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Ryan McMahon Jersey

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Third of a five-part series looking at the Rockies of 2020. Today: The infield

Shadows can’t obscure what Ryan McMahon accomplished in 2019.

Not the shadow of departed Gold Glove second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who’s now starring for the Yankees in the playoffs. Nor the shadow of the Rockies’ disappointing 71-91 season.

It can be argued that McMahon, 24, took a bigger step forward than any position player on the roster. A giant leap could be in the offing.

“I still think, and I’ve talked to ‘Mac’ about this, that there’s more in there,” manager Bud Black said. “It might take a year or two to have it all come out.”

McMahon hit 24 home runs and drove in 83 runs this season, both franchise records for a primary second baseman. A September slump, however, in which McMahon hit just .195 with a .271 on-base percentage, whittled his final batting average down to .250 and his OBP to .329.

“I need to improve my consistency, and I think there are a lot of young guys in this (clubhouse) who can take that next step, too,” McMahon said. “I watched guys like Nolan (Arenado), and Charlie (Blackmon) and (Trevor) Story, and they have been doing it for years.

“They have that consistency and that work ethic — for the whole season. That’s what’s next for me. That’s my goal.”

McMahon played in 91 games and had 181 at-bats in a middling 2018 season. But opportunity rose in 2019 because of LeMahieu’s departure via free agency and top prospect Brendan Rodgers’ season-ending shoulder surgery. McMahon became Colorado’s primary second baseman, playing in 141 games.

“This my first (full) big-league season and it definitely was a grind,” McMahon said. “You definitely feel it a little bit more, with altitude and all of that. But I’m trying to learn how to get through all of that. I’m trying to take my recovery a little bit more serious.”
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McMahon came up as a third baseman and his transition to the other side of the infield was not seamless. He made some mental errors — failing to cover second base a few times, being out of position a few other times — but he also flashed some LeMahieu-like plays.

“When you’re a kid and you’re playing one position, one side of the infield, you become very comfortable with that,” Black said. “And when you move, it takes time to get comfortable. But I see Ryan, looking forward, as an above-average defender, no matter where you put him, with repetitions and games played.”

McMahon committed 13 errors at second base and finished with a .972 fielding percentage. LeMahieu, by comparison, made just four errors with the Rockies in 2018 and committed 27 errors from 2015-18.

Diamond Appraisal
The left side of the Rockies’ infield is one of the best in baseball but questions loom regarding first base and overall depth:

3B Nolan Arenado (.315 average, 41 home runs, .962 OPS): On his way to his seventh Gold Glove, Arenado lived up to his new eight-year, $260 million contract, posting a career-high OPS and will likely finish in the top five in National League MVP voting.

SS Trevor Story (.294, 35, .917): Story just keeps getting better and is a strong contender to win his first Gold Glove. He’s the first shortstop in big-league history to begin his career with four consecutive 20 home run seasons. Story, in his second season of arbitration, will get a raise from $5 million to likely $11 million for 2020.

1B Daniel Murphy (.279, 13, .780): The veteran’s season was marred by a broken finger that kept him off the field for 20 games and affected him for much of the first half of the season. His batting average was his worst since hitting .266 with the Mets in 2009 and his defense was subpar. He’s owed $14 million in 2020, so he’s penciled in as the starting first baseman. If that remains the case, Murphy, who turns 35 on April 1, must improve.

2B Ryan McMahon (.250, 24, .779): Should Colorado be able to swing a trade for Murphy, which is unlikely, McMahon would become the primary first baseman. Manager Bud Black, however, likes McMahon at second.

2B/SS/OF Garrett Hampson (.247, 8, .686): An adjustment at the plate — he ditched his leg kick for a simpler toe-tap — turned his season around. Hampson hit .318 with five home runs, a .903 OPS and nine stolen bases in September. He’s Colorado’s fastest player and proved he could handle duties in center field. He’s set to be the Rockies’ top utility player in 2020.

