The Blake Street Bulletin staff each put together a preview of the 2012 season for the Colorado Rockies. Leading up to the Rockies first game of the season on Thursday we will publish an article reviewing the four major parts of the team: infield, outfield, starting rotation and bullpen.
We rate each group on a scouting scale of 20-80 with 80 being All-Star level and 20 being a player who shouldn’t be in the big leagues. You might hear a scout say that Troy Tulowitzki has an 80 arm or that Dexter Fowler has 40 power. This means that Tulo has as good of an arm that can be found and Fowler has below average power. Giambi would probably get an 80 for his power but 20 for his speed.
First up is the Rockies infield
Catcher: Ramon Hernandez starts and a combination of Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco back him up. With the news yesterday that Rosario made the roster it will be very interesting to see how Jim Tracy manages the position. How many games will Rosario play and the consensus among BSB writers is that it has to be at least twice a week, if not three or more later in the season.
Tom Ley: This might be the most under the radar “make or break” position in the Rockies’ lineup. I’m not sure if people are aware enough of the fact that Chris Iannetta was a 3 WAR player, and that kind of production is not easy to replace. Ramon Hernandez produced about 2 WAR each of the last two seasons, but he’s old and is by no means an everyday player. That leaves a lot of pressure on Wilin Rosario as the backup. There is plenty of potential in Rosario’s bat, but his apparent defensive deficiencies may slow his eventual inheritance of the position.
Kevin Kroh: By August Rosario will be catching three days a week, possibly more if the Rox are out of contention.
BSB positional grade: 50
First base: Todd Helton starts and Jason Giambi and Michael Cuddyer give Helton the weekly (or two) day off. Tyler Colvin and Pacheco can also play first base. The addition of Cuddyer in the offseason makes it less likely that Giambi starts at first in 2012. Giambi did make 22 starts at first in 2011 but Cuddyer made 41 in Minnesota at first. Giambi is well past his prime defensively and his value is off the bench late or as a DH in interleague play.
The View from 132: First base has always been a position of strength for the Rockies and this year should be no different. Helton no longer puts up the big numbers at the plate, but he is still an effective hitter when healthy. Defensively, his range is limited but he digs out virtually everything he can reach and is a nice safety net for the rest of the infield. The plan is for him to play 100-120 games to try and keep him fresh for a September run. That leaves plenty of opportunity for someone to step up and contribute on a regular basis.
Tom Ley: I think it’s easy to look at first base and automatically consider it to be a weakness based simply on the age of Todd Helton. If you look at the numbers, though, Helton has actually been a fairly productive player, even at his advanced age. Since 2007, Helton has posted a .372 wOBA and averaged 118 wRC+ while earning 11.2 wins above replacement. Furthermore, I think that Cuddyer and Pacheco’s presence as potential spot starters will boost overall production from the position as well.
BSB positional grade: 60
Second base: Marco Scutaro starts with Chris Nelson, Jonathan Herrera or Pacheco backing him up. Scutaro played in 140+ games in three straight seasons from 2008-10 and the Rockies are hoping he plays in at least 140 in 2012. If Spring Training means anything we have to believe Eric Young Jr. has seen his last of second base for the Rockies: EY has played 18 games in the outfield going into Sunday and zero games at second base this spring.
Brandon Cloud: Marco should give the Rockies what they have yearned for: stability at second base. He also stabilizes the second spot in the order which should improve the team. The defense will be good and the Rockies can also hope for an uptick in his extra base hits at Coors. If he stays healthy and produces I don’t see Tracy spelling him more than necessary. Given that the NL average last year from the 2B position was a paltry .254/.315/.369 line you have to give this position a B+ or a 60 grade.
View from 132: Scutaro comes to the Rockies after spending last year as the everyday short stop for the Boston
Beer and Fried Chicken Red Sox. The defensive transition to 2B should be smooth and, together with Tulo, the Rockies could have one of the best middle infields in the National League.
Tom Ley: It’s nice to have the Rockies headed into a regular season with an established starter at second base for once. Since losing Eric Young in 1997, The Rockies have had 20 different players get over 200 at bats at second base. TWENTY! That stat alone has got to make the Rockies’ second base position one of the deepest and blackest holes in recent baseball history.
BSB positional grade: 60
Third base: Pacheco and Nelson each getting playing time with Nolan Arenado waiting for his time in AA
Casey Blake was supposed to be the Rockies third baseman to start the season and keep the position warm for Arenado. The problem was that Blake didn’t hit or prove he could stay healthy. Pacheco and Nelson will split time at third until at least June. If Arenado tears the cover off of the ball at Tulsa then he could skip AAA and see playing time with the Rockies by June 1st.
Brandon Cloud: Before Arenado arrives Pacheco and Nelson will get some sort of timeshare here, and honestly no one knows what that will entail. In an ideal world Nolan Arenado takes the job in June and plays well, if he is not ready it could be another bumpy ride here. This group is the weakest part of the offense, but hopefully this year it won’t be a gaping hole.
The View from 132: Third base was a black hole for the Rockies last year and long gone are Ty Wiggington and Ian Stewart. Casey Blake had been signed to shore up the position while Nelson Arenado developed, but he could not get it going this spring and was given his walking papers too. That leaves Pacheco and Nelson to hold down the fort until Arenado is ready to come up in July or August. Look for Pacheco to get most of the starts early on because of his ability at the plate, but don’t be surprised to see Nelson used as a defensive substitute later in the game.
BSB positional grade: 40
Shortstop: Tulo with Scutaro, Nelson and Herrera backing him up…hopefully sparingly in 2012
Many consider Tulo the most valuable player in baseball. Not only does he hit but he hits at a position in which no one else hits (with the exception of speed guys like Jose Reyes). And it’s not like he is all bat as he is routinely one of the best defenders at the most important defensive position in baseball. The gap between Tulo and the second or third best shortstop – such a premium defensive position – make him the player many would take first overall if MLB had a fantasy draft.
Kevin Kroh: Arguably the most valuable player to his team in all of baseball; Tulo must stay healthy. When he needs a day off, Scutaro is still a capable infield captain. Won’t find a better pair of shortstops from here to Miami.
Brandon Cloud: The Rockies have the great white whale: a gold glover who hits for average and power from the shortstop position. Tulo hit 30 of the 170 HR’s hit in the NL from the SS position.
BSB position grade: 80
The Rockies potentially have a very solid infield. Defensively they could be very good even with the lack of big league experience at third base. In fact, third base is the only position which the Rockies have a question mark (if we assume health is not an issue). The Rockies are not getting All-Star level play from any position in the infield except at short but at catcher, first and second there are guys with established track records that should be able to help the team score runs.
Next up is the outfield