

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies

Daza impressing at the plate in Venezuela

MLB.com @GoldenSombrero

Eloy Jimenez's offseason campaign in the Dominican Republic likely has come to an end.

The White Sox had planned to shut down their top prospect after just a few weeks with Gigantes del Cibao, but a recent quad injury accelerated that timeline and could now keep him out of action until Spring Training, reports Bruce Levine of Chicago's 670thescore.com.

Eloy Jimenez's offseason campaign in the Dominican Republic likely has come to an end.

The White Sox had planned to shut down their top prospect after just a few weeks with Gigantes del Cibao, but a recent quad injury accelerated that timeline and could now keep him out of action until Spring Training, reports Bruce Levine of Chicago's 670thescore.com.

Prior to the injury, the No. 3 overall prospect had produced a robust .448/.500/.759 line, hitting safely in all eight games for Gigantes. Along the way, Jimenez totaled two home runs -- including one in his final game on Dec. 11 -- three doubles and nine RBIs.

The White Sox sent the 22-year-old outfielder to the Dominican for extra work after a regular season in which he hit .337/.384/.577 with 22 homers, 28 doubles and 75 RBIs over 108 games between Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

Here's a look at how top prospects, as well as some other notable players, are performing so far in offseason leagues.

Australia

Michael Gettys, OF, Padres -- A tour of the Australian Baseball League last offseason did wonders for Buddy Reed's development, so the Padres are hoping that Gettys, a former Padres Top 30 prospect, will take a similar path. The 23-year-old outfielder is tied for the league lead in both home runs (six) and RBIs (20) and sports a .315/.386/.685 slash line through 20 games. During the regular season, Gettys totaled 15 homers and 17 steals but slashed just .230/.290/.399 with a 33.8 percent strikeout rate over 125 games at Double-A San Antonio.

D.J. Burt, 2B, Royals' No. 28 -- The 2014 fourth-round pick went 5-for-11 with two doubles and a stolen base over the weekend as he improved his average to .318 through 20 games for the Melbourne Aces. The 23-year-old second baseman spent the entire regular season at Class A Advanced Wilmington, hitting .280/.367/.371 with 24 extra-base hits and 32 stolen bases over 111 games.

Dominican Republic

Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, Padres' No. 1 -- The No. 2 overall prospect has hit safely in eight of his last 10 games for Estrellas, though only one of those contests was a multi-hit effort. The 19-year-old shortstop has still managed four doubles and a triple in that span, while his knack for getting on base has resulted in him scoring nine runs. On the season, Tatis owns a .263/.379/.488 line with 11 extra-base hits, seven steals and 17 runs through 23 games.

Video: Cassavell on the excitement around Tatis Jr.

Genesis Cabrera, LHP, Cardinals' No. 13 -- Cabrera has been a bullpen force so far in the DWL and has now compiled seven scoreless innings, during which he's permitted two hits with 14 strikeouts, over his last 10 appearances. Altogether, the 22-year-old left-hander -- acquired from Tampa Bay last July in the Tommy Pham trade -- has pitched to a 1.26 ERA and .152 BAA with 21/2 K/BB in 14 1/3 frames (20 appearances) for Tigres del Licey.

Mexico

Ian Miller, OF, Mariners' No. 26 -- Even after playing 114 regular-season games at Triple-A Tacoma and another 18 in the Arizona Fall League, Miller is getting in even more work with Tomateros de Culiacan. Through 23 games, Miller has hit .298/.374/.415 with seven extra-base hits and six steals. And although he recently went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft, Miller's speed and ability to center field still should at some point get him to the Major Leagues.

Puerto Rico

Isan Diaz, 2B, Marlins' No. 9 -- Diaz owns a seven-game hitting streak and has hit safely in nine of his last 10 contests for Gigantes de Carolina. He's produced a .400/.450/.571 line with one home run and eight RBIs during that 10-game stretch, and overall, Diaz has slashed .299/.357/.414 with seven extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in 25 games this offseason. Although the 22-year-old second baseman was challenged this past season in the upper Minors and hit just .232 in 119 games between Double-A and Triple-A, he still finished with 13 homers, 23 doubles and 14 steals while reaching base at a .340 clip.

Video: Top Prospects: Isan Diaz, 2B, Marlins

Gage Hinsz, RHP, Pirates' No. 19 -- Hinsz has been sharp in his two recent starts for Gigantes, tossing six scoreless frames in back-to-back outings. He was especially good in his latest turn on Dec. 12, when he struck out eight batters, scattered four hits and recorded nine ground-ball outs. Overall, four of Hinsz's five starts this offseason have been of the scoreless variety, giving the 22-year-old righty a 1.08 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 25 innings.

Venezuela

Yonathan Daza, OF, Rockies' No. 18 -- Daza has tallied 17 hits including four doubles en route to a .309 average in 14 games since joining Tiburones de La Guaira. A plus runner who swiped 31 bases in 2017, Daza was limited to 54 games this past season at Double-A Hartford, where he stole just four bases but still hit .306. The 24-year-old outfielder is one of the better pure hitters in Colorado's system, with a .310/.351/.419 line in 594 games over parts of eight seasons in the Minors.

Anthony Jimenez, OF, Mariners' No. 30 -- Jimenez collected hits in four of five games and had three multi-hit performances last week for Cardenales de Lara. The 23-year-old outfielder has swung the bat well so far in limited action, compiling a .281 average through 15 games. In 102 regular-season games with Class A Advanced Modesto, Jimenez slashed .262/.314/.377 with 29 extra-base hits and 13 steals.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Rox shift 1B/2B search to short-term options

Murphy, LoMo, Walker, Smoak emerging as potential targets
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

LAS VEGAS -- The Rockies' most-rumored trade targets -- Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion -- were traded for each other Thursday near the end of the Winter Meetings. However, the Rockies already had begun a pivot toward free agency in their search for offense and to solidify the right side of the infield.

Left-handed-hitting Daniel Murphy and Logan Morrison, and switch-hitting Neil Walker are on their radar on the free-agent market. The Rockies haven't totally turned away from the trade front -- especially with Blue Jays switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak, owed $8 million in 2019, reported to be available.

LAS VEGAS -- The Rockies' most-rumored trade targets -- Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion -- were traded for each other Thursday near the end of the Winter Meetings. However, the Rockies already had begun a pivot toward free agency in their search for offense and to solidify the right side of the infield.

Left-handed-hitting Daniel Murphy and Logan Morrison, and switch-hitting Neil Walker are on their radar on the free-agent market. The Rockies haven't totally turned away from the trade front -- especially with Blue Jays switch-hitting first baseman Justin Smoak, owed $8 million in 2019, reported to be available.

While Murphy and Smoak bring the most thump of the possible quartet, they all have something in common.

Whether it's a free agent or Smoak in a trade, all would be short-term options that don't alter the plan to give increased playing time to left-handed-hitting Ryan McMahon. He turns 24 Friday and can really celebrate if he realizes his potential after hitting .232/.307/.376 in 91 games as a rookie, playing mostly first base.