2B/SS Brendan Rodgers (.224, 0, .522): The organization’s top prospect made his long-awaited big-league debut May 17 at age 22 but his season ended in July with shoulder surgery. Rodgers made a nice splash, hitting .313/.371/.375 with two doubles through his first 32 plate appearances, but fell into a deep slump, slashing .159/.196/.159 over his next 46 plate appearances without an extra-base hit. Rodgers, a natural shortstop, still needs to work on his mechanics at second. How quickly he returns from a torn labrum remains to be seen.

2B/SS Pat Valaika (.190, 1, .572): Valaika, 27, has thrived at Triple-A but he’s struggled as a role player in the majors since leading the majors with 16 pinch-hit RBIs in 2017. Valaika still has options, so the Rockies might hold on to him or they might want to give his spot on the 40-man roster to someone else.

3B/1B Josh Fuentes (.218, 3, .632): Arenado’s younger cousin had a hamate bone injury in spring training but came back to make his big-league debut April 6, filling in for Murphy and McMahon, who were both injured. He did not impress, hitting 2-for-18 with eight strikeouts in nine games. His 15-game stint in September was much better: a .270/.289/.541 slash line that included three homers. Sprin

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You probably best know Vinny Castilla as one of the Blake Street Bombers of the early years of the Colorado Rockies, along with Larry Walker, Andres Galarraga, and Dante Bichette. He leads the Rockies all-time list in games played at third base (1098), third in Rockies franchise history in home runs (239), fifth in Rockies history in RBI (745), and fifth in hits (1206).

It has been 13 years since he last played a major league game, though. In his retirement, he has stayed involved with the Rockies as a special assistant to Rockies GM Jeff Bridich.

While the “special assistant” duties vary depending on the organization, for Castilla, he does a lot of different things.

“I do a little bit of everything,” said Castilla. “I’m a mentor for some young kids in the organization, especially some Latin guys. I help them, when they come to the major leagues. I go to the instructional league and work with the young players.”

“I get asked about some [amateur] players and whether we should sign them. I travel with the team maybe once or twice [throughout the season] but I usually stay with the Rockies during home games. I also help out [Rockies Vice President of International Scouting and Development] Rolando Fernandez too, sometimes, when we sign a Mexican player. So I do a little bit of everything and I love my job.”

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Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado will reportedly be paid a record-breaking amount before he even hits free agency, as the team announced its reached an eight-year contract extension with its star third baseman.

Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported the eight-year offer from the National League West team, and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic noted it is worth $260 million with a full no-trade clause and opt-out after three seasons.

Passan provided additional details:

Bob Nightengale of USA Today also reported the extension plans, noting it will replace the contract that was set to pay him $26 million this year. The new deal will break Miguel Cabrera’s $31 million record for annual salary for a position player.

Arenado has been with the Rockies his entire six-year career and didn’t seem in a hurry to leave, per Nightengale:

“It’s such a great place. I really enjoy the fact there’s a comfortability here. You know the coaches. You know the players. Some of my best friends are on this team.

“I grew up here in this organization, so it feels like home in a way. I’ve been here since the tide has changed, and that’s a really good feeling. I was part of that change.

“You want to win in a place where you’ve been all of your life.”

Locking down Arenado makes sense. He’s the face of the franchise and is just 27 years old with plenty of time remaining in his prime. He is a four-time Silver Slugger, four-time All-Star and six-time Gold Glover, and is one of the league’s best two-way players.

Colorado reached the playoffs the last two seasons in large part because of his presence.

Arenado has played at least 156 games in each of the last four years and averaged 40 home runs and 126 RBI per season in that span.

Signing this extension also allows him to avoid free agency, which has been slow to develop this offseason for notable names such as Bryce Harper, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel. Each is still unsigned with spring training games underway.

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We are now a couple weeks removed from the WWE SuperStar Shake-Up. We have seen several different WWE Superstars successfully transition to their new show post-Shake-Up. Some transitioned better than others, but we have at least seen these SuperStars on the big stage making their presence known. Some WWE Superstars can’t even say that right now. One of those Superstars is Eric Young.

