I am a former sports editor and currently serve as a historian with the Society of American Baseball Research and manage a valet operation.
Who Are the Best Home Run Hitters in Colorado Rockies History?
Because of the high altitude in Denver, Colorado, power numbers tend to be inflated for players on the Colorado Rockies, as well as their opponents at Coors Field. But while that has allowed the franchise, which came into existence in 1993, to put together a strong array of power hitters, the park is not the only reason why. Most of the prominent sluggers for the Rockies were strong hitters before or after their tenure with Colorado, and many also displayed significant power on the road. So while the thin air certainly doesn't hurt production, it also can't solely turn a hitter into a prolific home run hitter.
In this article, I will explore the top power hitters in the history of the Colorado Rockies. These rankings are not based upon opinions, and for a player to be considered, he must have hit at least 50 home runs during his time with the Rockies. Players were then ranked by averaging their rank for both of these criterion:
- Total home runs with the Rockies
- Plate appearances per home run with the Rockies
Following the top five are the best of the rest, a handful of shorter lists of franchise leaders in more defined categories, and franchise home run records. Information from Stathead on Baseball Reference was used to compile statistics.
Note: Ranks in parenthesis in individual player capsules represent their ranking among players who hit at least 50 home runs with the Rockies. ... Statistics are current through the end of the 2021 season.
T-5. Carlos Gonzalez
- Years Played: 2009–18
- Home Runs: 227 (5th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 22.33 (9th)
- Single-Season High: 40 in 2015
Carlos Gonzalez was an all-around threat for the Rockies throughout his 10-year tenure in Colorado. He picked up three All-Star selections and two Silver Sluggers, and he finished third in National League MVP voting in 2010. That season, he completed a cycle with a walk-off homer against the Chicago Cubs. In total, Gonzalez slugged 25 or more home runs in half of his seasons with the Rockies.
T-5. Dante Bichette
- Years Played: 1993–99
- Home Runs: 201 (6th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 21.65 (8th)
- Single-Season High: 40 in 1995
Dante Bichette was the 1995 National League home run champion, the highlight of a great seven-year stretch for the Rockies. He was runner-up in MVP voting that season and won his only Silver Slugger award. Bichette had at least 20 home runs in each season for the Rockies and was a four-time All-Star. He was a member of the "Blake Street Bombers" and hit a homer in the 1995 NL Division Series. In 1993, Bichette became the first player to homer for the expansion Rockies, and in 1999, he had a home run as part of a four-hit day on Opening Day in Mexico, which was the first regular-season game ever played outside of the United States or Canada.
4. Andres Galarraga
- Years Played: 1993–97
- Home Runs: 172 (9th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 17.00 (1st)
- Single-Season High: 47 in 1996
After signing with the Rockies in 1993, Andres Galarraga experienced a rebirth as a hitter. He led the NL with a .370 batting average in 1993 and became a power threat soon thereafter. As part of the "Blake Street Bombers," Galarraga slugged 31 homers in each 1994 and '95 before leading the league with 47 in 1996 to win a Silver Slugger. He made two All-Star teams in his five years with Colorado and finished inside the top 10 of MVP voting in four of those seasons. In 1995, Galarraga accomplished a rare feat by homering in three straight innings against the San Diego Padres on June 23.
3. Nolan Arenado
- Years Played: 2013–20
- Home Runs: 235 (4th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 19.40 (5th)
- Single-Season High: 42 in 2015
Nolan Arenado became the face of the franchise throughout most of the 2010s, using strong offensive and defensive skills to become one of the finest players in baseball. Arenado rarely missed a game on the way to five straight All-Star appearances and top 10 finishes in MVP voting from 2015 to '19. He added four Silver Slugger awards and was a three-time NL home run champion (2015, '16 and '18). In September 2015, Arenado homered in six straight games to break the franchise record, while in June 2017, he became the second Colorado player in history (sixth in MLB history) to complete a cycle with a walk-off home run.
