2023 Colorado Rockies Season Preview — Injuries Loom Large

2023 Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black looking onto the field
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

2023 Colorado Rockies Season Preview

The Colorado Rockies, led by seventh-year manager Bud Black, finished last (68–94) in the NL West in 2022. This came after three straight fourth-place finishes, a far cry from their back-to-back Wild Card berths in 2017 and 2018. Given the talent they have on the injured list to start the season, 2023 may be another long season for their devoted and passionate fanbase. However, it could give fans a chance to see some of the young up-and-coming talent.

Injured Players

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Second baseman Brendan Rodgers had a defensive season for the ages in 2022, putting up 22 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) while running away with the NL Gold Glove. He had a decent season at the plate, too. In 581 plate appearances across 137 games, Rodgers slashed .266 (140-for-527)/.325/.408 with 30 doubles, three triples, 13 homers, 63 RBI, 46 walks, 101 strikeouts, and 72 runs scored. This made for a .321 wOBA and 5.2 wRAA, which combined with his defense for 4.3 WAR. But shoulder surgery for a torn labrum on March 7 put him on the 60-day injured list (IL) on March 25. Rodgers’ season is in doubt as of March 28, according to Thomas Harding of MLB.com.

Outfielder Sean Bouchard suffered a left distal biceps tear on a swing March 8 against the Los Angeles Angels. He had surgery March 15 and went on the 60-day IL March 25, according to Harding. His return date is still unknown, but it can be no earlier than late May.

Outfielder Randal Grichuk is recovering from bilateral sports hernia surgery, and is expected to return in April. In 538 plate appearances across 140 games, Grichuk slashed .259 (131-for-506)/.299/.425 with 21 doubles, three triples, 19 homers, 73 RBI, 4-for-4 stolen bases, 24 walks, 127 strikeouts, and 60 runs scored. This made for a .315 wOBA and 2.1 wRAA, combining with -4 DRS for 0.3 WAR.

Injured Pitchers

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And that’s only the position players. Lefty Lucas Gilbreath, a middle reliever, had Tommy John surgery March 13 and will miss the season. Righty Tyler Kinley, who was lights out in his setup role to start 2022, suffered a season-ending injury June 9. It turned out to be a right elbow sprain and flexor tendon tear, one that required surgery July 5. He is scheduled to return for the second half of 2023.

Right-handed starter Antonio Senzatela is recovering from left ACL surgery. He expects to return in May and is hoping to rebound from a lackluster 2022. In 92 1/3 innings across 19 starts, Senzatela went 3–7 with a 5.07 ERA (109 ERA-minus). He had 54 strikeouts, 23 walks, a 13.1% K%, 5.6% BB%, a 7.5% K–BB%, and a 1.690 WHIP, making for 0.5 WAR.

In total, the Rockies have 7.7 WAR from 2022 on the injured list, more than double the 2022 WAR value of any single healthy player on their roster.

Catchers

Elias Diaz will be the primary catcher. He slashed .228 (80-for-351)/.281/.368 in 381 plate appearances across 105 games. He had 18 doubles, two triples, nine homers, 51 RBI, 25 walks, 82 strikeouts, and 29 runs scored. This made for a .284 wOBA and -7.7 wRAA. Combined with -15 DRS, this gave him a 0.4 WAR.

Brian Serven, the backup, slashed .203 (38-for-187)/.261/.332 in 205 plate appearances. Over 62 games, he had four doubles, a triple, six homers, 16 RBI, 13 walks, 44 strikeouts, 19 runs scored, .263 wOBA, and -7.7 wRAA. Defensively, he was much stronger than Diaz, with five DRS. This all combined for 0.0 WAR — a replacement-level player.

Infielders

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C.J. Cron, a 2022 All-Star, returns to first base for 2023. Left-handed-hitting Ryan McMahon will play second base until Rodgers returns and will likely move back to third at that point. Switch-hitting rookie Ezequiel Tovar will be the shortstop. Elehuris Montero will play third base. The reserves are left-handed-hitting Mike Moustakas, Alan Trejo, and left-handed-hitting Harold Castro.

