This is the second article in a series that looks at the five best players at each position for the Colorado Rockies. In this installment are first and third basemen.
The Colorado Rockies do not have the same depth as most teams at any position. However, they do feature some of the best talent at the top. Nowhere is that more evident than at the corner infield spots. Arguably, Colorado’s best player is the first base starter, and he could one day end up in Cooperstown. The starter at third base is still active and making his case to be the best defensive player at the position in Major League history.
The Best First and Third Basemen in Colorado Rockies History
Honorable Mention – Daniel Murphy was a three-time All-Star and the 2015 National League Championship Series MVP with the Mets. He spent his final two years in Colorado (2019-20), playing in 172 games and posting a .279-13-78 stat line in 2019. Despite not having played for nearly three years, Murphy did not officially retire until August 2023.
5. Mark Reynolds – He played with the Rockies in three of his final four seasons (2016-17 and 19 with 2018 spent with Washington), batting .260 with 273 hits, 48 home runs and 170 RBIs in 344 games. Reynolds saw a power resurgence in 2017, hitting .267 with 30 homers and 97 runs batted in. He went 0-for-3 and drove in a run during the Wild Card round in that year’s playoffs.
4. Justin Morneau – The 2006 MVP as a member of the Twins spent two of his final years with the Rockies (2014-15), playing in 184 games. Morneau still showed flashes of brilliance in 2014, leading the league with a .319 average, producing 160 hits, 17 home runs and 82 RBIs and winning the fielding title.
3. C.J. Cron – He played in the MLB Futures Game as an Angels prospect in 2013 and spent 2½ years with Colorado before he was traded back to Los Angeles at the 2023 trade deadline. Cron was an All-Star in 2022, hitting .257 with 29 home runs and a career-high 102 runs batted in. He batted .267 with 180 runs, 334 hits, 68 homers and 226 RBIs in 348 games with the Rockies.
2. Andres Galarraga – His career was on the decline before having a resurgence in the rarified air in Colorado. The “Big Cat” led the National League with a .370 average for the expansion Rockies in 1993, and the mark is the third best in franchise history. He had his best year in 1996, when he won a silver slugger after hitting .304 with 119 runs, 190 hits, 47 home runs and 150 runs batted in. The homer and RBI totals were both career highs and led the league, and the RBI mark was also a team record.
Galarraga followed that with a .318 average, career highs with 120 runs and 191 hits, 41 home runs and a league-leading 140 RBIs. He was a two-time All-Star who drove in 100 runs in three of his five seasons with Colorado (1993-97). Overall, Galarraga is tied for third in franchise history with a .316 average and he ranks ninth in home runs (172), RBIs (579) and total bases (1,540). He also has 476 runs and 853 hits in 679 games. He had five hits and two RBIs in the team’s playoff debut in the 1995 Division Series.
Galarraga played for five teams in six years and missed the 1999 season while getting treatment for lymphatic cancer. He retired in 2005 after having a tryout with the Mets in Spring Training.
1. Todd Helton – He spent his entire 17-year career with the Rockies (1997-2013), producing five All-Star selections, three gold gloves and four silver sluggers while being one of the most consistent players in baseball. Helton finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 1998 after hitting .315 with 25 homers and 97 RBIs. He had six straight seasons with 100 runs scored, 180 hits and 30 home runs and five straight with 100 runs batted in.
Even with the ball traveling in Colorado, Helton’s 2000 season was one of the best in recent history, and he took home the Hank Aaron Award and finished in the top five in the MVP race after his performance. He led the league with a .372 average (second in team history), 405 total bases (second), 216 hits (second), 59 doubles (a team record) and 147 RBIs (second) to go along with 138 runs (third) and 42 homers (tied for fifth). Helton followed that in 2001 by hitting .336 with 146 runs batted in and 49 home runs, which is tied for the single season franchise record. Despite not leading the league, his .469 on-base percentage in 2004 is a team record.
Helton holds franchise records in almost every offensive category including games (2,247), runs (1,401), hits (2,519), doubles (592), home runs (369), runs batted in (1,406), total bases (4,292), walks (1,335) and strikeouts (1,175). He is also tied for third in team history with a .316 average and is sixth with 37 triples. Helton totaled 12 hits, 11 runs and four RBIs in 15 career playoff games and went 5-for-15 with two hits and an RBI in the 2007 World Series loss to the Red Sox.
His vote total has been steadily rising on the Hall of Fame ballot, reaching 72.2 percent in his fifth season in 2023, which is a 20 percent jump from the previous year. With even a modest jump in votes, he will be giving a well-deserved induction speech next summer in Cooperstown.
Honorable Mentions – Before Charlie Hayes caught the final out of the Yankees’ World Series victory over the Braves in 1996, he spent two seasons with the Rockies (1993-94). He had a career year in the team’s expansion season, leading the league with 45 doubles and setting career highs with a .305 average, 89 runs, 175 hits, 25 home runs and 98 runs batted in.
Ian Stewart played in the 2007 MLB Futures Game and got a callup to Colorado later in the year, but he was a rare low-average player in the Mile High City. His best season was 2009, when he set career highs with 25 home runs and 70 runs batted in. Stewart had 293 hits, 54 homers and 187 RBIs in 432 games over five seasons (2007-11). He went 0-for-1 in the 2009 Division Series.
