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Las Vegas – While the collective Colorado Rockies fanbase has been anticipating some news regarding a big bat that could be acquired to help address the offensive woes of a season ago, the club made a move that may end up being just as important as any roster change.
The hiring of new hitting coach Dave Magadan is intriguing on a number of levels. He brings with him more experience than the team has ever had at the position and has an excellent track record during his time in Boston, Texas, and Arizona, respectively.
Each of these teams were a fixture in the postseason during his tenure and behind some dramatic offensive improvements often credited to Magadan, the Red Sox won the World Series in 2007.
As always, it’s still the case that a hitting coach can take players only so far; proverbially, he may possess the ability lead a horse to water, but he cannot make it drink.
Specifically, Magadan is being handed an extraordinary group of young hitters who are all incredibly talented but have yet to cement themselves at the MLB level.
This gives him the opportunity to help be the man that puts players like David Dahl, Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hamspon, Raimel Tapia, and Brendan Rodgers over the top.
“I saw some of those guys a lot during the season last year,” he said during a phone interview when I asked if he was excited to get to work with this young core.
“Brendan Rodgers, I saw a lot in Spring Training,” he continued. “It seemed he played every game against [Arizona] in Spring Training this past year and he killed us. He had a couple home runs, he seemed like he was always on base. It always piques your interest when you hear about a kid coming up to bat in his first big league camp and he’s a first round pick and he’s one of their top prospects. I seem to pay attention a little more to the other team when those guys come up. I’m going to crash course those guys over the next couple of months, prepare them for Spring Training, see a lot of video on those guys. Get a lot of analytical information on them and just familiarizing myself with them.”
Even a few of the less flashy names have caught his eye, showing that Magadan has a great idea of what he is getting himself into.
“I know [Josh] Fuentes, the first time he got put on the roster this year. He put up a big year in Triple-A. Some of the other guys, Tauchman, I know put a good year in Triple-A this past year.”
When it comes to the guys who have a resume at the big league level, he was inclined to draw some comparisons that are likely to get Rockies fans pumped up for 2019.
“David Dahl, he reminds me – and I think I told Buddy of this in the interview – of Jacoby Ellsbury when he got called up when I was in Boston,” he said. “Sneaky, really good athlete. Lenky, strong. The ball jumps off his bat. It’s an effortless power swing. I know he made some great strides last year. Fought some injuries over the last couple of years. But I’m really looking forward to seeing him.”
But perhaps his most eye-popping comments came with regard to a player that has befuddled the organization and the fans over the last two years: Tapia.
Putting up more hits than games played in every single season of his stateside minor league career, Tapia’s deficiencies in other areas have prevented him from seeing more playing time. But with Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra on their way out – and potentially unlikely to return – and the Rockies seemingly more interested in a first baseman than an outfielder, the writing is on the wall that the quirky Dominican will finally get his shot.
And Magadan is already a believer.
“Tapia, I remember him from two or three years ago when he first got to big league camp,” he said. “He started a game against us, he had a five hit game and the next time we saw him, he got three straight hits (for) eight straight hits against us in Spring Training. He kind of opened my eyes right away. He beat us with a grand slam home run last year, ended up winning the game against us. He’s put up some great years in the minor leagues and he’s got big-time minor league numbers.”
He still says he has homework to do, “I’ve read up on as many of these guys as I’ve been able to over the last week or so. But I’ll be looking at a lot of video over the next couple of months.”
Magadan has a lifetime .288 batting average, but more importantly is an on-base percentage of .390 over his 16-year playing career. He’s stressed the importance of patience and team-oriented offense in his first interview as a member of the Rockies and when you combine that philosophy and history of success with the insane tools he has to work with on the roster, we may end up looking back at this coaching decision as the most important thing in turning around the Rockies’ bats.