Charlie Blackmon Blossoms In Denver

The Charlie Blackmon phenomenon has been written about in-depth. Like here. Charlie Blackmon is a 27-year-old outfielder for the Colorado Rockies who has put up great numbers so far–a .346/.381/.574 slash line in 2014.  He’s on pace for over 10 wins above replacement. He’s unlikely to keep it up, but Blackmon is a serviceable major league outfielder and could be more than that in the next few seasons. He profiles well within the context of the organization and the stadium it plays in.

Coors Field in Denver helps all hitters generally and slightly favors left-handed hitters particularly. Blackmon throws and bats left-handed. Since the mid-2000’s left-handed swingers such as Seth Smith and Brad Hawpe have patrolled right field, where Blackmon has spent most of his time this season. They were considered creatures of Coors, and perhaps they were so. Neither was a tremendously scary creature. Hawpe was better in his prime than was Smith, handling lefties and righties well and crashing over 20 home runs for four years straight.

Blackmon is a better fielder than either Smith or Hawpe, is doing well against left-handed pitchers, and adds usable speed in the form of stolen bases–he is 8 out of 10 already. He’s hit seven home runs. What’s driving his success, generally?

Blackmon is striking out a lot less than he used to. He is swinging slightly less, but when he makes contact he has optimized outcomes. He’s been better with increased playing time. 2013 was a turning point for him.

What contextually has changed in the last two years? The Rockies named Walt Weiss their sixth manager in 2013. The Rockies traded center field Dexter Fowler to the Astros in the off-season. Blackmon prefers center field, and has seen time there. Drew Stubbs is playing center field a lot for the Rockies this season, and he is thriving at the moment. Most Rockies hitters are mashing at the moment–which calls into question what is going on.

I believe Manager Walt Weiss likes Blackmon more than previous manager Jim Tracy did. Tracy was known for pretty conventional lineup construction, like batting Eric Young, Jr. lead-off most of the time. Young is not good at getting on base. There’s also need–their great left-fielder Carlos Gonzalez, “Cargo”, misses games with injuries seemingly every season.

Based on his past, and what he is now doing, a baseline expectation for Charlie Blackmon’s offensive production could be a .300 average, an above average on-base percentage, 15-20 home runs, and upwards of 20 steals. That is better than Seth Smith, and may match Hawpe in his prime for value. He has a good chance to rack up rate stats above those in 2014.

Charlie Blackmon is in his prime now. He’s showing power and speed, and is killing the ball when he pulls it on his home field. He may never be a star, but he could be a productive member of the Colorado Rockies outfield for years. He’s one of those guys teams think they can always do better than until he’s gone. He’s making the minimum MLB wage. No one complains about Charlie Blackmon this year.

 

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