The 10 Best Rockies Players of All Time
The Colorado Rockies have now been part of major league baseball for a quarter of a century.
The relatively new NL West franchise has made multiple playoff berths and gloriously won the NL pennant in 2007 with a Rocktober we’ll never forget.
Here’s a list of the 10 best players to don the Rockies uniform through the end of the 2018 season, according to the metric Wins Above Replacement (WAR). This list includes the top position players and top pitchers according to the metric. The list only includes their performances in a Rockies jersey.
10. Aaron Cook (17.2 WAR)
While the Rockies have been known more for their hitters, Cook kicks off the list as of one the franchise’s few aces. Cook went 72-68 in his 10-year Rockies career. He represented the franchise at the 2008 All-Star game as part of career year where he went 16-9 with a 3.96 ERA. Cook currently leads the franchise in games started (206), innings pitched (1312.1) and batters faced (5,710). His stay in the top 10 likely won’t last long, as Charlie Blackmon is on his tail with 16.1 WAR heading into the 2019 season.
9. Vinny Castilla (17.5 WAR)
The Mexico native was one of the Rockies expansion draft selections and became one of the team’s first stars. Castilla found his power stroke by hitting 32 homers in 1995 and followed with 40-plus homers in each of the 1996, 1997 and 1998 seasons. Castilla represented the Rockies at the 1995 and 1998 All-Star games. Castilla was traded to the expansion franchise Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999, launching a journeyman finish to his MLB career. Castilla, however, would return to Colorado for an impressive 35-homer, 131-RBI campaign at age 36 in 2004. Castilla would also return in 2006 for the final 15 games of his career. Of his career 320 homers, 239 came in a Rockies uniform.
8. DJ LeMahieu (17.7 WAR)
It will be tough to watch LeMahieu in pinstripes this season. The star second baseman inked a two-year deal with the New York Yankees this offseason after seven seasons in Colorado. LeMahieu was acquired by the Rockies during the 2011 offseason from the Chicago Cubs in what is one of the most lopsided trades in franchise history. LeMahieu emerged as one of the best players in the game, winning the 2016 batting title with a .348 average and earning all-star bids in 2015 and 2017. LeMahieu added a lot defensively as well, winning gold gloves in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Unless he makes a late career return to the Rockies dugout, his Colorado career will finish with a .299 batting average, 49 homers, 345 RBIs and 498 runs scored.
7. Matt Holliday (18.6 WAR)
After nine seasons away from the Rockies, Holliday returned to the franchise last season and played in 25 games. The outfielder initially debuted with Colorado during the 2004 season and quickly became one of the Rockies most productive hitters for the next five seasons. He finished as runner-up in the 2007 MVP voting, the same year he helped the Rockies reach the World Series with a .340 batting average, 36 homers and 137 RBI. Holliday represented Colorado at the 2006, 2007 and 2008 All-Star games. He was traded away after the 2008 season to the Oakland Athletics for a package that included longtime Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Holliday was later traded to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he spent parts of eight seasons. He also spent 2017 as a platoon player with the New York Yankees before his Colorado homecoming last year.
6. Ubaldo Jimenez (18.9 WAR)
Jimenez was regarded as one of the best pitchers in all of Major League Baseball for a stretch of his six-year tenure in Colorado. The former ace from the Dominican Republic peaked with a 19-8, 2.88 ERA campaign in 2010 that saw him earn an All-Star bid and finish third in CY Young voting — the late Colorado native Roy Halladay won the award that season. Jimenez also pitched the Rockies franchise first no-hitter in 2010 in a win over the Atlanta Braves. Jimenez was traded away at the 2011 trade deadline and struggled to a 4.90 ERA in seven seasons away from the Rockies. Jimenez last pitched in the majors in 2017.