2022 Stats

Cron — 150 G, 632 PA, .257 (148-for-575)/.315/.468, 79 R, 28 2B, 3 3B, 29 HR, 102 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 43 BB, 164 SO,                .335 wOBA, 12.6 wRAA, 5 DRS, 2.1 WAR

McMahon — 153 G, 597 PA, .246 (130-for-529)/.327/.414, 67 R, 23 2B, 3 3B, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 7 SB, 3 CS, 60 BB, 158 SO, .326 wOBA, 7.6 wRAA, 9 DRS, 3.0 WAR

Tovar — 9 G, 35 PA, .212 (7-for-33)/.257/.333, 2 R, 1 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 2 BB, 9 SO, .261 wOBA, -1.4 wRAA, -3 DRS, -0.3 WAR

Montero — 53 G, 185 PA, .233 (41-for-176)/.270/.432, 21 R, 15 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 20 RBI, 0 SB, 0 CS, 8 BB, 60 SO, .303 wOBA, -1.1 wRAA, 0 DRS, 0.1 WAR

Moustakas — 78 G, 285 PA, .214 (54-for-252)/.295/.345, 30 R, 12 2B, 0 3B, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 2 SB, 0 CS, 24 BB, 75 SO, .286 wOBA, -5.4 wRAA, -3 DRS, -1.0 WAR

Trejo — 35 G, 125 PA, .271 (32-for-118)/.312/.424, 15 R, 6 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 1 SB, 2 CS, 5 BB, 31 SO, .321 wOBA, 1.2 wRAA, -3 DRS, 0.2 WAR

Castro — 120 G, 443 PA, .271 (114-for-420)/.300/.381, 37 R, 21 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 47 RBI, 0 SB, 1 CS, 17 BB, 79 SO, .297 wOBA, -4.6 wRAA, -12 DRS, 0.0 WAR

Outfielders

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Recent free-agent signing Jurickson Profar will be in left field. The switch-hitter spent 2022 with the San Diego Padres, and should immediately make an impact for the Rockies. Yonathan Daza will be in center, with Kris Bryant, who missed much of 2022 with foot injuries, in right. Grizzled veteran Charlie Blackmon — the primary designated hitter — and Castro will be the reserves.

2022 Stats

Profar — 152 G, 658 PA, .243 (140-for-575)/.331/.391, 82 R, 36 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 58 RBI, 5 SB, 1 CS, 73 BB, 103 SO, .320 wOBA, 5.5 wRAA, 2 DRS, 3.1 WAR

Daza — 113 G, 408 PA, .301 (112-for-372)/.349/.384, 56 R, 21 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 0 SB, 3 CS, 26 BB, 58 SO, .323 wOBA, 4.3 wRAA, -5 DRS, 1.2 WAR

Bryant — 42 G, 181 PA, .306 (49-for-160)/.327/.414, 67 R, 23 2B, 3 3B, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 7 SB, 3 CS, 60 BB, 158 SO, .326 wOBA, 7.6 wRAA, 9 DRS, 3.0 WAR

Blackmon — 135 G, 577 PA, .264 (140-for-530)/.314/.419, 60 R, 22 2B, 6 3B, 16 HR, 78 RBI, 4 SB, 1 CS, 32 BB, 109 SO, .317 wOBA, 3.4 wRAA, -6 DRS, -0.2 WAR

Rotation

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German Marquez will anchor the rotation once again. Lefty Kyle Freeland will be the second man. Another lefty, Austin Gomber, will come after Freeland. Jose Urena and Ryan Feltner take the back two positions. In ERA-minus, which adjusts a pitcher’s ERA for his home park, only Freeland was better than the league average in 2022. All five had WHIPs higher than the league average, as well. Only Marquez lasted six innings or more per start, but that was only after rounding. (Author’s note: it came in at 5.9 innings per start, but we round to the nearest third.) Also of note — only Marquez and Freeland had a WAR of 1.0 or greater; the other three were at or near replacement-level numbers in 2022.