There were a number of tag teams and stables split up during the Shake-Up, but no split was done quite as chaotic as SAnitY. It’s almost ironic considering that SAnitY’s characters were always agents of chaos. Unfortunately, this time, chaos wasn’t in SAnitY’s favor. Chaos split the former NXT Tag Team Champions across three different brands: Dain to NXT, Wolfe to NXT UK and EY to Raw.

Considering how SAnitY’s SmackDown run this past year was disappointing, some critics are looking at this breakup as a blessing in disguise. Well, for everyone except EY that is.

Killian Dain can live up to his potential as a one of a kind big man by pursuing a singles career in NXT. Meanwhile, without spoiling future NXT UK tapings, Alexander Wolfe has a bright future ahead of him already.

No one expects much from Eric Young on Raw. Which is somewhat understandable given WWE don’t tend to push guys nearing the age of 40. However, let’s not forget that men on the red brand – like AJ Styles and Robert Roode – are experiencing some strong pushes at the moment despite being well past the age of 40. That is one reason why singles glory remains in EY’s future, but it actually goes much deeper than that.

Probably the strongest attribute on Eric’s side here is his character presence. Between his time in IMPACT to his time in WWE, he always had a strong character presence. He always knew exactly how to get the crowd to gravitate in his favor and no matter what wacky character fell into his lap, he was able to make it work. Not enough people talk about this, but EY’s almost had as many drastic character changes as Chris Jericho has had.

We’ve seen Young as the conniving Canadian, the cowardly chicken too afraid of his own pyro, a super hero, the snobby heel, the dirt dumb redneck and a crazed lunatic. That hardly cuts the butter on Young’s history with characters, but the point is he always made them work. Hell, even when he first entered an NXT ring for the very first time, he came in as just plain ole Eric Young and the crowd still gave him a raucous reaction. Why? Because he works on the mic. Because he knows how to get a crowd to eat out of the palm of his hand whether he wants them to hate him or love him.

That’s a special skill that’s missing from much of the roster. EY can be used as – at the very least – upper midcard talent who’s there to teach the young guys he works with a thing or two about character work by means of telling compelling storylines with them. Or, WWE could finally realize how badly they’ve slept on EY’s talents these last couple years and try him out in the main event.

While SmackDown seems newly primed with fresh young talent, Raw appears to be where seasoned vets like Styles, Roode and Seth Rollins are allowed to thrive. In a setting like this, Eric Young will fit right at home.

Now, all he has to do is debut on Raw and he might just be money.

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Peter Lambert has been one of the Rockies’ top pitching prospects since he was drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft. The 22-year-old started 2019 in Albuquerque but made his major league debut at the beginning of June after the losses of Tyler Anderson and Kyle Freeland before the end of May. Lambert pitched just 60 2⁄3 innings in Triple-A before joining the big league club.

Lambert’s first two starts came against the Chicago Cubs — his first being at Wrigley Field and the other coming a week later at Coors. He pitched well, posting a 1.50 ERA in his first 12 innings. In his first ever start, he pitched seven innings of four hit, one run ball and struck out nine Cubbies. Not too bad. Lambert’s first major league adversity came during that infamous Padres series in June. He started the finale, but only lasted three innings after giving up eight runs on nine hits, including a two-run homer.

As the year progressed, Lambert held his own. He wasn’t stellar, but he was serviceable. His best month came in July with a 4.64 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP, but after that he started surrendering more walks — including 18 in six games in August and nine in four games in September. In June and July, Lambert struck out 17.2% of batters and walked 4.4%; in August and September, he struck out 10.2% of batters and walked 12.5%. He was officially shut down on September 24, finishing with a 3-7 record in 89 ⅓ innings over 19 starts. He also finished with a 7.25 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP, striking out 13.6% of batters and walking 8.6% in 2019. Hopefully Lambert takes the lessons he learned in 2019, regains some confidence, and makes a leap in 2020.