5. Ryan McMahon – He is the current starter at the position, having spent the past three seasons at the “hot corner” after moving over from second base. The 2021 fielding champion has at least 20 home runs and 60 RBIs in each of his three seasons at his current position. So far, McMahon has totaled 333 runs, 584 hits, 119 doubles, 103 homers and 349 RBIs in 733 games. The 2017 MLB Futures Game participant went 0-for-3 in his only playoff experience after the 2018 season.
4. Jeff Cirillo – He spent just two years in Colorado but is one of just three Rockies third basemen who were selected to play in the All-Star Game. Cirillo was named in 2000, when he hit 11 home runs and set or tied career highs with a .326 average, 111 runs, 195 hits, 115 runs batted in and 53 doubles, which is the third-best single season total in team history. The 2001 fielding champion batted .320 in his time with the Rockies and totaled 183 runs, 360 hits and 195 RBIs in 295 games.
3. Garrett Atkins – Although he didn’t make the All-Star team, he was a solid producer over seven seasons in Colorado (2003-09). Atkins had his best season in 2006, when he set career highs with a .329 average, 117 runs, 198 hits, 48 doubles, 29 home runs and 120 runs batted in. He batted .289 overall with 394 runs, 805 hits, 98 homers and 479 RBIs in 773 games. Atkins hit a home run against the Red Sox in the 2007 World Series, and he had 10 hits, six runs and five RBIs in 15 career playoff games.
Atkins signed with the Orioles in 2010, but his production fell off outside of Coors Field and he was released on July 6. He failed to make the Pirates out of Spring Training the following year and never played in the major leagues again.
2. Vinny Castilla – Rather than keep Castilla and sit him behind Chipper Jones, the Braves left him unprotected in the expansion draft. After a year at shortstop, Castilla moved one position to his right and spent nine seasons in Colorado (1993-99, 2004 and 06), driving in 100 or more runs five times and hitting at least 40 home runs three times, while becoming a two-time All-Star and a three-time silver slugger.
Castilla had his best season in 1998, when he hit .319 and set career highs with 108 runs, 206 hits, 44 home runs and 144 runs batted in. After being traded to the Devil Rays in 1999 and spending five years with Tampa Bay, Houston and Atlanta, he returned in 2004, winning the fielding title and leading the National League with 131 RBIs. Two years later, he came back to Colorado again to play 15 games before retiring after 16 big league seasons.
Overall, Castilla batted .294 and ranks third in franchise history in home runs (239), fifth in games (1,098), sixth in RBIs (745), tied for sixth in hits (1,206), seventh in total bases (2,171) and eighth in both runs (611) and doubles (208). In the Rockies’ first foray into postseason play in the 1995 Division Series, he went 7-for-15 with three runs scored, three home runs and 6 RBIs.
1. Nolan Arenado – While playing in a city known for creating offense, he showed you can be an excellent defender in Colorado as well. Arenado was a gold glove winner in each of his eight seasons with the Rockies (2013-20), and he also earned five All-Star selections, four silver sluggers, four platinum gloves (for best overall fielder at any position) and three Wilson Defensive Player of the Year awards.
The two-time MLB Futures Game participant had five straight seasons with at least 175 hits and 100 RBIs, scored 100 or more runs four times, led the league in home runs three times, RBIs and total bases twice each and doubles once (43 in 2017).
Arenado batted .293 with Colorado and rand fourth in home runs (235) and runs batted in (760), fifth in total bases (2,227), sixth in games (1,079) and doubles (262), tied for sixth in hits (1,206), seventh in runs (649) and tied for ninth in triples (27). He had four hits, two runs, a home run and three RBIs in five career playoff games. Arenado was traded to the Cardinals for five players in February 2021.
Colorado Rockies Catchers and Managers
Colorado Rockies Second Basemen and Shortstops – coming soon
Colorado Rockies Outfielders – coming soon
Colorado Rockies Pitchers – coming soon
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Cleveland Guardians Catchers and Managers
Cleveland Guardians First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Cleveland Guardians Second Basemen and Shortstops
Cleveland Guardians Outfielders
Cleveland Guardians Pitchers
A look back at the Cincinnati Reds
A look back at the Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox Catchers and Managers
Chicago White Sox First and Third Basemen and Designated Hitters
Chicago White Sox Second Basemen and Shortstops
Chicago White Sox Outfielders
Chicago White Sox Pitchers
A look back at the Chicago Cubs
A look back at the Boston Red Sox
A look back at the Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore Orioles Catchers and Managers
Baltimore Orioles First and Third Basemen
Baltimore Orioles Second Basemen and Shortstops
Baltimore Orioles Outfielders and Designated Hitters
Baltimore Orioles Pitchers
A look back at the Atlanta Braves
A look back at the Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondbacks Catchers and Managers
Arizona Diamondbacks First and Third Basemen
Arizona Diamondbacks Second Basemen and Shortstops
Arizona Diamondbacks Outfielders
Arizona Diamondbacks Pitchers