2. Vinny Castilla
- Years Played: 1993–99, 2004, '06
- Home Runs: 239 (3rd)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 18.62 (4th)
- Single-Season High: 46 in 1998
Vinny Castilla had three separate stints with the Rockies, but none were better than his first go-around from 1993 to '99. Castilla was one prong of the "Blake Street Bombers," and from 1996 to '98, he missed just five total games and hit at least 40 homers every season. That left him as the first player in franchise history to record three seasons with 40 home runs (since tied by Nolan Arenado), and with 46 homers in 1998, he became the third player in as many seasons to hit 45+ longballs (Larry Walker with 49 in 1997 and Andres Galarraga with 46 in '96). Castilla was a two-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger winner before getting traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays after the 1999 season. He returned to Colorado in 2004 and hit 35 home runs, and closed his career with a 15-game tenure for the Rockies at the end of 2006 (he hit his final home run in his second game back at Los Angeles).
1. Larry Walker
- Years Played: 1995–2004
- Home Runs: 258 (2nd)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 18.59 (3rd)
- Single-Season High: 49 in 1997
Larry Walker is the only Hall of Famer to ever don a Colorado Rockies jersey, and he was one of baseball's most exciting players when he did. Over a 10-year stretch, Walker became Colorado's all-time home run leader (now second) and set single-season marks for home runs (49, now tied for first), runs (143), slugging percentage (.720) and batting average (.372). Most of those marks came during his MVP season in 1997, when he led the National League in home runs and narrowly missed leading in average (lost by .006) and RBI (lost by 10) for what could have been the first Triple Crown in the NL since 1937. Walker, the final piece of the "Blake Street Bombers," made four All-Star appearances and won two Silver Sluggers with the Rockies. He was a three-time batting champion and hit .334 with Colorado, a nice complement to his power and superb defensive skills as a right fielder (five Gold Gloves).
The Best of the Rest
The following two players are home run hitters from Colorado Rockies history who just missed the top five.
- Years Played: 1997–2013
- Home Runs: 369 (1st)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 25.62 (14th)
- Single-Season High: 49 in 2001
Todd Helton only played for the Rockies and was an excellent power hitter during the peak of his career, hitting 30 or more home runs each season from 1999 to 2004. He made five All-Star teams and won three Silver Sluggers in that span, and fell eight home runs shy of a Triple Crown in 2000.
- Years Played: 1994–98
- Home Runs: 115 (13th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 17.86 (2nd)
- Single-Season High: 40 in 1996
Ellis Burks played for five teams, but his most productive years were spent with the Rockies. His best season came in 1996, when he was named an All-Star, won a Silver Slugger and finished third in MVP voting after notching career-high totals in every major offensive category.
Colorado Rockies Home Run History
Below are some of the franchise home run records for the Colorado Rockies.
Colorado Rockies Career Home Run Leaders
- 1. Todd Helton, 369
- 2. Larry Walker, 258
- 3. Vinny Castilla, 239
- 4. Nolan Arenado, 235
- 5. Carlos Gonzalez, 227
Colorado Rockies Plate Appearance/Home Run Leaders (min. 50 HRs)
- Andres Galarraga, 17.00
- Ellis Burks, 17.86
- Larry Walker, 18.59
- Vinny Castilla, 18.62
- Nolan Arenado, 19.40
Colorado Rockies Single-Season Home Run Leaders
- T-1. Todd Helton, 49 (2001)
- T-1. Larry Walker, 49 (1997)
- 3. Andres Galarraga, 47 (1996)
- 4. Vinny Castilla, 46 (1998)
- T-5. Nolan Arenado, 42 (2015)
- T-5. Helton, 42 (2000)
Colorado Rockies Single-Game Home Run Leaders
- 14 players tied with 3 (Larry Walker did it 3 times)
© 2021 Andrew Harner