McMahon has received high marks at second base and was drafted as a third baseman (although the Rockies don't need one of those, thanks to star Nolan Arenado).

Video: ARI@COL: McMahon lays out, fires to first for the out

Thursday's flurry of trade activity before teams hopped in their rides from the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino ended up not involving the Rockies.

Santana, who played last season with the Phillies and was dealt to the Mariners last week, was sent to the Indians for Encarnacion as part of a three-team trade that also involved the Rays. Immediate speculation had the Rockies trying to obtain Encarnacion from the Mariners, but that ended up a thread to nowhere.

The possible targets offer experience and positional versatility. Murphy, who turns 34 in April and has been primarily a second baseman, is coming off a solid offensive year -- .299/.336/.454 for the Nationals and Cubs, although his power numbers dipped (slugging .543 in 2017 and from 23 homers to 12).

Video: Daniel Murphy set to enter free agency in 2019

Walker, 33, struggled to a .219 average and .664 OPS with the Yankees but might benefit from a return to the National League -- where he had a more-representative .801 OPS with the Mets and Brewers in 2017. Like Murphy, Walker has played some first base but has spent most of his career at second.

Video: Neil Walker enters free agency in 2019

Morrison, 31, was a back-burner possibility last year before he signed with the Twins, then struggled to a .186 average (but with 15 home runs) in 95 games last season.

Video: KC@MIN: Morrison slugs a no-doubt 2-run homer

The Rockies have also been linked to a couple of multi-position free agents -- Marwin Gonzalez, who turns 30 in March, and Josh Harrison, 31. Both have been infield and outfield contributors to successful teams in recent years -- Gonzalez with the Astros, Harrison with the Pirates.

Also emerging from the Winter Meetings, the Rockies stayed true to their strategy of hanging on to their top prospects.

According to multiple baseball sources with knowledge of the Rockies' trade conversations, right-hander Jon Gray -- who struggled in 2018 after a big '17 -- was a popular request, as he was at the non-waiver Trade Deadline last season. When trade proposals involved players with large salaries, teams were receptive to discussing Ian Desmond, who is guaranteed $40 million (including a $2 million buyout on a $15 million option for 2022).

Desmond, who has played first base and left field, could show up at all three outfield positions if he isn't traded, as the Rockies consider moving center fielder Charlie Blackmon to a corner, either permanently or as part of the program. Left-handed-hitting David Dahl has pushed his way into the outfield picture, and lefty-hitting Raimel Tapia is among candidates to earn increased playing time.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies

Will Rockies move Blackmon out of center?

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

LAS VEGAS -- It's not clear if shifting center fielder Charlie Blackmon is an idea whose time has come, but it's been bandied about for the better part of a year.

Blackmon will turn 33 on July 1, about halfway through 2019 -- the second year of a six-year, $108 million contract. Blackmon led the National League in batting at .331 and total bases at 387 while hitting 37 home runs in 2017. The performance dropped in 2018, but .291 with 29 homers and 314 total bases still put him among the more dangerous leadoff hitters.

LAS VEGAS -- It's not clear if shifting center fielder Charlie Blackmon is an idea whose time has come, but it's been bandied about for the better part of a year.

Blackmon will turn 33 on July 1, about halfway through 2019 -- the second year of a six-year, $108 million contract. Blackmon led the National League in batting at .331 and total bases at 387 while hitting 37 home runs in 2017. The performance dropped in 2018, but .291 with 29 homers and 314 total bases still put him among the more dangerous leadoff hitters.

But would a move to a corner reduce wear and tear, and leave center field to be filled by a versatile roster?

Magadan brings fresh eye as Rockies' hitting coach

While it was a hot topic during press availabilities for manager Bud Black and general manager Jeff Bridich on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, it isn't breaking news as far as those involved are concerned.

"The topic overall and in general was breached and discussed up front during the contract negotiations," Bridich said. "There was no timeframe put on it. But we felt like this was probably as his career progressed with us where it was going to head at some point. We wanted to have cooler minds and rational heads to discuss it as adults when the time was right."

Black said, "We've talked about that with our group and amongst ourselves, and with Charlie I think he knows that at some point there might be a move to the corner."

Blackmon, as he established himself in center, has often said center is "the essence of outfield play." But should a move, either temporarily or full time, become reality, Bridich doesn't get the feeling there would be pushback in a modern game where multi-position players are becoming the norm.

"Charlie's an intense competitor, he's confident in his abilities, but Charlie understands that he's a Colorado Rockie," Bridich said. "He's all in, and he's in for the rest of his career. He knows we all want what's best for this organization to win games, have fun and all the stuff that comes along with that."

The thought is based on preserving Blackmon and possibly improving the defense with fresher or speedier legs.

"We have a few options for sure," Black said. "David Dahl could play center. Charlie could play center. Don't forget Ian Desmond made the All-Star team in 2016 with the Texas Rangers as a center fielder. Ian grew up as a center of the diamond player. He's very comfortable being in the middle of the diamond. That's a possibility as well."

Additionally, Raimel Tapia, one of the Majors' fastest players, is a natural center fielder, and infielder Garrett Hampson, also possessing above-average speed, has played center in the Minors and a little while debuting in the Majors last season.

The search for a run-producer: Former Indians and Phillies switch-hitting corner man Carlos Santana, recently acquired by a Mariners team that's looking to move high salaries, remains high on the list of possible trade targets. Bridich said nothing was imminent, but he detailed what he wants as the team attempts to boost the offense.

"Generally, it's run production -- consistent run production, and I think as we saw in the latest parts of our season the ability to score in the toughest of situations and the most challenging situations in this game, in those playoff games that we have designs on participating in for years to come," Bridich said.

While rumors that the Rockies were considering trading with the Padres for Wil Myers were shot down, another candidate emerged, according to former MLB GM Jim Bowden of the Athletic -- the Indians' Edwin Encarnacion, who in the last seven seasons has hit 42 homers twice and eclipsed 30 homers five times.

Young bench? Old bench? Who knows? The Rockies spent much of last season with Pat Valaika, Mike Tauchman, Ryan McMahon, Tapia and Noel Cuevas, all early in their careers, as the main bench bats. Cuevas and McMahon grew into productive players, but vets Gerardo Parra and Matt Holliday (now free agents) solidified the reserve group. How will Bridich handle those roles this time?

"I don't really know right now; it's still early in the year," Bridich said. "I believe in those [younger] guys ... but I'm not sure in terms of what the team is going to look like."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Charlie Blackmon

Magadan brings fresh eye as Rox hitting coach

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

LAS VEGAS -- Dave Magadan, hired Tuesday night as the Rockies' new hitting coach, brings a long career with notable success. Just as importantly, he represents new blood.

Magadan, 56, who served as the D-backs' hitting coach the last three seasons and has held the job with the Padres, Red Sox and Rangers, will replace Duane Espy, who was not retained after holding the job the last two years. But after the Rockies set 26-season franchise lows by batting .256 overall and .225 on the road, yet made the postseason for the second consecutive year, change came.