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On Wednesday, the Colorado Rockies announced right-handed starter Jon Gray would miss the rest of the season due to a stress fracture in his foot. Gray, who had most recently thrown eight shutout innings against the Miami Marlins last Friday, had been dealing with foot pain since earlier in the month. He may elect to undergo a surgical procedure to correct the issue:

Gray’s absence is notable in part because he was in the midst of a stellar season — he’ll finish his year with a 139 ERA+ in 150 innings — and in part because it further weakens the Rockies, who entered Wednesday with the ninth-worst record in baseball and who had already lost reliever Scott Oberg for the rest of the season due to blood clots in his throwing arm.

It’s fair to say some things have gone wrong for the Rockies this season, as is the case anytime a team who made the prior postseason is slated for a top-10 pick in the ensuing draft. Yet, for the most part, the Rockies have been fortunate as it pertains to injuries. In fact, the Rockies entered Wednesday with the fifth-fewest days lost to injury this season, per Spotrac:

Gray’s absence is notable in part because he was in the midst of a stellar season — he’ll finish his year with a 139 ERA+ in 150 innings — and in part because it further weakens the Rockies, who entered Wednesday with the ninth-worst record in baseball and who had already lost reliever Scott Oberg for the rest of the season due to blood clots in his throwing arm.

It’s fair to say some things have gone wrong for the Rockies this season, as is the case anytime a team who made the prior postseason is slated for a top-10 pick in the ensuing draft. Yet, for the most part, the Rockies have been fortunate as it pertains to injuries. In fact, the Rockies entered Wednesday with the fifth-fewest days lost to injury this season, per Spotrac:

Who you lose is important, too. But therein is part of the Rockies’ problem: they haven’t, until now, lost many players of note to the injured list. Only four Rockies had missed so much as 50 days on the year: starter Tyler Anderson, relievers Harrison Musgrave and Chris Rusin, and rookie infielder Brendan Rodgers.

Would the Rockies have been a better team with those players hearty and hale? Absolutely. Are their absences enough to explain why Colorado has disappointed to this degree? No chance.

As such, even though the Gray and Oberg revelations make it seem like the Rockies have been hit hard by bad luck, the reality is Colorado has bigger issues to tackle heading into the winter — like why a team that was among the majors’ healthiest was on pace to lose nearly 90 games before its ace went down with an injury.

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Becoming an undrafted free agent in baseball means that a lot of people emphatically believe you don’t have what it takes for professional baseball. Every team has had their crack at you over 50 rounds, the longest draft in professional sports, and they all said no. Many would take a hint and hang up their spikes, but not Josh Fuentes.

Signed for $10 thousand out of NAIA member Missouri Baptist in 2014, most deemed the opportunity the Rockies gave Fuentes a nod to his famous cousin, Nolan Arenado. And maybe it even was – we don’t know that for sure. What we do know is that Fuentes took that opportunity from the Rockies, whatever the providence, and made himself into the type of prospect who wins the Pacific Coast League MVP award and who earns a precious 40 man roster slot.

For more on his rise to prospect-dom, please check out this profile of Fuentes (including quotes from the man himself) by Jose Romero of La Vida Baseball.

The third baseman (he’s also seen plenty of action at first) took advantage of a dearth of corner infield prospects at short season A Tri-City in 2014 enough to be penciled in as a regular for Low A Asheville after the 2015 season’s first month. There he produced a league average batting line against age appropriate competition, which was enough to make him an Opening Day starter for Asheville in 2016 but hardly distinguished him as a prospect.

