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Being able to play outfield and infield, he’s still the ultimate utility man
Welcome to the 2020 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2020. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 29, Garrett Hampson: -0.3 rWAR
Entering 2020, Garrett Hampson was looking to build on a red-hot performance in September of 2019 (.318/.368/.534, five home runs, and nine stolen bases). Being able to play middle infield or outfield, he seemed like a rather useful player to have on the roster because of his versatile utility status. That definitely turned out to be the case.
This season, Hampson became an everyday player, playing in 59 games and starting 43 of them. It turned out to be a great opportunity for the 2016 third-round draft pick to prove his worth to the Rockies. However, he wasn’t able to make the most of the opportunity, hitting .234/.287/.383 in 184 plate appearances with four doubles, three triples, five homers, 11 RBI, six stolen bases, 13 walks, and 60 strikeouts. The average was low, even compared to his .247 in 2019, and the strikeouts were high. He finished the season tied for 16th most strikeouts in the NL, which was third worst on the Rockies behind Ryan McMahon (66) and Trevor Story (63). He still remains an intriguing player with a lot to offer in terms of impressive defense, in the infield or outfield, remarkable speed, and an ability to make things happen on offense.
In the first half of the season, he mostly manned left field with Ian Desmond opting out, and then shifted over to center field when David Dahl struggled and went on the injured list. In just the second game of the season, Hampson made one of the most memorable plays of the season, robbing Texas’s Shin-Shoo Choo of a homer by reaching over the left-field wall and coming back to Earth with the ball. Here’s video if you want to treat yourself, courtesy of MLB.com:
He also had some highlights at the plate, including becoming the first Rockie to hit a double and a triple in the same inning during an 8-7 win over Arizona.
With Dahl slumping, Bud Black moved Hampson into the leadoff role for 13 games, where he did pretty well. He hit .291/.371/.436 with 16 hits, 11 runs, three RBI, three stolen bases, seven walks, 15 strikeouts, and 24 total bases. In mid-August, Hampson started struggling and Raimel Tapia took over the leadoff spot, where he would stay for the rest of the season.
Much like the Rockies as a team, in Hampson’s first 14 games (through Aug. 14), he was playing well and the Rockies were 8-6 when he was in the lineup. He was batting .326/.388/.588 in 51 plate appearances with three doubles, two triples, one homer, five walks, two stolen bases, and 12 strikeouts. From Aug. 15 through the end of the season, in 39 games (32 starts), the Rockies went 13-26 and Hampson hit .202/.250/.323 with four homers, one triple, one double, four stolen bases, eight walks, and 48 strikeouts.
This tale of two seasons was the opposite of 2019, when Hampson struggled in his first call up in April and May, but then returned with a bang in September. He even finished No. 22 with a positive 0.1 rWAR in Purple Row’s 2019 Ranking the Rockies series.
This year, by September, Hampson transitioned to the everyday second baseman, a position at which he started 22 games this season. When Daniel Murphy lost his spot and Ryan McMahon struggled at the plate, Hampson and Josh Fuentes took over on the right side and held their ground pretty well defensively.
So we come to the end of another season and still don’t have a solid answer on what Garrett Hampson’s role is with the Rockies. There is uncertainty in the outfield considering Dahl’s injuries, the unknown return of Ian Desmond or re-signing of Kevin Pillar, and the unproven status of Sam Hilliard. Due to this, the outfield is crowded and Hampson might not have a spot. When it comes to the infield, if Josh Fuentes ends up taking over at first base, that leaves Ryan McMahon, the mysterious Brendan Rodgers, and Hampson left to fight for second base. Even if Fuentes isn’t the heir apparent at first, the infield remains crowded with the current roster and top prospect Rodgers standing by. Hampson just might have the advantage in that he remains the most versatile utility option.
Hampson will be arbitration eligible in 2022. He has yet to play a full, regular 162-game season in the majors, and another year might reveal more about his future. For now, to the Reno, Nev. native who turns 26 today, happy birthday, Garrett!