LAS VEGAS -- Dave Magadan, hired Tuesday night as the Rockies' new hitting coach, brings a long career with notable success. Just as importantly, he represents new blood.

Magadan, 56, who served as the D-backs' hitting coach the last three seasons and has held the job with the Padres, Red Sox and Rangers, will replace Duane Espy, who was not retained after holding the job the last two years. But after the Rockies set 26-season franchise lows by batting .256 overall and .225 on the road, yet made the postseason for the second consecutive year, change came.

"He's going to bring fresh perspective and that outsider look at our team," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. "I don't think that necessarily means that there's sort of an at odds in terms of philosophy. One of the benefits is he'll come in with new eyes and fresh eyes, similar to how [pitching coach] Steve Foster and [bullpen coach] Darren Holmes a few years ago were able to help us see things or unlock things in different ways. That's what his huge experience at the big league level brings."

From 1997, when Clint Hurdle was promoted to the job from the Minor League system, six of the seven hitting coaches -- Hurdle, Alan Cockrell, Espy on two occasions, Don Baylor (the original manager who returned), Carney Lansford and Dante Bichette -- had histories as a Rox player, manager or coach in the Minors or Majors. Only Blake Doyle, who worked under Walt Weiss from 2014-16, came from outside.

But Magadan, 56, approaches this opportunity with an old baseball and life philosophy: Two eyes, two ears, but one mouth ... use them accordingly.

"I just got the job today, and to be able to sit here and tell you every strength and weakness is a little bit disingenuous," Magadan said. "I'm going to sit down, talk to the staff, talk to my assistant hitting coach [Jeff Salazar], talk to the players, talk to everybody involved. Certainly I've got my window into what I saw as a guy on the other side of the field in the 18 games that we played against the Rockies every year."

Magadan, who played 16 seasons in the Majors primarily at the infield corners, actually saw the Rockies from the other dugout back in 2007, his first year with the Red Sox -- who just happened to win the World Series over the Rockies.

Like most hitting coaches, Magadan has seen offensive ups and downs over his career. For example, his 2017 D-backs, who made the postseason, hit a club record 220 home runs. Last year's D-backs posted a .193/.264/.316 slash line in May and had a subpar .661 OPS in September.

Magadan's career has been marked by an aggressive overall approach that is tailored to individual hitters, but he noted that hitting is more than an individual sport. It could be the right message for a Rockies team that at times ended up with empty at-bats, especially in key situations. In winning the NL Wild Card Game over the Cubs, then being swept in three games by the Brewers in the NL Division Series, the Rockies scored just four total runs.

"Really, all you have to do is see what happened in the postseason this past year," Magadan said. "The team that ended up winning it all was the team in Boston. You could tell with their at-bats that they were just trying to do what the game was asking them to do on every at-bat -- whether that meant grinding out an at-bat, going up there being stubborn for a good pitch to hit, moving a runner with an out, hitting behind runners, putting balls in play to get guys in from third.

"You're always going to have those games where you get 18 or 20 hits, hit four or five homers and blow out a team, but how are you smoothing out the rough spots?"

Gideon shifts to first

The Rockies also made official the move of veteran coach Ron Gideon, who had responsibilities all over the diamond the last two seasons, to first-base coach. Gideon, 54, is heading into his 28th year as a professional coach and had served in the Rockies' system as a coach, manager and development supervisor since 1996.

Also locked in on manager Bud Black's coaching staff for 2019 will be: Foster (pitching coach), Holmes (bullpen coach), Salazar (assistant hitting coach), third-base coach Stu Cole and bench coach Mike Redmond. 

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies

Montgomery honored among Scouts of the Year

Quartet recognized by peers for impact on baseball
MLB.com @JonathanMayo

LAS VEGAS -- Each year at the Winter Meetings, the scouting industry gathers to celebrate some of their own at the Scout of the Year reception. The fact the recipients are chosen by their peers, scouts singling out other scouts, makes the honor even more special.

This year's quartet of honorees for the 35th edition of the event have made an unmistakable impact on the game, and they continue to do so. Awarded regionally, Damon Oppenheimer of the Yankees (West Coast Scout of the Year), Brad Sloan of the Red Sox (Midwest Scout of the Year), Danny Montgomery of the Rockies (East Coast Scout of the Year) and Sal Agostinelli of the Phillies (International Scout of the Year) have more than 120 years of combined scouting experience, have signed dozens of big leaguers across multiple decades and have helped their organizations reach the postseason many times.

LAS VEGAS -- Each year at the Winter Meetings, the scouting industry gathers to celebrate some of their own at the Scout of the Year reception. The fact the recipients are chosen by their peers, scouts singling out other scouts, makes the honor even more special.

This year's quartet of honorees for the 35th edition of the event have made an unmistakable impact on the game, and they continue to do so. Awarded regionally, Damon Oppenheimer of the Yankees (West Coast Scout of the Year), Brad Sloan of the Red Sox (Midwest Scout of the Year), Danny Montgomery of the Rockies (East Coast Scout of the Year) and Sal Agostinelli of the Phillies (International Scout of the Year) have more than 120 years of combined scouting experience, have signed dozens of big leaguers across multiple decades and have helped their organizations reach the postseason many times.

West Coast: Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees
Oppenheimer didn't have to go far to start his scouting career after his playing career was cut short by injury, with his first chance coming with his hometown team, the San Diego Padres, a team his mother worked for and for whom he had sold concessions as a high schooler.

"I always wanted to be a player, and I really thought that was going to be the path," Oppenheimer said. "If I wasn't playing, I was watching. Working for the hometown team, that was really exciting for me. I thought that might be where I worked forever. But things change, better opportunities happen. It's been a great career."

Video: Yanks' Oppenheimer named West Coast Scout of the Year

That career took Oppenheimer from the Padres to the Yankees to the Rangers and back to the Yankees, where he's been since 1996. Oppenheimer initially helped on the amateur and pro side, helping Gene Michael in his early stint as an advanced scout. When Oppenheimer came back from his year with the Rangers, he served as a national crosschecker and has overseen the Yankees' Draft in a number of vice president titles since 2004.

"You get into being the director and the contribution you can make by leading a group of scouts has been special, putting players into a system that's now year in and year out contending, or in 2009, winning the whole thing," Oppenheimer said. "I've never been part of the Yankees where we weren't at least .500. All those years, when people said we were on a down swing, we were still good. We've never been really bad."

As a result, Oppenheimer has become an expert at picking in the lower half of the first round. Even picking late, he's helped add talent to the Yankees' organization, or players who have been used in trades, perhaps none more notable than outfielder Aaron Judge, taken No. 32 overall in the 2013 Draft. One to quickly deflect credit, Oppenheimer offered some perspective.

"I love the kid, but we took Eric Jagielo ahead of him," Oppenheimer said about the Yankees' selection at No. 26 that June. "It wasn't like we nailed the whole thing, though we obviously did like [Judge] quite a bit."

