Hampson a bright spot for Rockies' future

September 26th, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- has been productive during this experimental stage of the Rockies’ season. If the skill set carries over to 2020, when the team expects to return to contending status, he could be hard to keep out of the lineup.

Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Giants at Oracle Park brought two more Hampson hits, which improved his September performance to 25-for-67 (.373) in 20 games. His two steals brought his season total to 15, bested only by Trevor Story’s 21.

The Rockies have reason to believe Hampson, who turns 25 on Oct. 10, is not a September flash, but a player with a varied skill set who can start at six positions. He flashed some of those skills in Wednesday’s game, which the Giants took on Jaylin Davis’ home run to center field off with one out in the ninth.

Hampson, who spelled Story, both at shortstop and in the leadoff spot, posted a .968 Spring Training OPS to make his first Opening Day roster, but needed two options to Triple-A Albuquerque to trade a slow leg kick for a toe tap that has allowed him to pick up pitches and time his swing.

“Obviously, I would have rather not waited so long,” said Hampson, who did a solid imitation of Story at short with a pickup-and-spin play to retire Christhian Adames in the sixth. “I made some adjustments and I’m just riding the wave, trying to show the guys I can contribute here.”

While Hampson’s stroke has produced power this month, with five of his eight total home runs, he also stayed on two Jeff Samardzija pitches for singles through the infield in the first and third. Otherwise, the Rockies had little success in Samardzija’s six scoreless innings (five hits, five strikeouts).

“He was effectively wild -- I don’t think anybody was too comfortable in there,” Hampson said. “I was just trying to get it in the middle, and put a good swing on it.”

Hampson’s ability to play all outfield positions, plus short, second base and third means the Rockies have more depth and will be able to spell veteran players such as Story, Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, Daniel Murphy and Ian Desmond -- all of whom had significant bumps and some of whom had significant injuries this season.

Others hoping to be seen with favorable eyes in 2020 carried much of Wednesday. Examples:

• Righty starter , who held the Giants to one run and four hits in five innings, used a diverse pitch mix to force nine ground-ball outs. When healthy the Rockies have a rotation full of power arms. But Melville, who appeared in just six Major League games with the Reds (2016), Twins and Padres (both in 2017) but has made seven starts for the Rockies, has shown on occasion that guile can work.

“It’s just seeing how well I can stick to my game plan,” Melville said. “There are some things being part of a new team you want to work on -- getting to learn the culture, getting to learn Tony [Wolters, the primary catcher] behind the plate and his style, and trying to hybrid both of our styles into something good.”

• First baseman (2-for-4) went 2-for-18 during an emergency callup in April. But in September he is 8-for-26 (.286) with three home runs and a double. With the Rockies often scratching for right-handed depth, Fuentes is focusing on preparation.

“It’s being a smarter baseball player,” he said. “A lot of guys have a lot of talent but the guys that separate themselves really study the game, learn the pitchers. I need to do that.”

• Righty relievers Carlos Estévez and Jairo Díaz, who didn’t appear Wednesday, have spent the second half solidifying themselves as being counted on for key roles next season. Wednesday was a solid night for a couple of others trying to make good impressions.

It was a fifth straight scoreless night for lefty Phillip Diehl, who had given up two runs in each of his previous three outings. Diehl’s slider, an above-average pitch in the Minors, is coming into play.

Lefty , who had 65 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings with the Mariners in 2017 but fell off the big league radar, went 1 2/3 scoreless and has been scored on in just one of his eight appearances. Pazos entered in the seventh for Yency Almonte, who gave up a hit and a grounder in his latest test.

Johnson was scoreless in 10 of his 11 previous outings before hanging a full-count breaking ball that Davis knocked for his first Major League homer.