From that point on though, Fuentes destroyed minor league pitching to a degree that made him hard to ignore. He began 2016 by hitting .398/.442/.677 with 18 extra base hits in 108 plate appearances (216 wRC+) with Asheville before a May promotion to High A Modesto. In a pitcher’s park within a hitter’s league, Fuentes hit .278/.342/.450 with 28 extra base hits in 325 plate appearances for a 113 wRC+. That was enough for the Rockies to move Fuentes up to Double-A in 2017, where in 450 plate appearances with Hartford the righty slugger again proved he could handle the stick with a .307/.352/.517 line with 15 HRs among his 50 extra base hits (137 wRC+). It wasn’t enough for the Rockies to protect Fuentes from the Rule 5 draft, but fortunately he went un-selected.

Entering the 2018 season, Fuentes still wasn’t on national prospect radars and hadn’t gotten much traction in PuRP voting. Assigned to Triple-A, Fuentes was a shining light for an Albuquerque team that enjoys one of the best offensive environments in an offense-friendly Pacific Coast League. Over 586 plate appearances with Albuquerque, Fuentes accumulated 65 extra base hits including 14 homers en route to the aforementioned PCL MVP award. While a normal prospect in that situation might have received a major league cup of coffee, Fuentes found himself blocked by his cousin, so he’ll have to be satisfied with the trophy and a place in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. Against other top prospects, Fuentes held his own in the AFL with a .301/.356/.482 triple slash in 90 plate appearances, sealing the deal on earning a 40 man roster slot.

Though the positive offensive context helped, his .327/.354/.517 line in Albuquerque still represented a 124 wRC+ performance. To get there, Fuentes was the same type of hitter he’s been at almost every minor league level: low walk rate (3.6% in 2018) combined with a medium strikeout rate (17.6% in 2018). He benefited from his home park, but not markedly so, while producing similar splits against lefties and righties. Most impressively, Fuentes ranked 11th in minor league baseball in line drive/fly ball success, with 26.8% of those batted balls going for hits — a likely indicator of big league batting success.

Here’s some video of Fuentes in the AFL courtesy of 2080 Baseball:

Here’s the 2080 Baseball report on Fuentes accompanying the above video by Adam McInturff:

Fuentes looks the part of a pro corner player, a physical 6-foot-2 and 215-pound frame strong enough to hit for power but able to stay at 3B. He hits from a deep crouch with a big leg-kick trigger to start the swing, getting all his lower-half into a quick stroke that has power to the pullside. He yanks most of his contact, and while it isn’t a pretty swing, Fuentes has solid bat control and finds a way to make it work. For a player that looks strong enough to hit for power, his peripherals (low walk/low strikeout guy) don’t fit the standard mold. His game approach is oriented more towards making contact than driving the ball, looking to put it in play and rely on feel for the barrel. He could live to be more patient, but I saw plenty of awareness at the plate and an understanding how to get to his pitch.

Defensively, Fuentes moved between the infield corners in my week-long look watching Salt River. He looked fine at the hot corner, showing soft hands and the footwork to make routine plays. There’s a chance he’s a 55-grade defender at first base, though the overall versatility should help a R/R profile without tons of game power get into the lineup.

He has worked himself into the player he is today, showing significant improvement each of the last two years I’ve seen him. He’s ready to hit in the big leagues, safely profiling as a useful role player who can move between corner positions. If he winds up hitting enough to be an everyday third baseman someday, don’t be surprised: Fuentes is the type of guy that has been proving people wrong for a long time.

Fuentes is currently ranked 17th in the system by MLB.com:

Fuentes’ strength is his ability to make repeated hard contact, which helped him make a run at league batting titles in each of the last two years and top the PCL in runs (93), hits (180), doubles (39), extra-base hits (65) and total bases (285). Most of his power currently comes in the form of doubles but he might develop into a 20-homer threat if he added some loft to his right-handed stroke. He doesn’t strike out much, yet he puts the bat on the ball so easily that he rarely draws walks.

Fuentes lacks quickness but has a strong arm and covers enough ground to serve as an average defender at third base. He has soft hands that also work well at first base, where he has seen action throughout his pro career. Though it remains to be seen if and where he’ll break into the Rockies’ crowded infield, he doesn’t have much left to accomplish in the Minors.