Midwest: Brad Sloan, Red Sox
Sloan began his career in baseball in 1980 as an area scout, and outside of one year with the Mets as a crosschecker in 1993, he worked as part of the Padres' scouting staff from 1980-2003. Nearly all of it was on the amateur side, and he served as the team's scouting director from 1996-2000, helping to bring a ton of talent into the system, with Jake Peavy really standing out as a fantastic get in the 15th round of the 1999 Draft.

"I'm still a dirt scout; I'm still an area scout," Sloan said. "I'm on the pro side now, but I enjoyed the free-agent scouting the best. Travel gets hard when you get older, but that's what I like. I like scouting the kids."

Video: Brad Sloan honored as Midwest Scout of the Year

Sloan sees his craft as an heirloom to be handed down from one generation to the next. He looks around at his contemporaries being honored on Wednesday, and at those who preceded them, and he is awed to be in their company.

"There's a lot of experience here, signed a lot of players," Sloan said. "Just to be compared with some of the guys who have gone in before us? There are some legendary guys. That's why this is such a great honor.

"I started with San Diego in 1980, and one of the scouts there was Ken Bracey, and he's had this honor. He just passed away just about a year ago. We became very close. He really helped me with my development as a scout."

One thing Sloan didn't have after close to 40 years in scouting was a World Series ring, until this past season. He joined the Red Sox in 2016 as a special assignment scout, working on the pro side, and checked winning a title off of his checklist, something he wasn't sure would ever happen.

"You wonder about that," Sloan said. "When I was in San Diego, we got there twice, but we got beat both times. That was a big deal to me. Winning the World Series and winning this award, I've had a great year."

East Coast: Danny Montgomery, Rockies
Montgomery's scouting career started with the Dodgers in 1990. After two seasons as an area scout, he was hired by the Rockies, and he's been with them ever since, filling a variety of roles up to his current gig as the special assistant to the general manager. As he's moved up the ladder, he hasn't forgotten about his start.

"I did 10 years as an area guy," said Montgomery, who signed players like Quinton McCracken as an area scout and helped bring Charlie Blackmon to the organization as a crosschecker. "You have to understand, back in the '90s, it was a little different than it is now. We competed, we lied to each other, we did a whole lot of different things. ...

"We really competed against each other. I felt if I couldn't play, then I'm going to compete with you as a scout. That's what we did."

Video: Montgomery honored as East Coast Scout of the Year

At the core of everything he's done in baseball has been Montgomery's desire to help young people, both as players and beyond their playing days. His work as the vice president of the Buck O'Neil Professional Scouts & Coaches Association has helped create a place for networking, mentoring and professional development.

"To take that organization, along with Steve Williams of the Pirates and Fred Wright, who is one of my mentors, to take that and give back to the up-and-coming guys who are coming out of the game, giving them a chance to have a mentor like I had, helping one and teaching one is one of our mottos, it's a pleasure," Montgomery said. "Even though I work for the organization, they've been so committed to letting me do other things outside, because they know my heart has always been with trying to help other people get where they're going. It's been a blessing to be able to give back. A lot of guys have been hired through that organization, and that makes us feel good. It makes me feel like we're doing something right."

International: Sal Agostinelli, Phillies
After playing parts of 10 years in the Minor Leagues, the last four with the Phillies, Agostinelli stayed in the Phils' organization as an area scout. He started his post-playing career in 1993, and has been with the Phillies since, though how he got to his current job as international scouting director was almost accidental.

Agostinelli was on the field during Spring Training and assistant general manager Mike Arbuckle overheard him speaking with Latino players comfortably. Agostinelli had minored in Spanish in college and that, combined with his Italian roots, had made it easy for him to learn enough to converse with players. Arbuckle asked him if he'd ever thought about giving international scouting a try, and Agostinelli hasn't looked back.

"That was in 1997, and I'm glad I made that move," Agostinelli said. "International scouting is the essence of scouting, in my opinion. You have a budget and you can use the budget and you can sign players accordingly. It's different than the Draft. The Draft is very controlled. I love it. You're almost like a GM of your own department, that's why it's great."

Video: International Scout of the Year: Agostinelli

With all of those years, Agostinelli has tremendous stories, including signing Carlos Ruiz for $8,000 and eventually seeing him catch the last out for a World Series-winning team. Or how he almost ended up with more than he bargained for when going to scout Carlos Carrasco.

"We were coming down the highway and first the bulls were running, and we had to stop for an hour to clear the bulls off the road," Agostinelli said. "A guy comes running over to the car, he has a monkey on his back and these parrots on a stick. He sticks the parrots in the car and the monkey jumps off his back and starts running around inside the car. I say, 'What am I going to do with a monkey, put him in my suitcase?' We ended up going down there, seeing Carrasco, and a week later we signed him."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Bridich: Rox can pay Nolan, 'grow responsibly'

GM discusses Arenado's arbitration; Magadan being considered for hitting coach
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

LAS VEGAS -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich told MLB Network on Monday that the club could pay a contract north of $200 million to third baseman Nolan Arenado and still afford to field a competitive club.

Arenado is entering his final season of arbitration and -- at least for 2019 -- he is expected to exceed the $23 million record set by Josh Donaldson last year, when he avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays. The Rockies hope to reach a multi-year contract with Arenado, rather than go into the year with the possibility of losing him to free agency after the season.

LAS VEGAS -- Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich told MLB Network on Monday that the club could pay a contract north of $200 million to third baseman Nolan Arenado and still afford to field a competitive club.

Arenado is entering his final season of arbitration and -- at least for 2019 -- he is expected to exceed the $23 million record set by Josh Donaldson last year, when he avoided arbitration with the Blue Jays. The Rockies hope to reach a multi-year contract with Arenado, rather than go into the year with the possibility of losing him to free agency after the season.

• Hot Stove Tracker

In Bridich's appearance, arranged during the first day of the Winter Meetings, the Colorado GM said "there is nothing to report" on talks and didn't guarantee a deal. But he said the Rockies would not dismiss a high dollar figure out of hand.

• Creative options available to Rox at Meetings

"Our payroll has grown a lot over the past half-decade, and we're continuing to plan on, as I've said in the past, responsible growth," Bridich said. "We're not in a holding pattern. We're not where we're drawing back on our payroll. We believe that we can continue to grow responsibly.

"It's not going to grow by huge, huge, huge jumps every single year, but we've made some commitments that we believe in, guys that we believe in. We signed Charlie Blackmon this past year to a long-term deal [six years, $108 million guaranteed]."

The Rockies haven't reduced their Opening Day payroll since 2013 ($73.9 million after $81.1 million in 2012). Last season started at a club-record $136.9 million.

Bridich said he doesn't necessarily think the current free agency of Manny Machado, a third baseman and shortstop expected to land a mega-deal, governs the club's approach to Arenado because "each guy is his own guy."

• Rockies look to bolster offense at Meetings

During an impromptu session with local media after his TV appearance, Bridich also said:

• On the trade and free-agent markets, the Rockies are looking at a group of "more than a few" players to help the offense.

