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Is Sean Bouchard the Best Fit for the Rockies Starting Job in Right Field?

As Spring Training goes into full swing (pun definitely intended) the Colorado Rockies find themselves with a positional roster that is fairly set in stone. The infield is manned by Ryan McMahon at third, Ezequiel Tovar at short, Brendan Rodgers at second, and Kris Bryant as the newly minted starting first baseman. Elias Diaz and Jacob Stallings will do the catching while Nolan Jones and Brenton Doyle will handle left field and center field respectively. The bench is still in flux at the moment, but the only primary position without a clear starter is right field.

Charlie Blackmon has been the staple in right field for many years but will serve as the primary designated hitter. Bryant was supposed to be a starting outfielder, but injuries in a Rockies uniform have forced the team to lock him in at first base in an effort to keep him healthy. Entering the 2024 season, right field is the battleground position as a number of young players try to take the reigns in Spring Training. The leading candidate, however, appears to be 27-year-old Sean Bouchard.

Bouchard, a ninth-round pick in the 2017 draft, finds himself in a familiar position that he was in last spring. Entering the 2023 season, it appeared that Bouchard would be penciled in as the starting left fielder. At the very least he had the inside track as the Rockies deemed Nolan Jones and Michael Toglia not ready to begin the year with the MLB club. Unfortunately, a stroke of bad luck occurred for Bouchard as he suffered a ruptured bicep that sidelined him for the majority of the season. He quickly saw his spot replaced by veteran Jurickson Profar before Jones stormed onto the scene to make the position his own.

He was eventually able to return near the end of the 2023 season, playing in 21 games and showcasing more of the offensive abilities that make him an intriguing option for everyday play. In two brief stints at the big league level between 2022 and 2023, a total of 48 games, Bouchard has slashed .304/.429/.563 with seven home runs. Regarding offensive capabilities, Bouchard has an intriguing skill of plate discipline and getting on base.

When Bouchard was finally activated in September last season, he slashed .316/.372/.684 in 21 games and slugged four homers in his final five games. In his 43 plate appearances, he struck out 14 times while walking four times. In 2022 he walked 21 times against 25 strikeouts to better exemplify his on-base skills. The ability to wear down pitchers with a disciplined approach is something that is quite attractive and valuable to the Rockies at the moment. Strikeouts have been a problem for the Rockies the lineup has a tendency to be aggressive at the plate, resulting in more strikeouts. Bouchard is the antithesis of this approach, a more reserved and patient approach that enables him to attack the pitches he wants to and hit for a good average on-base percentage.

This trait has followed Bouchard through his professional career. Since his first full professional season in 2018 where he struck out 128 times, he has seen his strikeout totals decline year after year whenever he has extended playing time.  The goal is to have him hit at the bottom of the lineup ahead of a player like Brenton Doyle, to help extend the lineup and give players like Blackmon and Bryant more opportunities to drive in runs.

While the contact and on-base skills are a calling card for Bouchard, there is still the potential to add more pop to his bat. From 2018-2022, Bouchard clubbed 10 or more home runs each year in the minors, including 20 home runs in 2022. He has been working diligently with hitting coach Hensley Meulens where adjustments made at the end of last season resulted in the four home runs he hit and should hopefully prevent the same type of injury to his bicep that occurred last season.

Bouchard’s bat will definitely play for the Rockies, whether as the everyday starter or a bench bat that comes late in the game, but what about his defensive abilities? Outfield defense is critical for a team that plays half its games at Coors Field. The Rockies have the benefit for Jones and Doyle patrolling the hardest parts of the ballpark, but they still need a capable right fielder.

“We project Sean to be a solid-to-average big-league outfielder,” manager Bud Black said to reporters. “The reads and jumps are fine. The arm strength is fine. We need him to be able to make the average major league play that an outfielder should make. We think he will.”

So far in his brief big league career Bouchard has been just that. In 331 1/3 innings logged in the outfield, he’s recorded 2 DRS and 1 OAA with a modest 2.4 UZR. For all intents and purposes, Bouchard will be perfectly fine in right field, able to make the standard plays that he will need to make. The Rockies can remain confident that Gold Glove winner Doyle will be able to provide any extra ground coverage to make Bouchard’s position easier to handle.

When the dust settles in Spring Training, Bouchard is likely going to be the right fielder on Opening Day. There will be plenty of competition from top prospects, but it will take a Herculean effort by any of them to overtake Bouchard’s spot on the roster. While he isn’t necessarily the most attractive option in terms of potential for the Rockies in the near future, he is a reliable placeholder until players like Sterlin Thompson, Zac Veen, or Jordan Beck are ready for big-league action.


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