Inbox: What will Rockies' OF look like in '21?

Beat reporter Thomas Harding answers fans' questions

February 3rd, 2021

DENVER -- No longer are Rockies fans waiting for change, at least.

Colorado sent third baseman and cash considerations to the Cardinals for left-handed pitcher and four prospects. And at least so far, the club is holding on to shortstop , who is due $18.5 million in a contract year.

This story appeared just before the trade, so the answers have been revised. That said, let's take a look at other questions around the diamond.

What do you expect the outfield to look like to start the year? Who plays CF?
-- @rocktober19 via Twitter

The loss of David Dahl, who signed with the Rangers after being non-tendered, raises questions in center, which also leaves at least one corner uncertain.

Raimel Tapia’s best position in the Minors was center field, but he's had more opportunity to play left in the Majors. At times, he has struggled with reads and decisions on throws, but he was better going toward the wall last season and made fundamental strides. All that is a good argument for letting him stay in left and continue to improve there.

Right-handed-hitting Garrett Hampson has consistently made plays in center, but he was drafted as an infielder and is credible in the middle positions. Do the Rockies get more value out of his versatility? Hampson has been through growing pains with his swing, but he bunts effectively, beats out infield grounders and can swing with power at times.

Left-handed-hitting Sam Hilliard plays center well for a 6-foot-5 man in the 230-pound range. It’s hard to keep him off the field if he revisits the power he showed in 27 games in 2019 (seven homers, four doubles and two triples), but it's easier to do so if there is a repeat of his strikeouts from '20 (42 whiffs in 114 plate appearances, but with six homers, two doubles and two triples).

How does the uncertainty in center affect the rest of the outfield? The logical thought is for Ian Desmond to play left against left-handed pitching in a platoon with Tapia. But what if Desmond returns for the final year of his contract (after electing not to play in 2020) more effective than Hampson or Hilliard?

Right field belongs to longtime star Charlie Blackmon. But if there ends up being a designated hitter in the National League, expect him to fill the role on more than a few occasions.

What would you see as the best plan at first base? Desmond back in that spot with limited upside? Keep playing Ryan McMahon or Josh Fuentes out of position with (I think) more upside and maybe less consistency?
-- @timbricker13 via Twitter

In December, manager Bud Black said he hopes the Rockies will add a hitter of some impact, either in the outfield or on the right side of the infield. The Arenado deal likely means McMahon will move to third base, his Minor League role and one he performed with aplomb at the end of last season when Arenado was injured. The Rockies indicated at the end of ’20 that they see Fuentes in a multi-position role.

If the Rockies don’t find an impact bat, it makes sense to either install Hampson or Brendan Rodgers (or a combination of the two) at second. First base could go to a prospect -- Colton Welker (Colorado's No. 8 prospect per MLB Pipeline) is closest to the Majors, but top 2019 pick Michael Toglia (No. 3) and 2018 42nd overall pick Grant Lavigne (No. 10) also are in the fold.

Are we in a rebuild? If not, what is the plan to beat the Dodgers and Padres to win the West in 2021?
-- @EWB_68 via Twitter

The Arenado news tips the Rockies closer to rebuilding than not. But the club points to one reason for hope that it can be a surprise.

Colorado has spent years developing the top of its rotation and does not seem to be exploring deals for German Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray and Antonio Senzatela, considering the hauls those starters could attract. However, if the Rockies trade Story – either before the 2021 season or at the Trade Deadline – it’s a rebuild, even if no starters are dealt.

The Arenado trade has been panned because no Major Leaguer with a long track record or highly ranked prospect is headed to Denver, but Gomber just might be a boost to the rotation.