Video: Harding on Rockies' focus on offense this offseason

• Bridich confirmed that former Padres, Red Sox, Rangers and D-backs hitting coach Dave Magadan is under consideration to become the Rockies' hitting coach. Magadan was identified as a "strong candidate" by the Denver Post on Monday. Magadan was the Red Sox hitting coach when Boston defeated Colorado in the 2007 World Series. The Rockies parted ways with former hitting coach Duane Espy after the '18 season.

First-base coach Tony Diaz accepted the Twins' third-base coaching job, but responsibilities can be shifted to accommodate that role, as Ron Gideon has spent the last two seasons on the staff listed as a "coach," with responsibilities all over the field.

Jeff Salazar, assistant hitting coach the past two years, is still on the 2019 staff.

With more and more data available, Bridich said the hitting coach will need to double as a hands-on instructor and someone who can coordinate a game plan. But the game-planning has to be collaborative.

"It's not just one person affecting that group approach of how we're going to beat the pitcher tonight," Bridich said. "There's multiple hitting coaches involved, [plus the] hitting coach and the bench coach a lot of times. The actual players that are in charge of executing and making it happen, they have to be involved.

"We need to get better at that -- the group process."

• Under Bridich, the Rockies have not traded top prospects for established players. Bridich didn't rule it out this offseason, but said careful consideration would come into play before any such deal.

"I very much believe in our system," Bridich said. "It doesn't mean that we're anxious or feel like we need to trade those guys. But it's definitely beneficial to us in that if we are looking to make sure that we leave no stone unturned, to make sure that we have enough depth in our system to add in a trade if we need to."

• Left-handed hitting Ryan McMahon and right-handed hitting Garrett Hampson are in-house candidates at second base, and middle infielder Brendan Rodgers is the team's No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. But could the Rockies re-sign two-time All-Star DJ LeMahieu?

"We have some guys that are, in theory, able to come in and play second base," said Bridich, who expressed respect for LeMahieu. "He is definitely somebody that we're kicking around, but that's just part of the overall process. It's tough for me to handicap."

• Bridich said the Rockies talked to the D-backs about a possible trade for star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who wound up being sent to the Cardinals. However, when asked if there was any shot Colorado could acquire one of the sport's biggest right-handed-hitting power threats from a division rival, Bridich laughed and said he was "not surprised [Goldschmidt] didn't end up in a Rockies uniform, based on what we were told."

• Bridich also acknowledged that the Rockies talked to the Phillies about power-hitting first baseman Carlos Santana, who was traded to the Mariners in the deal that brought Jean Segura to Philadelphia. Reports are, however, that Seattle could make Santana available.

• The Rockies have been linked to the versatile Marwin Gonzalez, who filled many defensive roles and was an offensive force on successful Astros teams in recent years. Bridich didn't reveal the degree to which the Rockies are pursuing Gonzalez, but did offer a scouting report.

Video: Justice on Marwin Gonzalez's appeal as a free agent

"He's always been talented, but he's become pretty productive at the Major League level, so we're certainly aware, but it's always tough to say what the reality is," Bridich said.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Nolan Arenado

Three Rockies make AFL's Top Prospects team

MLB.com @wboor

Braxton Davidson's dramatic walk-off homer in the 10th inning back on Nov. 17th lifted the Peoria Javelinas to back-to-back Arizona Fall League titles and signified the end of the AFL season.

However, here at MLB Pipeline, coverage of the AFL is constant. Following the on-the-field play, we have released our top 10 breakout prospects, the top 25 prospects of the AFL and our All-Arizona Fall League Team.

Braxton Davidson's dramatic walk-off homer in the 10th inning back on Nov. 17th lifted the Peoria Javelinas to back-to-back Arizona Fall League titles and signified the end of the AFL season.

However, here at MLB Pipeline, coverage of the AFL is constant. Following the on-the-field play, we have released our top 10 breakout prospects, the top 25 prospects of the AFL and our All-Arizona Fall League Team.

Of course, there's always room for more accolades and that's just what we have below as the Arizona Fall League announced its 2018 Top Prospects team on Monday morning.

The team, selected by league managers and coaches, recognizes players who distinguished themselves against other top prospects throughout the AFL. Voters were asked to consider not only a player's AFL performance, but also their Major League projectability.

Catchers

Daulton Varsho, D-backs No. 5 prospect: Varsho, who put together four multihit efforts over a five-game span, hit .262 and drove in nine runs in 18 games.

Keibert Ruiz, Dodgers No. 2 prospect (No. 39 on Top 100): Ruiz played in just 13 games, but left a strong impression on the league's managers and coaches. The 20-year-old hit .286 with six RBIs and also drew six walks while striking out just twice.

Video: Top Prospects: Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers

First Base

Tyler Nevin, Rockies No. 11 prospect: Nevin hit a career-best .328 over 100 games during the regular season and carried that momentum with him into Arizona. Nevin got off to a fast start in the AFL, opening play with a 10-game hitting streak. From there, it was more of the same. The 21-year-old was the AFL's only .400 hitter and ran away with the batting title, slashing .426/.535/.593 and also finished third in the league with 20 RBIs.

Video: SRR@PEJ: Nevin recovers nicely to end the 3rd

Evan White, Mariners No. 5 prospectWhite, who collected 14 RBIs over 18 games, hit .257 with a pair of homers in the AFL. White put together a nine-game hitting streak from late October to early November and also stole two bases after stealing just four during the regular season.

Second Base:

Keston Hiura, Brewers No. 1 prospect (No. 30 on the Top 100): Hiura's ability to hit was no secret -- something his 70-grade hit tool clearly indicated. However, just because it was known that Hiura can hit doesn't mean that watching him do so was any less impressive. The Brewers top prospect went to Arizona to work on his defense and while he made strides in that department, it was his offense that led to him MVP honors. Hiura, who hit .323, led the league in hits (31), RBIs (33) and total bases (54). He also hit the only grand slam of the AFL, put together 11 multihit games and turned in two five-RBI performances.

Jahmai Jones, Angels No. 4 prospect: Jones, coming off a season during which he hit just .239 over 123 games, hit .321 with two homers and 11 RBI in 19 AFL contests.

Third Base:

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays No. 1 prospect (No. 1 on Top 100): Guerrero entered the AFL as the most talked-about prospect and certainly didn't disappoint. Guerrero picked up a trio of hits on Opening Day and kept the hits coming as he began the season with a 13-game hitting streak. The 19-year-old also impressed on the league's biggest stage, hitting a 117 mph double in the Fall Stars Game and concluded his stint in Arizona with a .351 batting average.

Video: Chisholm on Vlad Jr.'s Fall League performance

Yu Chang, Indians No. 6 prospect: Chang, who also played in the 2017 Fall League, put together a strong offensive showing. The shortstop hit .337, thanks in large part to a stretch where he strung together eight multihit efforts over 12 games. Chang also finished tied for third in total bases (45) and fourth in hits (29).

Shortstops:

Cole Tucker, Pirates No. 5 prospect: Tucker's .370 average certainly jumps off the page, but the 22-year-old impressed defensively as well. Tucker's 11 multihit games tied for the league lead (Hiura) and his 30 hits left him tied for second. Tucker also impressed off the field, reguarily staying after the game to take photos and sign autographs and was honored with the league's sportsmanship award.

