On Saturday night after the Todd Helton home run the Colorado Rockies recalled Drew Pomeranz to start today’s game and to make room for Pomeranz they sent Jordan Pacheco down to AAA. Pomeranz is here to stay for the remainder of the season, presumably, and Pacheco is heading to Colorado Springs to work on his defense at third.
This begs the question: what is the plan at third for the Rockies for the immediate future and beyond?
There wasn’t a lot of doubt going into Spring Training that Nolan Arenado was the incumbent for third. He might not have made the team out of camp but it is widely expected that he will be recalled to play third for the Rockies come June. The Rockies are making a business decision waiting until June because that buys the team an extra year of arbitration for them and Arenado. If the Rockies brought Arenado to Denver out of camp he would have been free agent eligible in 2017 and if the Rockies wait until after June 1st he will not be eligible for free agency until 2018. By waiting until June the Rockies buy themselves an extra year of Arenado’s services without having to worry about him testing the market.
Back to Pacheco. Pacheco’s best defensive positions are catching and first base. The Rockies are stockpiled at first base with some old people like Todd Helton, Jason Giambi and Michael Cuddyer. If the three of them were to be injured then Tyler Colvin could step in and play first. Catching the Rockies have Ramon Hernandez and young blood Wilin Rosario. It is entirely possible that the Rockies will need a third catcher before the end of the year (not because of performance but a 15-day DL stint is not out of the realm of possibility for a catcher). Maybe Pacheco gets some PT with the Rockies behind the plate.
But Jim Tracy said that the Rockies sent Pacheco to AAA to work on his defense at third. If Pacheco is going to work on his defense at third the Rockies must have long term plans to use him at third. What does that mean for Arenado? What about current third basemen Chris Nelson?
Are the Rockies going to move Arenado up through the system slowly? Early in the AA season Arenado is smoking the ball to the tune of .371/.450/.543 through 40 plate appearances spanning nine games.
I don’t believe Nelson is the long term answer at third. Third base is a power position and the Rockies need to find someone who can play the position and hit for power. Nelson doesn’t hit for power as he has a career .370 slugging percentage. Pacheco hasn’t displayed power either by slugging .372 with the Rockies and only .426 in his minor league career.
Arenado should still be with the Rockies by June as the team has set the precedent with players like Dexter Fowler that they are willing to skip AAA with their better prospects. Pacheco will continue to work on his defense and might just serve as the utility bench player by mid-season. Having the flexibility of three catchers is nice because whichever of the two catchers the Rockies start the one who doesn’t start is a nice bat off of the bench late in a game. With a third catcher Tracy can use either Hernandez or Rosario late as a pinch hitter and not worry about who will play catcher if the other gets hurt during the game.
If anything I think this demotion should serve as notice for Nelson: his time is limited. Come June Arenado will be with the Rockies and Pacheco will be soon to follow as the utility man off of the bench. This also means Jonathan Herrera is short lived in Denver because Pacheco’s bat is better than Herrera’s. With Marco Scutaro’s flexibility the Rockies don’t have much of a need for Herrera.