2022 Stats

Marquez — 9–13, 4.95 ERA, 107 ERA-minus, 31 GS, 181 2/3 IP, 150 K (19.3%), 63 BB (8.1%), 11.2% K–BB%, 1.365 WHIP, 55% Quality Start Pct (QS%), 0 Cheap Wins (Wchp), 5 Tough Losses (Ltuf), 3 Wins Lost (WLst), 3 Losses Saved (LSv), 6 IP/GS, 4.1 Run Support per 9 (RS/9), 1.4 WAR

Freeland — 9–11, 4.53 ERA, 98 ERA-minus, 31 GS, 174 2/3 IP, 131 K (17.1%), 53 BB (6.9%), 10.2% K–BB%, 1.408 WHIP, 42% QS%, 2 Wchp, 1 Ltuf, 4 WLst, 5 LSv, 5 2/3 IP/GS, 4.6 RS/9, 2.4 WAR

Gomber — 5–7, 5.56 ERA, 120 ERA-minus, 17 GS, 124 2/3 IP, 95 K (18.0%), 34 BB (6.4%), 11.5% K–BB%, 1.372 WHIP, 41% QS%, 1 Wchp, 2 Ltuf, 0 WLst, 2 LSv, 5 1/3 IP/GS, 3.8 RS/9, 0.3 WAR

Ureña — 3–8, 5.01 ERA, 109 ERA-minus, 17 GS, 97 IP, 63 K (14.6%), 43 BB (10.0%), 4.6% K–BB%, 1.567 WHIP, 41% QS%, 1 Wchp, 1 Ltuf, 2 WLst, 2 LSv, 5 1/3 IP/GS, 2.3 RS/9, 0.3 WAR

Feltner — 4–9, 5.83 ERA, 126 ERA-minus, 19 GS, 97 1/3 IP, 84 K (19.6%), 35 BB (8.2%), 11.4% K–BB%, 2.167 WHIP, 21% QS%, 2 Wchp, 0 Ltuf, 4 WLst, 2 LSv, 5 IP/GS, 4.5 RS/9, 0.0 WAR

Relief Corps

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Closer Daniel Bard returns after a terrific 2022. The Rockies are confident that his nightmare outings in the World Baseball Classic were outliers. His 2022 WAR of 3.8 was the highest of any member of the Rockies pitching staff. Closers are volatile by nature, but that becomes more true as they age. With Bard turning 38 this season, that could come into play, but until he hits his sell-by date, he’ll be among the best.

Righties Pierce Johnson, Dinelson Lamet, and Justin Lawrence will take middle relief and setup roles. Lefties Brad Hand, Brent Suter, and Ty Blach will join them. Johnson signed with the Rockies as a free agent in December, coming over from the Padres. Lamet struggled with the Padres in 2022 but showed night-and-day improvement after joining the Rockies in August. Suter, who had postseason experience with the Milwaukee Brewers, joined the Rockies off the waiver wire in November. Hand also has postseason experience, pitching with the pennant-winning Philadelphia Phillies in 2022. Connor Seabold, acquired from the Boston Red Sox in a trade this past January, will be the long reliever. Unless the starters go longer per start than they did in 2022, this group will see high use.

2022 Stats

Bard — 1.79 ERA, 39 ERA-minus, 57 GR, 43 ScOtg, 75.4 ScOtg%, 60 1/3 IP, 69 K (28.2%), 25 BB (10.2%), 18.0% K–BB%, 0-of-2 Inherited Runners Scored (0%), 34-of-37 Saves, 39-6 Goose Eggs (GE)-Broken Eggs (BE) (6.5 GE/BE), 0.994 WHIP, and 3.8 WAR.

Johnson — 5.02 ERA, 130 ERA-minus, 15 GR, 11 ScOtg, 73.3 ScOtg%, 14 1/3 IP, 21 K (32.8%), 8 BB (12.5%), 20.3% K–BB%, 0-of-1 Inherited Runners Scored (0%), 0-of-1 Saves, 4-1 GE-BE (4.0 GE/BE), 1.535 WHIP, and -0.1 WAR.