Video: Cole Tucker talks about his Fall League experience

 Lucius Fox, Rays No. 9 prospect: Fox, who hit .326 over 21 games, put together an eight-game hitting streak in mid-October and tied for second in the league with 10 multihit games. Fox also drew 16 walks and stole seven bases.

Outfielders:

Luis Robert, White Sox No. 4 prospect (No. 44 on Top 100): Robert missed a little bit of time with a minor injury during the AFL, but still hit .324 over 18 games. The winner of the week five Player of the Week Award, Robert put up a 14-game hitting streak from Oc. 9 to Nov. 9. The hitting streak was the longest in the AFL since 2014.

Cristian Pache, Braves No. 6 prospect (No. 68 on the Top 100): Pache hit .279 and turned in four straight multihit games in late October, but the 20-year-old may have been even more impressive defensively. Pache showed off his 60-grade arm and his 70-grade speed on numerous occasions in the outfield and also used that speed to steal three bases.

Ryan McKenna, Orioles No. 12 prospect: McKenna hit .315/.410/.457 over 127 games during the regular season, his best season since the Orioles picked him in the fourth-round of the 2015 Draft, and continued the breakout campaign in Arizona, where he hit .344/.474/.590.

Sam Hilliard, Rockies No. 9 prospectHilliard played in just 16 games, but the small sample size didn't keep him from producing. Hilliard had multiple hits in nearly half (seven) of the games he played and finished with two homers and a .328 average.

Daz Cameron, Tigers No. 8 prospectCameron stole 24 bases in the regular season and then swiped nine bases, which tied him for fourth, during the AFL. The son of former Major Leaguer Mike Cameron hit .342 over 20 games.

Nick Heath, Royals: Heath posted a .427 on-base percentage and once he got on base, he made the most of the opportunities. The Royals prospect led the AFL in stolen bases (13) and runs scored (21), while batting .338 over 21 games.

Designated Hitters:

Peter Alonso, Mets No. 2 prospect (No. 58 on the Top 100): Alonso tied for the Minor League home run lead with 36 during the regular season and then tied for the AFL lead with six. In addition to his six homers, Alonso also hit seven doubles and often showed off his power with eye-popping exit velocities.

Video: EAST@WEST: Alonso lays out for impressive diving stop

Will Craig, Pirates No. 16 prospectCraig tied with Alonso and Davidson for the home run title, while also hitting .304 over 21 games.

Starting Pitchers

Nate Pearson, Blue Jays No. 4 prospect (No. 90 on the Top 100): Pearson racked up 23 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings and although his ERA sat at 6.20, he did spin three scoreless outings. What's more, Pearson garnered plenty of attention during the Fall Stars Game when his fastball was clocked at 104 mph.

Video: EAST@WEST: Pearson flashes 101 mph+ with regularity

Erick Leal, Cubs: Leal nearly finished the AFL with a perfect 0.00 ERA, but gave up seven runs (six earned) in his final start. The right-hander began the AFL with a 19 1/3-inning scoreless streak and finished 2-1 with a 2.66 ERA over six starts.

Relief Pitchers:

Melvin Adon, Giants No. 19 prospect: Adon, a hard-throwing right-hander, was consistently missing bats out in Arizona. Adon notched 21 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings and limited opponents to a .163 batting average against. He was particuarily tough on right-handers as they managed to hit just .091 against him.

Justin Lawrence, Rockies No. 16 prospect: Lawrence tied for the AFL lead with three saves and used a nasty fastball-slider combo to strike out 13 batters in 10 2/3 innings.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor.

Bettis focused after two difficult seasons

Right-hander sets goal of return to Rockies rotation
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

DENVER -- After a year of illness, followed by a year of weirdness, right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis is working on a return to a key role in the Rockies' starting rotation.

Bettis was limited to nine starts in 2017 after a bout with testicular cancer -- one that required chemotherapy after the disease spread to his lymph nodes. In 2018, Bettis was 4-1 with a 3.27 ERA on May 22, when he developed a blister on his right middle finger. It was the first time in his career he missed time due to a blister. He had a second, more severe blister issue on July 1, and was moved to the bullpen by the end of the season, during which he went 5-2, with a 5.01 ERA in 27 games (20 starts).

DENVER -- After a year of illness, followed by a year of weirdness, right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis is working on a return to a key role in the Rockies' starting rotation.

Bettis was limited to nine starts in 2017 after a bout with testicular cancer -- one that required chemotherapy after the disease spread to his lymph nodes. In 2018, Bettis was 4-1 with a 3.27 ERA on May 22, when he developed a blister on his right middle finger. It was the first time in his career he missed time due to a blister. He had a second, more severe blister issue on July 1, and was moved to the bullpen by the end of the season, during which he went 5-2, with a 5.01 ERA in 27 games (20 starts).

Bettis, who turns 30 on April 26, sees himself as a candidate for redemption. He believes he has learned to deal with the blister. Immediately after the season he visited the popular Driveline training center near Seattle to correct the motion flaws that crept in while he dealt with the blisters.

Bettis knows there is opportunity for him to regain and build on his form of 2016, when he went 14-8 with a 4.79 ERA and seemed to be emerging as a force in an improving rotation.

Bettis, in his second year of arbitration after earning $2 million in 2018, leads the rotation with 125 total appearances and is tied with Jon Gray in starts with 89, but performance is more important to him than seniority.

"I'm going to Spring Training with the mindset of fighting to win this job," Bettis said. "It's not that I don't feel like I should have the privilege of being part of it. But I don't want to go in there thinking that I've got it made. My mentality is I've got to prove people wrong."

Actually, there was little doubt before the strange last two seasons. Bettis became the first of the current rotation members to make a breakthrough. After struggling early in his career as a reliever, Bettis developed as a starter -- by devoting two Spring Trainings to ground-up work on his motion with pitching coach Steve Foster and bullpen coach Darren Holmes.

As he excelled, Bettis became recognized as a leader, because of his buy-in with the coaching and strategy. 

But in 2018, the blisters -- which materialized during starts at Dodger Stadium -- left Bettis simply trying to work on himself and the sudden problem. Lefty Kyle Freeland (17-7, 2.85 ERA, fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting) and righty German Marquez (14-11, 3.77 ERA) emerged as rotation leaders in Bettis' stead.

"Blisters generally show up on a guy in high school and college, but Chad Bettis never had one," Foster said. "It changed the trajectory of his season."

Bettis spoke with the Dodgers' Rich Hill, whose generally standout pitching at times has been interrupted by blisters. He has tried all methods, whether it's acidic juices (lemon, lime, pickle) or lotions, which later became his preferred method.

During his Triple-A rehab assignment from the second bister, Bettis had a solid outing when he added up-and-down glove motion at the start of his windup. But in two starts after his return, the consistency wasn't there and the Rockies moved him to the bullpen.

Bettis proved effective, posting a 2.38 ERA in 11 1/3 innings over seven relief appearances.