The 25-year old’s top tool is a 55 arm, complemented by 50 field and 50 hit grades. Despite the 45 game power and 40 run tool, that’s a potentially valuable player who could man both corners. Combine that with his production at the highest levels and Fuentes is clearly a player in Colorado’s immediate future plans. It’s hard to see him making the Opening Day roster, but it seems likely that Fuentes will be making contributions to the 2019 Rockies.

I’ve been cautious in ranking Fuentes highly throughout his climb up the minor league ladder, joining most of the PuRPs electorate, but that caution isn’t justifiable anymore given the 40 man roster slot and 2018 production. I rated Fuentes 23rd on my personal list with a 35+ Future Value as a potential MLB contributor, but I’m hoping that ranking looks silly low by the mid-season list.

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Sam Hilliard pulled his first home run Wednesday into the right-field stands. He drove the second one into the left-field seats. Good signs, a young hitter hitting with authority to all fields.

Both home runs at Coors Field came off Mets starter Noah Syndergaard, the first landing in the second deck above the Rockies bullpen on a 97.8 mph sinker and the second on a 97.5 mph four-seam fastball. In each case, Hilliard had two strikes, another good sign for a young hitter.

Hilliard, 25, is an intriguing outfield prospect for the Rockies. He has tremendous power. He has size, listed at 6-5 and 238 pounds. He is a good defender, capable of playing all three outfield positions very well. He has speed and knows how to use it, having stole 22 bases in 27 attempts this year at Triple-A Albuquerque.

“He’s got the tools to be impactful,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “Now, it’s going to be up to Sam whether they translate into a big league game over time.”

While there is much to like about Hilliard, there is also one major concern. He strikes out often. And a contributing factor can be the leg kick Hilliard reverted to late in the 2018 season at Double-A Hartford.

Hilliard came into professional baseball with a leg kick when the Rockies drafted him in the 15th round out of Wichita State in 2015 and signed him for $100,000. Hilliard used the leg kick that summer at Rookie level Grand Junction, but in 2016, in his first full professional season at Low Class A Asheville, Marv Foley, the development supervisor with that team, had Hilliard scrap his leg kick.

“I understand why he did it,” Hilliard said. “I was striking out a bunch. My timing was kind of raw. He just wanted to simplify things and make it less complicated and easier. He had my best interest at heart.”

At Hartford last year, Hilliard hit .262 in 121 games with nine homers, 40 RBI and a .716 OPS. He went back to the leg for a very basic reason.

“It’s just something that feels real natural to me,” Hilliard said. “I feel dangerous when I’m using it. Obviously, it can be a little bit tougher to time pitches. But it’s something that you got to time up when you’re on deck. It’s just something that I feel I can unlock my hips and just be an athlete as opposed to (just) putting my foot down. I feel a little bit restricted doing that.”

At Triple-A Albuquerque this year, Hilliard hit .262 in 126 games with 35 home runs, 101 RBI and a .893 OPS. His strikeouts rose from 151 at Hartford to 164 at Albuquerque, although his strikeout rate dipped sightly from 31.2 percent of his plate appearances to 29.6 percent this year.

Hilliard lives in Mansfield, Tex., where one of his friends was on the staff of Cooperstown Cages, a baseball facility in nearby Fort Worth where former Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe has some involvement. That connection led Hilliard to Cooperstown Cages where he worked with Shawn Morgan, one of the company founders. Hawpe, a left-handed hitter who had a modest leg kick and who hit 99 homers with the Rockies from 2006-2009, the four best seasons of Hawpe’s career, has given Hilliard some valuable pointers about implementing the leg kick.

“One of the things he emphasized in the off-season was staying on my back leg,” Hilliard said. “In turn, that’s going to keep my body still and my head still, because you can’t hit a 96- mile-an-hour fastball if your head’s moving around. That was the thing that kind of clicked for me, and I hit the ground running with that. I felt natural.”