Hand — 2.80 ERA, 69 ERA-minus, 55 GR, 44 ScOtg, 80.0 ScOtg%, 45 IP, 38 K (19.2%), 23 BB (11.6%), 7.6% K–BB%, 8-of-17 Inherited Runners Scored (47%), 5-of-7 Saves, 12-3 GE-BE (4.0 GE/BE), 1.333 WHIP, and 0.9 WAR.

Lawrence — 5.70 ERA, 123 ERA-minus, 38 GR, 23 ScOtg, 60.5 ScOtg%, 42 2/3 IP, 48 K (25.1%), 22 BB (11.5%), 13.6% K–BB%, 7-of-28 Inherited Runners Scored (25%), 1-of-3 Saves, 3-2 GE-BE (1.5 GE/BE), 1.547 WHIP, and -0.2 WAR.

Suter — 3.78 ERA, 93 ERA-minus, 54 GR, 32 ScOtg, 59.3 ScOtg%, 66 2/3 IP, 53 K (19.5%), 22 BB (8.1%), 11.4% K–BB%, 11-of-19 Inherited Runners Scored (58%), 0-of-0 Saves, 5-1 GE-BE (5.0 GE/BE), 1.200 WHIP, and 0.3 WAR.

Blach — 5.89 ERA, 127 ERA-minus, 23 GR, 13 ScOtg, 56.5 ScOtg%, 44 1/3 IP, 29 K (15.0%), 11 BB (5.7%), 9.3% K–BB%, 4-of-14 Inherited Runners Scored (29%), 1-of-2 Saves, 1-0 GE-BE (Infinite GE/BE), 1.398 WHIP, and -0.1 WAR.

Seabold — 11.29 ERA, 275 ERA-minus, 0 GR, 18 1/3 IP, 19 K (19.4%), 8 BB (8.2%), 11.2% K–BB%, 2.345 WHIP, and -1.0 WAR.

Dinelson Lamet

Padres — 9.49 ERA, 245 ERA-minus, 13 GR, 5 ScOtg, 38.5 ScOtg%, 12 1/3 IP, 16 K (25.8%), 9 BB (14.5%), 11.3% K–BB%, 7-of-13 Inherited Runners Scored (54%), 0-of-0 Saves, 1-0 GE-BE (Infinite GE/BE), 2.027 WHIP, and -0.6 WAR.

Rockies — 4.05 ERA, 87 ERA-minus, 19 GR, 13 ScOtg, 68.4 ScOtg%, 20 IP, 29 K (33.3%), 10 BB (11.5%), 21.8% K–BB%, 1-of-1 Inherited Runners Scored (100%), 0-of-2 Saves, 6-3 GE-BE (2.0 GE/BE), 1.200 WHIP, and 0.4 WAR.

Total — 6.12 ERA, 147 ERA-minus, 32 GR, 18 ScOtg, 56.3 ScOtg%, 32 1/3 IP, 45 K (30.2%), 19 BB (12.8%), 17.4% K–BB%, 8-of-14 Inherited Runners Scored (57%), 0-of-2 Saves, 7-3 GE-BE (2.3 GE/BE), 1.515 WHIP, and -0.2 WAR.

Outlook

Profar will be a welcome addition to the club. Regardless of his impact, however, this could be a long season. Run scoring will not be much of a problem, although the infamous Coors Hangover will negatively affect team performance. This will likely occur on road trips. For the Rockies to be competitive, the rotation needs to improve. They need to work on run prevention and pitching deep enough into games. Bard was among the best closers in baseball in 2022. At the risk of oversimplifying everything, the team needs more late-inning leads to fully utilize him. And given the recent performance of the rest of the pitching staff, that could be a tall order in 2023.

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Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan M. Thompson, Editor-in-chief

Evan is the owner and sole contributor of Thompson Talks, a website discussing the Big Four North American Pro Sports as well as soccer. He also is a credentialed member of the Colorado Rockies press corps. His first and biggest love is baseball.

Evan lives in Gilbert, Arizona and loves history, especially of sports. He is the treasurer for the Hemond Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) and also is a USSF and AIA soccer referee. He released his first book, Volume I of A Complete History of the Major League Baseball Playoffs, in October of 2021.

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