How Good Is Colorado's Outfield?
Right now, the Colorado Rockies are looking at a tough year ahead of them.
They play in a division with the reigning World Series champs, a team that has spent the equivalent of Myanmar's GDP on its personnel, and a squad that changed the face of its entire roster in one off-season.
Oh, and the Diamondbacks too.
So it's easy to forget the Rockies sometimes. They just get lost in the National League West shuffle. But while you're not watching them this year, it's entirely possible you're missing one of the better offensive outfields in baseball.
Of course, much of that damage is done when they're playing in the comfy confines of Colorado. But fantasy owners should definitely be aware of these three players, and daily fantasy players should be making a bee-line for all these guys when they're in the middle of a homestand.
Dickerson had a tremendous season in 2014, coming out of nowhere to hit .312/.364/.567 with 24 homers, a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .399 and weighted runs created (wRC+) of 140. That .399 wOBA was fifth among all outfielders with at least 400 plate appearances, and his wRC+ was tied for ninth.
It was a monster breakout season for Dickerson, no doubt. And our projections expect him to continue to rake to the tune of .292/.353/.531 with a wOBA of .368 and 24 home runs in 2015. While that's not at quite the level he produced last year, it would still make him one of the better offensive outfielders in the National League.
However, like virtually all Rockies players, Dickerson had a pretty extreme home/road split last season.
In Colorado, he hit a robust .363/.415/.684 with a wOBA of .467 and a wRC+ of 171, with 15 of his 24 homers coming at Coors Field. Away from Denver, he hit .252/.305/.431 with a wOBA of .319 and a wRC+ of 102, which makes him barely above league average as a run producer on the road.
He also hit 21 of his 24 homers against right-handed pitching, with lefties holding him to a .253/.306/.418 slash line. And it's likely his BABIP of .356 last year is not repeatable, so there are some negatives to his prospects.
That being said, Dickerson is a solid young player, and it is possible he'll be even better in his second full season.
While Blackmon didn't have quite the breakout season Dickerson had, he still proved himself to be one of the NL's most solid outfielders.
Last year he hit .288/.335/.440 with 19 homers, a wOBA of .339 and a wRC+ of 100, which makes him a league-average run producer. Our projections see a similar fate for this season, .271/.310/.424 with 14 home runs and a wOBA of .318.
Part of Blackmon's problem is that he's a free swinger, walking in just 4.8% of his plate appearances last season. He only strikes out 14.8% of the time, so he puts the ball in play a lot. In Colorado that's not necessarily a bad thing, given the vast outfield pasture in which to dump a hit. But he's not terribly adept at working a walk.
Like Dickerson, Blackmon has divergent home/road splits, hitting .331/.391/.524, with a wOBA of .397 and a wRC+ of 127 and 13 of his 19 homers at home. On the road he hit .241/.269/.348 with a wOBA of .273 and a wRC+ of 71, making him a far below average Major League run producer away from home.
For Gonzalez, his big problem is staying healthy.
The 145 games he played in 2010 were the most he's managed in a single season. Since then, he's played in 127, 135, 110 and just 70 games last season. After missing much of last year with knee problems, he was finally shut down for surgery in August. He says he's pain-free now, but anyone eyeing Gonzalez for an important spot on their fantasy roster should probably have a viable back-up plan ready.
When he's on the field and healthy, Gonzalez is a stud. But that wasn't the case last year, resulting in a .238/.292/.431 slash line, far worse than his career .294/.351/.520 numbers.
This year we're projecting 498 plate appearances for the slugging left-hander, in which he will hit .270/.340/.508 with a wOBA of .362, 24 home runs and 13 stolen bases. We do see him missing a few games this year, just like he usually does. But when he's healthy, we expect he will produce.
Of course, he suffers from the Colorado home/away splits too. Over his career Gonzalez is a monster in Colorado, hitting .329/.287/.601, with a wOBA of .418 and a wRC+ of 139. But he is a decent hitter on the road too, hitting .258/.314/.437 with a wOBA of .324 and a wRC+ of 101.
While I would give the edge to the collection of outfielders assembled in Pittsburgh and Miami, the Rockies may just have the third-best offensive outfield in the National League. If only that were enough to dig them out from under that underwhelming pitching staff in 2015.