Hilliard hit a home run in his major league debut Aug. 27 and hit his second homer two days later to become the fourth player in franchise history to homer in each of his first two starts. Hilliard was in a 1-for-25 slide when he singled on each of his two at-bats Monday against Mets starter Marcus Stroman – he limited the Rockies to four hits in seven scoreless innings – and followed that up with his first career multi-homer game Wednesday.

Hilliard is hitting .222 (10-for-45) with four homers, seven RBI and an .869 OPS in 18 games (11 starts). He also has 16 strikeouts in 51 plate appearances, a rate of 31.4 percent.

“His overall at-bats are pretty good,” Black said Wednesday after a 7-4 loss to the Mets. “He’s not chasing a lot out of the zone. It looks like he’s seeing the ball (well). …He’s not swinging wildly.

“He’s got power. It showed up again today. Now moving forward, when he faces more big league pitching and gets more comfortable, I know there’s some things that he’s working on that I think will help him against big league pitching. But he’s holding his own.”

Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan said Hilliard reminds him of Texas slugger Joey Gallo, who made his major league debut in 2015 when Magadan was the Rangers’ hitting coach. Gallo utilized a big leg kick at the outset of his career, Magadan said, but found a comfortable solution between no leg kick and a massive one.

“I think that’s what we need to find for Sam is that happy medium where, yeah, it’s a leg kick,” Magadan said, “but I’m ready to hit any pitch whether it’s 99 (mph) or 79 (mph), and all I really have to do is a barrel the baseball up and it’s going to be a homer.”

Hilliard uses a slightly open stance and occasionally strides into the plate rather than creating some distance between his feet and striding toward the pitcher.

“When it’s a leg kick where you’re crossing over,” Magadan said, “that to me is a big concern because you’re closing off really a part of the strike zone that makes it tough to get inside the ball. You got to try to beat the pitch to the spot, and that makes you susceptible to the back-foot slider, back-foot curveball. You can’t really stay inside the ball to get it in the air, and you end up hitting a lot of topspin line drives or you hit a lot of ground balls to the pull side. And we’ve talked to him about it, to stay more square.”

The left-handed hitting Hilliard will compete for an outfield job when the Rockies gather for spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz., next February. All-Stars Charlie Blackmon in right field and David Dahl (whose season was ended by a high right ankle sprain Aug. 2) in center field will hold down those spots. Both hit left-handed as does Raimel Tapia, who will likely split time in left field with right-handed hitting Ian Desmond. Utility man Garrett Hampson, who bats right-handed, has played center field as has right-handed hitting Yonathan Daza. But Hilliard’s package of plus power, speed and defensive ability make for a very unusual and very alluring package.

“He’s got some adjustments to make, and he’ll make them,” Magadan said, “because he’s very athletic and he’s open and he’s coachable. And he wants to be better. To make that transition to finished product and to being a major league player, he’s got to clean up some stuff he knows he needs to clean up. And the sky’s the limit.”

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There are houses that are described as diamonds in the rough, but not many are described as having diamonds in the backyard.

Former MLB shortstop and manager Walt Weiss is selling a massive, 10,668-square-foot Colorado home, which comes complete with its own full-size baseball field out back. It’s a luxury you can afford when your home sits on a 35-acre lot.

The home in Castle Rock is listed with Erica Chouinard of Re/Max Professionals. On the market for an even $2 million, the residence takes full advantage of the awe-inspiring mountain views.

It’s loaded with amenities, including a heated pool, hot tub, and basketball court. It has five bedrooms, and the master suite has its own steam shower, jetted tub, and walk-in closets.

To top it off, the basement rec room features an indoor batting cage.

If you happen to be in the market for the ultimate baseball paradise, look no further. Weiss has had the home on and off the market since 2012.