5. Carlos Gonzalez (23.6 WAR)
CarGo will be another player that will be difficult for the Rockies faithful to see don another uniform in 2019. The Venezuelan-born outfielder who spent the past 10 years gracing Coors Field as a face of the franchise signed with the Cleveland Indians during the offseason. Gonzalez hit 227 homers with 749 RBIs in his Colorado tenure. He finished third in MVP voting in 2010, when he batted .336 with 34 homers and 117 RBI. He was an All-Star in 2012, 2013 and 2016. CarGo also added plenty of defensive value, winning gold gloves in 2010, 2012 and 2013. If he never returns, Gonzalez closed his tenure in a Rockies uniform last season by batting a respectable .276 with 16 homers and 64 RBIs.
4. Nolan Arenado (33.1 WAR)
After much speculation of what would happen if Arenado hit the free agent market after the 2019 season, the Rockies locked up their star third baseman with a massive eight-year, $260 million contract this offseason. Arenado has emerged as one of the game’s best players both offensively and defensively. He’s crushed a total of 186 homers and driven in 616 runs. Arenado has also won a gold glove at third base in each of his six big league seasons. He’s made the All-Star game in each of the past four seasons and also finished in the top 10 of MVP voting in each season during that span. If he can avoid injuries and keep up the current pace during his prime, Arenado will eventually find himself at the top of the list and possibly enshrined in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rockies fans should be elated that one of the game’s best franchise building blocks is locked up for years to come.
3. Troy Tulowitzki (39.4 WAR)
The Rockies drafted “Tulo” with the seventh overall pick of the 2005 MLB draft and he remarkably finished second in Rookie of the Year voting just two seasons later. Tulowitzki emerged as the centerpiece of the Rockies infield for 10 seasons, batting .299 with 188 homers and 657 RBI in that span. He finished in the top 10 of MVP voting in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Tulowitzki represented Colorado in the 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 All-Star games. He won Gold Gloves in 2010 and 2011. Tulowitzki was traded away to the Toronto Blue Jays at the 2015 trade deadline. He spent parts of three seasons with Toronto but missed the past year-and-half with injuries — including missing all of last season completely. Tulowitzki has been with the New York Yankees during the 2019 spring training.
2. Larry Walker (48.3 WAR)
The Canadian-born Walker had already been All-Star with the now extinct Montreal Expos when he signed a free agent deal to play with the Rockies in 1995. Walker, however, would take his game to a new level in Colorado. The outfielder won the 1998, 1999 and 2001 NL batting titles. Walker also claimed the Rockies franchise’s only NL MVP to date, which he won in 1997 by batting .366 with 49 homers and 130 RBI. Walker played 10 of his 17 seasons with the Rockies. He represented Colorado in the All-Star game in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001. Walker was traded away to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 and spent parts of two seasons there before retiring. Walker inched closer to being canonized at Cooperstown in 2019, finishing eighth in Hall of Fame voting with 54.6 percent of the vote — a player needs 75 percent to be elected.
1. Todd Helton (61.2 WAR)
Was there anyone else you expected? Helton was the face of the Rockies for most of the 17 seasons he spent with the club and was the first player to have his number retired by the team. The slugger from Knoxville, Tennessee was eighth overall pick of the 1995 MLB draft, finished second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1998 and quickly established himself as one of the league’s best offensive stars. Helton won the 2000 batting title by hitting .372. He made five straight All-Star game appearances from 2000 to 2004. Helton also won gold gloves in 2001, 2002 and 2004. He finished in the top 10 of MVP voting in three seasons. Helton leads the Rockies franchise in nearly every offensive category, including home runs (369), hits (2,519), RBIs (1,406), walks (1,335) and plate appearances (9,453). Helton also holds the franchise record for most games played with 2,247. While the Boston Red Sox once publicly tried to trade for Helton, it eventually fell through and Helton remarkably played his entire 17-year career with Colorado — Arenado is the only other player on this list to spend his entire career with the Rockies. Helton finished 15th in Hall of Fame voting in 2019 with 16.5 percent, his first year on the ballot.