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How to DH a Winning Rockies Team

The permanent addition of the designated hitter is still something the National League is fine-tuning as an option, but the Colorado Rockies seem to have caught on quickly with their installation of veteran Charlie Blackmon in the role. Though Chuck Nazty’s 1-year contract could give him the space to make a big contribution as the DH leading off the lineup in a final season, it may be a better idea to have Kris Bryant DH cleanup for the Rockies in 2024.

To begin to examine the merits of each of these options, the context of these two players and their circumstances is important. Both veteran players were plagued by injuries in 2023, and that was definitely a contributing factor to the Rockies achieving their historic 103 losses for that season. Colorado has shown a lot of faith in the potential of both veterans to bring significant benefit to the team in terms of the contracts each of these players has signed.

When the Rockies signed Bryant to $182 million deal in 2022, it could be argued that Colorado was trying to sign the 2016 version of Bryant. That contract seemed to be attempting to sign the MVP version of Bryant that had a .292/.385/.554 with 39 homeruns and lead the Chicago Cubs to the World Series, but that is not what Colorado got. Instead, the Rockies’ fans have watched two years of disappointing returns on that investment with barely a fraction of each season played. The disappointment of the last two years could be forgiven if Bryant is given the chance to shine in 2024 as a designated hitter with crushing numbers.

However, Charlie Blackmon is slated to fill the DH role as Colorado’s consistent leadoff hitter. Blackmon, 37, struggled with injury in 2023 when his hand was fractured after being hit by a pitch in June. While Blackmon is five years older than Bryant, 32, Blackmon’s physical integrity seems to be more solid. Bryant’s history of injury appears more rooted in physical degeneration. In 2022, Bryant was plagued by Plantar Fasciitis and lower back pain. 2023’s broken finger was also the result of being hit by a pitch, but it was not Bryant’s only injury in 2023. In short, it seems like Bryant’s body is past its prime, and the Rockies need to factor that into the decision on how to play him in 2024. Perhaps a high-activity position, like first baseman, combined with batting cleanup could be setting Bryant up for another injury plagued season.

As the team approaches the midpoint of Spring Training, Blackmon and Bryant have some similar numbers at 19 PA and 25 PA respectively. The two hitters are close with Blackmon tallying .316 OBP and Bryant at .320 thus far. Where Bryant pulls ahead as the obvious designated hitter is in his 2 HR to Blackmon’s O HR, and in his .870 OPS to Blackmon’s .551 OPS. Baseball-Reference projects Bryant slashing .257/.430/.767 if he can stay healthy. Blackmon’s projections by Baseball-Reference are .235/.413/.746, which still equates to a great contribution at the top of the order. Since there are also great options for replacing both of these players in the field right now, the true question management will have to answer this season is which one is valuable enough at the plate to keep them rested in the dugout?

Blackmon in rightfield and batting leadoff still gives him the opportunity to work his magic with the stick while also giving the senior veteran a chance to lead on the field. Bryant designated hitting at cleanup gives the former MVP space to stay healthy and enables his strength to shine at the plate.


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