2017 Fantasy Baseball Draft Prep: Rockies team outlook boosted by up-and-comers Trevor Story, David Dahl and, for … – CBSSports.com

Yeah, yeah … same old story. Thin air, great hitting, but they’ll never succeed because they can’t develop —

Wait, what’s this?
Colorado Rockies
starters didn’t combine for the worst ERA in baseball last year? Not even second or third or fourth? Surely, this has never happened before.

Actually, it has, just not with any regularity. The deck is stacked so high against them because they play a mile above sea level where the amount of carry on fly balls forces the fences back to the point no outfielder can track everything down. So balls are landing in play more often and out of play more often all while pitchers aren’t getting the same movement on their pitches.

It’s why
Charlie Blackmon
is a Fantasy monster while Brandon Belt languishes behind a 24-foot brick wall.

OK, that’s not entirely fair to Blackmon, who had close to even home/away splits for the first time in his career last year, but it’s something Fantasy owners have to keep in mind whenever they draft a Rockies hitter. If he gets traded, then what?

Fortunately, these Rockies are buyers rather than sellers, and the Coors Field effect works both ways.
Ian Desmond
? Let’s see what you’ve got.
Trevor Story
? No worries there.
DJ LeMahieu
? Hey, no one’s saying a .388 BABIP is too high.

All three would be regression candidates in some other environment, but in this one, the same rules don’t apply. They’re major Fantasy assets — and not even this team’s biggest.
Nolan Arenado
is in the running to go second overall, and
Carlos Gonzalez
has been Fantasy royalty for the past seven years.

But it’s all made possible by the pitching staff. That’s the reason Blackmon and Gonzalez, who are both facing free agency, aren’t being shopped more aggressively even with prospect
Raimel Tapia
primed and ready. The Rockies think they can compete, and for the first time in a long time, they may be right.

Or it could blow up in their faces.
Tyler Anderson
,
Tyler Chatwood
and
Chad Bettis
all specialize in weak contact, which isn’t as reliable as specializing in no contact and makes hard-throwing
Jon Gray
still the only upside pick in Fantasy. But in years past, it would have been a foregone conclusion. Now, there’s at least a discussion.

1
2
3
4
5
Alt SP
Closer
Setup
Relief
Relief
Relief

Will Ian Desmond be the next Coors Field success story?

Well, you wouldn’t expect a player of his stature to fail there, right? Given the recent successes of Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau and more obvious historic examples like Vinny Castilla and Dante Bichette, a career season wouldn’t be an unreasonable expectation.

And that’s saying something after the year Desmond just had. Funny thing is if he had signed with any other team (because there really is no comparison for the Coors effect), he would have been an obvious regression candidate and a bust pick for me. Really, his 2016 was just a half-season interruption from his steady descent into mediocrity. He hit .237 with a .630 OPS in the second half, and even that brought his BABIP only down to .350, still a career high.

A .350 BABIP would be positively normal for a hitter playing half his games at Coors Field. Of the six Rockies hitters with at least 400 plate appearances last year, five had a BABIP of .340 or better.

I don’t know that you can expect a big steals total from Desmond because the Rockies offense, as it’s constructed, doesn’t require one, but the .292 batting average and 25 home runs he put together in his career-best 2012 season could easily topple in this environment.

How good could
David Dahl
be?

Just re-read what I wrote about Desmond. Dahl has a bat and a pulse, so he’ll do fine in his first full big-league season.

Need something more? OK, fine. While it’s true his .404 BABIP last year pushes the limits of Coors Field magic, he’s a good bet to make up for it in other ways, namely his continued power development at age 23. He didn’t disappoint with his seven homers in 222 at-bats at the major-league level, but he didn’t quite live up to the 18 homers he hit in his 350 minor-league at-bats either. That breakthrough was a long time coming for a player adored by prospect hounds since going 10th overall in the 2012 draft but whose early career was sidetracked by everything from a splendectomy to a month-long suspension for insubordination.

His minor-league journey, thus, was a fairly hurried one, so for him to hit .315 with an .859 OPS in 2 1/2 months’ time, high BABIP or not, speaks highly of his potential.

He’ll have to build himself up to this point, of course, but in the long run, I’m thinking he’s something like another Charlie Blackmon, perhaps with a little more power and a little less speed. The only concern I’d have about drafting Dahl as my second outfielder is Bud Black getting cute with his playing time, him being a left-handed hitter and all.

Who starts at catcher?

I so want it to be
Tom Murphy
, who’s like the Trevor Story of catcher prospects, meaning one who doesn’t get much love in the rankings but has the perfect skill set to be a smashing success at Coors Field. We’ve already seen some evidence of it. In 32 major-league contests over the last two years, he has homered eight times in 79 at-bats.

But surely that pace is unsustainable, right? Well, he showed good power in the minors as well, and last year was especially ridiculous. The overall line is one thing, but from July 1 on — a span of only 198 at-bats — he hit .404 with 17 homers and a 1.247 OPS.

Two caveats. The first is he strikes out too much. Granted, he couldn’t be much worse than Story in that regard and should benefit from Coors Field’s high-BABIP environment in a similar way. The bigger issue is that the Rockies really seem to like
Tony Wolters
as a pitch framer, to the point he could demand most of the at-bats, especially as a left-handed hitter.

Wolters would matter in Fantasy as well, and his .321 batting average in the second half last year is reason for encouragement. But the power (and, thus, the upside) doesn’t really compare. Until we learn more, Murphy is the one to target, if only in two-catcher leagues.

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