"I completely understood the move, and we had good communication and clarity," Bettis said. "After the season, I knew I could be successful in the bullpen -- something I needed to prove after an ugly 2014. But the fact is, I love starting. The work I'm putting in leads to that. If we get to Spring Training and something different happens, we'll address it."

Bettis performing well out of the bullpen doesn't change the Rockies' plans. Manager Bud Black is a believer in asking for innings from his starters, and likes a five-man group. And Foster noted that Bettis, when right, should be part of the rotation mix.

"You've got to have some thoroughbreds to take you deep in games," Foster said. "Chad Bettis will come to camp ready to compete for a chance to help this team win."

Immediately after the Rockies were swept by the Brewers in the NL Division Series, Bettis, Holmes and Rockies relievers Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw went to Driveline -- where Gray plans to go in January to rebound from a rough 2018.

Bettis used its detailed video and statistical analysis to begin forming a strategy for returning to his proper delivery.

"Now I'm trying to build off the understanding that it could have been a great year," Bettis said. "And with the information and my throwing program I'm a step closer to getting back to that next season. It's all systems go."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Chad Bettis

Each team's best 1st-rounder of the past decade

MLB.com

The release of the 2019 Draft Top 50 list had the MLB Pipeline staff thinking about Drafts in years past. Teams always want to get that first pick right, and there have been some real home runs hit in the first round.

Who were the best first-round picks for each team over the last decade? MLB Pipeline dug through the first rounds of the last 10 years (2009-18) and picked the top first-rounder for each organization. Only those chosen in what was the official first round each year were considered -- no supplemental picks were allowed. The 2014 Draft has been the most fruitful, with six players from that first round making the list. The Drafts from 2012 and 2009 are right behind with five selections, with the latter boasting the player who has to be the single best first-round selection over the last 10 years.

The release of the 2019 Draft Top 50 list had the MLB Pipeline staff thinking about Drafts in years past. Teams always want to get that first pick right, and there have been some real home runs hit in the first round.

Who were the best first-round picks for each team over the last decade? MLB Pipeline dug through the first rounds of the last 10 years (2009-18) and picked the top first-rounder for each organization. Only those chosen in what was the official first round each year were considered -- no supplemental picks were allowed. The 2014 Draft has been the most fruitful, with six players from that first round making the list. The Drafts from 2012 and 2009 are right behind with five selections, with the latter boasting the player who has to be the single best first-round selection over the last 10 years.

AL East

Marcus Stroman, RHP, Blue Jays, 2012 (No. 22 overall)
Stroman's profile scared away many teams in the 2012 Draft, but the Duke product has done his part to overcome the stigma associated with being an undersized right-hander. Though he regressed in 2018, while dealing with right shoulder fatigue and, later, a blister issue, Stroman posted back-to-back 200-inning seasons (2016-17) and has been worth 10.6 WAR over five seasons with the Blue Jays.

Manny Machado, SS, Orioles, 2010 (No. 3 overall)
Machado made the jump straight from Double-A to the Majors as a 19-year-old in late 2012, and quickly became a star. His 33.8 WAR is the highest among 2010 first-round position players, second only to Chris Sale, and after helping guide Baltimore to two postseason appearances as a four-time All-Star, Machado netted the organization five Top 30 prospects when it dealt him to the Dodgers this past July.

Ryne Stanek, RHP, Rays, 2013 (No. 29 overall)
Drafting in the first round has long been a problem for the typically savvy Rays, and even their selection of Stanek isn't a hands-down win for the organization, considering he was viewed as a starter (before needing hip surgery) out of the Draft. That said, the right-hander emerged as a legitimate late-inning weapon (and, at times, an "opener") for the Rays in 2018, when he compiled a 2.98 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings over 66 1/3 innings (59 appearances).

Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox, 2015 (No. 7 overall)
Benintendi went from unheralded Arkansas freshman to consensus College Baseball Player of the Year as a sophomore, soaring up Draft boards in the process. The Red Sox had him No. 2 on theirs (behind Dansby Swanson), which he justified by becoming a regular in their 2018 World Series championship lineup just 13 months after signing.

Video: 2015 Draft: Red Sox draft OF Andrew Benintendi No. 7

Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees, 2013 (No. 32 overall)
Judge was the second of three Yankees first-rounders in 2013, sandwiched between Eric Jagielo (No. 26) and Ian Clarkin (No. 33), and lasting that long because there were questions about how well his massive raw power would translate into production. After only hitting 18 homers in three years at Fresno State and 56 in three seasons in the Minors, he exploded for a rookie-record 52 in 2017.

AL Central

Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians, 2011 (No. 8 overall)
Cleveland landed perhaps the best player in a historically good first-round class, as Lindor has become one of the faces of game while totaling 23.9 WAR -- second to Mookie Betts (35.2) among 2011 draftees -- and leading the Indians to an American League title (2016) since his debut in '15, when he finished second in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting. Entering his age-25 season, he's garnered All-Star honors and finished Top 10 in MVP voting in each of the last three years.

Aaron Crow, RHP, Royals, 2009 (No. 12 overall)
The Royals haven't fared well in the first round during the last decade, though Crow made the All-Star Game as a rookie in 2011, and was an effective reliever for four seasons until he blew out his elbow shortly after a trade to the Marlins. Cristian Colon (No. 4 overall, 2010) didn't have as much sustained success but delivered the championship-winning hit in the 2015 World Series.

Casey Mize, RHP, Tigers, 2018 (No. 1 overall)
Perhaps this one is more aspirational because he's thrown only 13 2/3 career innings since being the top pick in last June's Draft, but Mize should be able to use his three plus pitches and his plus control to move quickly through the Tigers' system. Look for him in Detroit sooner rather than later.

Alex Kirilloff, OF, Twins, 2016 (No. 16 overall)
The rules for this story don't allow for a supplemental first-round pick to be chosen, otherwise Jose Berrios might be the guy. But after missing the 2017 season, Kirilloff erupted in '18, his first real full season, and is looking like one of the best hitting prospects in all of baseball.

Chris Sale, LHP, White Sox, 2010 (No. 13 overall)
After 2010's Big Three of Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon and Machado, Sale should have been the next player taken. But teams psyched themselves out over worries about his low arm slot and desire for a big league contract (typical for top college arms at the time), allowing the White Sox to steal him at No. 13. He was saving games for Chicago by September and has been an All-Star in each of his seven seasons as a starter.

Video: WS2018 Gm1: Sale K's Dozier to start off World Series

AL West

Matt Chapman, 3B, A's, 2014 (No. 25 overall)
Chapman emerged as the A's next homegrown star in his first fully healthy season, as he ranked third in WAR (8.2) among all position players, finished seventh in AL MVP voting and took home the revered Platinum Glove award as baseball's best defensive player. His 11.7 WAR in 229 career games is tops among positional players from his Draft class -- ahead of even Trea Turner (10.4), who's played 360 games.