Weiss, 55, made his MLB debut with the Oakland Athletics in 1987. He would end up being voted the American League Rookie of the Year. Weiss went on to play for the Florida Marlins, Colorado Rockies, and Atlanta Braves before retiring in 2000. In 2013, he returned to the Rockies and managed the team for three years, before leaving to take another coaching position with the Braves in 2017.

“It’s been neat,” Weiss told ESPN in 2013 regarding his transition to coaching. “I’ve really enjoyed this role. It’s a lot easier to connect with the players. As a manager, you really have to go out of your way to make an effort to connect with players. It’s a little weird for a player around a manager. They don’t open up as much. I’ve really enjoyed that, being more hands-on with the players.”

Eric Alt has been a writer and editor for outlets as diverse as Maxim, Fast Company, Men’s Journal, Cosmopolitan, Mental Floss, Inked, “Attack of the Show,” and Spike TV, among others. He lives in New Jersey, where he tries desperately to keep his two children from tearing the state to pieces.

Ian Desmond Jersey

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We’ve just completed the third year of the Ian Desmond experience. From Ian Desmond, first baseman, to now, it has been quite the journey.

Unfortunately most of that journey has involved bad production from Desmond. The 2017 and 2018 seasons were bad, and while the 2019 season had a moment in time where it looked like he was going to have a good season, he has been bad again. Sam Bradfield wrote an article here in June about how Desmond was one of the team’s best hitters at the time. Since then it hasn’t been great:

July: .243/.291/.419
August: .212/.288/.379
September: .182/.229/.364 (through 10 games)

But we’re not here to review Desmond’s season — we’ll save that for our upcoming “Reviewing the Rockies” series. We’re here to discuss what the Rockies should do with Desmond for what’s left of this season and beyond the end of this season.
They should stop starting him

There is simply no reason for Desmond to be getting starts ahead of Raimel Tapia or prospects like Yonathan Daza and Sam Hilliard. The Rockies will still play Desmond, of course, but the bulk of the at-bats should go to the younger players so that they can get some experience and so the team can start to assess their future.

Given Bud Black’s enthusiasm for double switches, that probably still leaves playing time for Desmond when he doesn’t start. This would change how they use him and where the bulk of that time goes.
They should move him around the field more

For however long Desmond remains with the Rockies for the two years that are left on his deal, they should do their best to be creative with how they use him. If they’re ever willing to stop using him as a regular starter, they should consider him for a super-utility type role.

Am I excited about seeing Desmond at shortstop or first base again? Hardly. But with the challenge of navigating a short bench, that versatility could still be a net positive — even if versatility, in this case, is very much a “jack of some trades, master of none” situation on defense.

The Rockies can at least look to take advantage of Desmond’s ability to cover multiple positions off the bench. That helps us transition to what they should do with him after this season.
They should have him on the bench on Opening Day 2020

This point is certainly joined up with the point about the Rockies not starting Desmond for the remainder of this season. But for a team that needs to show a willingness to shake things up, especially coming off a disastrous season with some bad PR, there would be some symbolism to not forcing Desmond into the fifth spot in the starting lineup on Opening Day.
They should use him in a platoon

Or platoons! Part of his existence as a super-utility type player could be starting against left-handed pitching. He’s still pretty good against lefties — .293/.352/.605 with 12 home runs in 183 plate appearances this season — so this could maximize that skill. He could play in the corners of the outfield or even in the infield in a pinch.

So, as you have surely noticed by now, all of these options have the Rockies keeping Desmond in 2020. There is another option, and it’s probably the one the most people will feel strongly about.
They should designate him for assignment

We’re three years into that infamous five-year, $70 million deal. The Rockies have tried like crazy to get Desmond on track to get value out of this contract. Mostly they’ve done this by giving a bunch of playing time. They’ve moved him around the field and the lineup.

Save for the occasional hot streak, it just hasn’t worked. He’s at -3.3 rWAR for his Rockies tenure. The Rockies need to lengthen out their lineup next season. One way to do that would be to cut their losses, move on from Desmond, and upgrade at the spot he would have occupied.