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The boys are back in town. The Blake Street Bombers are back.
The 2017 Colorado Rockies are set to begin regular season play in just a few fleeting moments and they will do so carrying expectations — for the first time in a long time — that they will grab positive headlines this season.
Can they compete for a Wild Card spot or even the National League West Division crown? Do the young starters emerge as stars or fold under the pressure? Is the new and improved bullpen the real deal? But most importantly (well, actually maybe least importantly but go with it) how many home runs will this team hit?
As Jake Shapiro rightly points out, there are currently some major holes in this lineup and as constituted, the bench is about as punchless as you can get. But as he also rightly points out, this has been caused mostly by injuries to Tom Murphy, Ian Desmond, and David Dahl. All three of those players have big power potential and while Murphy still figures to be a back up, he was almost certainly going to get a shot to start and get more at-bats than Dustin Garneau will.
So let’s imagine, for the sake of fun, the world a month from now where all these players are available and the Rockies want to run out a lineup that features their best power hitters.
You have something that looks like this:
(We’ve assigned what we think are fair over/under home run totals for each player in parenthesis.)
1. Charlie Blackmon (25.5)
2. DJ LeMahieu (9.5)
3. Carlos Gonzalez (26.5)
4. Nolan Arenado (40.5)
5. Trevor Story (26.5)
6. David Dahl (18.5)
7. Ian Desmond (22.5)
8. Tom Murphy (20.5)
9. Tyler Anderson (1.5)
The Rockies hit 204 home runs a season ago, placing them in 10th place in MLB. If these eight players get to just under these over/under’s that puts them at 186 home runs without dipping into the bench or mentioning current starters like Mark Reynolds who could reach double digits. Gerardo Parra and Tony Wolters are very unlikely to hit more than a handful but still won’t hit zero home runs. So, with a little bit of luck in the health department, the Rockies should be able to eclipse their home run total from a year ago.
The above predictions are also a bit conservative. If you were laying actual bets, some of these would be more difficult than others but it’s also worth noting that the Rockies have four players — Blackmon, Arenado, Gonzalez, and Story — for whom it wouldn’t be a galloping shock to see blast more than 30 bombs. Murphy has 30-home-run power in his bat as well but almost certainly won’t get the at-bats needed to get there. Desmond has averaged 22 HRs a year over the last five and despite the injury, the Coors Field factor could still boost that number a little bit. The most conservative estimate probably goes to Story, who has an over/under lower than the total of 27 that he mashed in 2016. While we are expecting some drop off from him, it also wouldn’t be absurd to see him get up to 35 considering the pace he was on before he got injured a season ago.
And then there is David Dahl. Again, questions of his health aside, he has been identified as a potential 20/20 guy in MLB since he was drafted and his power really came into its own last season.
It never quite made sense to me — beyond the clearly awesome alliteration — why we called Larry Walker, Andres Galarraga, Dante Bichette, and Vinny Castilla the “Blake Street Bombers.” Sure, home plate is at 20th and Blake which means hitting balls onto the titular street means mightily impressive foul balls, not home runs. Towering shots in Denver head for Park Avenue. So how about the Park Avenue Power Company?
Whatever we call them, once they get healthy teams facing the 2017 Colorado Rockies are going to need surge protection.