Charlie Blackmon ended last season as an afterthought. However, a door opened for him this past December when the Colorado Rockies traded longtime center fielder Dexter Fowler to the Houston Astros for Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes. A few weeks later, they traded reliever Josh Outman for another outfielder, Drew Stubbs. With the corner outfield spots manned by All-Stars Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer, there was set to be a competition for the center field job. Nobody specifically stood out in Spring Training, and Charlie Blackmon, a 27-year old player who had seen time with the Rockies before, won the spot by default. He made a huge splash in the home opener, when he became the second Rockies player to accumulate six hits in a single game, including three doubles and a home run. The next day, he threw out another three hits, bringing his total to nine hits over a two-day period. Charlie Blackmon continued his burning hot start and he was given the opportunity to start in center field nearly every day. Over the totality of the young season, he has compiled a .410/.453/.692 (Average/On-base Percentage/Slugging) slash line with five home runs, 16 RBI, and 19 runs scored.
According to Fangraphs, Blackmon’s 1.8 WAR (Wins Against Replacement) is tied for the highest in baseball with the almighty Mike Trout, whose dominance has continued in the early weeks of the season. Blackmon has shown excellence in nearly all facets of the game. His high batting average and slugging percentage exemplify his offensive prowess, but he has also stolen six bases and proved to be able to cover the vast outfield of Coors Field.
This past Sunday, Blackmon hit one of the four home runs in a 90’s-style Coors Field slugfest that ended in a 10-9 loss to the Phillies. The next day, against the Giants, he muscled two more balls over the right-field wall for his first career multi-home run game. Surprisingly, Blackmon got the night off on Tuesday against a tough lefty in Madison Bumgarner, but the Rockies still pulled out a hard-fought, 2-1 victory over the Giants, improving their record to 8-3 at the friendly confines of 20th and Blake. The next day, Blackmon’s burning hot start continued, as he went 2-6 with a stolen base, three RBI, four runs scored and his fourth home run in his last three games.
One would have to believe that Charlie Blackmon will not continue on the same torrid pace. He is due for some regression, but he is making a serious case to make the National League All-Star team with his burning hot start. If he can amass as the same amount of WAR from now until July as he did in the first three weeks of the season, he will be itching for a spot on the roster. There is a chance that the nation will have forgotten Blackmon’s name by the Midsummer Classic, but he has definitely made an impression over the first part of the season. Right now, Chase Utley is the only playing legitimately challenging Blackmon for NL Player of the Month for April. Utley’s .384/.425/.644 slash line is impressive, especially for a player past his prime, but the fact that Blackmon came out of nowhere makes him the front-runner for the honor. There is still a week left of April, so anything can happen, but Blackmon has gone from irrelevance to greatness in less than a month, which is worthy of praise. Charlie Blackmon will get a chance to prove himself as the Rockies center fielder this year, and he has been nothing short of brilliant in the early going.
Commentary by Jough Brasch