Mike Trout, OF, Angels, 2009 (No. 25 overall)
The teams that say they had Trout No. 2 on their board are sort of like the million people who say they were present for The Shot Heard Round the World. Their loss was the Angels' gain, obviously, as he's turned into one of the game's top stars, with seven All-Star appearances and two MVP Awards.

Carlos Correa, SS, Astros, 2012 (No. 1 overall)
George Springer (No. 11, 2011) and Alex Bregman (No. 2, 2015) can also make a case, but our choice is Correa. A series of impressive pre-Draft workouts gave him late helium and made him the first Puerto Rican taken with the top choice. He won AL Rookie of the Year Award honors in '15, then received All-Star recognition and won a World Series two year later.

Video: ALCS Gm1: Correa knocks go-ahead single in 6th

Mike Zunino, C, Mariners, 2012 (No. 3 overall)
Zunino struggled for several years after being rushed to the Major Leagues and hit .207 over 2,000 plate appearances with Seattle. His combination of right-handed power and strong defense behind the plate, however, became increasingly valuable, especially with the quality of the position on the decline across the Majors.

Lewis Brinson, OF, Rangers, 2012 (No. 29 overall)
The Rangers' 13 first-round picks from the last decade have produced only three big leaguers and a combined -0.4 WAR so far. An exceptional athlete who has yet to hit in the Majors, Brinson went to the Brewers in a deal for Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy in July 2016, and to the Marlins in a trade for Christian Yelich last January.

NL East

Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves, 2017 (No. 5 overall)
The Braves hoped Wright would move quickly when they took him with their first pick in the 2017 Draft out of Vanderbilt. Starting his first full season in Double-A was a good sign and reaching Atlanta before the year was over was ahead of schedule, even for a fast-tracker.

Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins, 2010 (No. 23 overall)
One of the 2010 Draft's better hitters as a California prep, Yelich reached the Majors in mid-2013 and received a seven-year, $49.57 million contract extension two years later. He hit .290/.369/.432 (18.6 WAR) over 643 games with Miami, and then helped the organization restock its farm system with four prospects, including Brinson and Monte Harrison, when they dealt him to Milwaukee last offseason. In his first year with the Brewers, Yelich won the batting title (.326) and powered the club to the National League Championship Series en route to MVP honors.

Video: NLCS Gm7: Yelich crushes solo homer to right-center

Michael Conforto, OF, Mets, 2014 (No. 10 overall)
It took the Oregon State product only a year to get to the big leagues, and while his performance has been a little up and down, he's hit 56 homers the last two years and has an All-Star nod already on his resume. Still only 25, he has already amassed nearly 1,400 Major League at-bats.

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals, 2010 (No. 1 overall)
The Nationals' selection of Harper with the first pick in the 2010 Draft forever changed the course of the franchise, as it gave the club a player with near-immediate impact potential as well as generational-star upside worthy of building around. Over seven seasons with the Nats, Harper -- a six-time All-Star and the 2015 NL MVP -- hit .279/.388/.512 with 184 homers in 927 games, good for a 27.4 WAR.

Aaron Nola, RHP, Phillies, 2014 (No. 7 overall)
Nola took his combination of solid stuff and outstanding command and made a beeline to Philadelphia, joining the rotation in just over a year following his selection. And the 25-year-old is just getting going, making his first All-Star team and finishing third in NL Cy Young Award voting in 2018.

NL Central

Keston Hiura, 2B, Brewers, 2017 (No. 9 overall)
The Brewers' track record with first-round picks isn't great, but Hiura could soon help reverse that trend. After leading all Division I hitters in average (.442) as a UC Irvine junior, Hiura raked his way up to Double-A this past season and then took home MVP honors in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. He still needs some more time in the Minors, but it shouldn't be long before Hiura is driving in runs from the middle of Milwaukee's order.

Jack Flaherty, RHP, 2014 (No. 34 overall)
The Cardinals have had some solid back-half-of-the-first-round selections, like Michael Wacha and Kolten Wong, but Flaherty made it to the big leagues in 2017, then finished fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in '18. Flaherty will be only 23 in 2019, so the best may be yet to come.

Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs, 2013 (No. 2 overall)
Bryant had a stunning junior season at San Diego, swatting 31 homers to not only lead NCAA Division I but also topping 223 of the 296 teams at that level. He raced to the big leagues, winning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2015 and encoring with an NL MVP Award and World Series championship the next season.

Video: STL@CHC: Bryant belts a towering solo homer to center

Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates, 2011 (No. 1 overall)
Cole's 17.4 WAR is more than double any other Pirates' first-rounder in the last decade. Perhaps his tenure with Pittsburgh was up and down, but he made the All-Star team, finished fourth in NL Cy Young voting and made three postseason starts in 2015. He's also topped 200 innings in three of the last four years (albeit the last one coming for the Astros).

Mike Leake, RHP, Reds, 2009 (No. 8 overall)
Leake spent exactly zero days in the Minor Leagues between getting drafted and his Major League debut, breaking with the Reds' rotation on Opening Day in 2010. He's compiled more WAR than any Reds first-rounder in the last 10 years (15.6) and his trade to the Giants in 2015 netted them Adam Duvall (two years of 30-plus homers) and Keury Mella, who should contribute to the pitching staff in '19.

NL West

A.J. Pollock, OF, D-backs, 2009 (No. 17 overall)
When Pollock was coming out of Notre Dame, he was a solid college performer, but one who didn't have a plus tool, so some thought he might end up a bit of a tweener. There have been some injuries, but there's also been an All-Star appearance and a Gold Glove as an everyday center fielder, one who is currently coveted on the free-agent market.

Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers, 2012 (No. 18 overall)
After taking pitchers with their previous six first-round choices -- landing Clayton Kershaw and five non-impact big leaguers -- the Dodgers changed course and went for Seager, who was one of the better all-around high school bats but also came with some signability concerns in the first Draft with bonus-pool rules. He signed for $2.35 million ($400,000 above the assigned value at No. 18) and proved well worth it, earning the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2016 and All-Star recognition in each of his two full big league seasons.

Zack Wheeler, RHP, Giants, 2009 (No. 6 overall)
He wasn't a cornerstone of World Series championships like Giants 2006-08 first-rounders Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, but the guy who followed them has been a quality big league starter when healthy. Wheeler didn't last long with San Francisco, however, going to the Mets in a 2011 trade for Carlos Beltran.

Trea Turner, SS, Padres, 2014 (No. 13 overall)
Turner played the first half of his pro debut on borrowed time, as he'd already been dealt to the Nationals as part of a three-team trade with Tampa Bay (that netted the Padres Wil Myers) by the time the 2015 season began. He's emerged as one of the more impactful young players with the Nats.

Video: Draft 2014: Padres draft SS Trea Turner No. 13

Kyle Freeland, LHP, Rockies, 2014 (No. 8 overall)
The Rockies hoped for Kyle Schwarber or Nola, but the Cubs and Phillies foiled those plans and led them to Freeland, whose elbow worried some clubs because he had arthroscopic surgery as a Denver high schooler. He had bone chips removed from his elbow in 2015 but has been otherwise healthy, winning 11 games as a rookie in '17 and finishing fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting last season.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.