Rockies offseason review: Third base
As the spring training reporting date for pitchers and catchers nears, we take a look back at what we thought would happen this offseason and compare it to where the Colorado Rockies stand now. Today: third base. (Earlier offseason reviews: Catcher | 1B | 2B)
WHAT WE SAID THEN
Oct. 12, 2010: If Stewart had returned from his injury in September with the Rockies still in the pennant race, he would not have been handed his job. Mora had claimed it for the time being by producing good at-bats on a regular basis and generally making life difficult for opposing pitchers. That said, the Rockies have invested a lot of time and effort into developing Stewart, who at times shows glimpses of the tremendous power that could make him one of the most feared hitters in the league if he could harness his swing. The third-base job is likely his with Herrera or someone like Mora, Iannetta or a free agent like backing up him as well as at first base.
The Rockies did add Wigginton to do exactly what was expected, back up Stewart and third and Helton at first base. The team also added a number of players on minor-league contracts — Joe Crede, Eric Duncan and Matt Macri — to provide insurance more than competition for Stewart.
WHAT WE SAY NOW
No one on the Rockies roster has more to prove in 2011 than Stewart, who hit .256 with 18 home runs and 61 RBI in 2010 and is arbitration eligible for the first time as a Super Two player. Even the pressure , who arguably had a more disappointing season in 2010 than Stewart, is somewhat lessened by the fact that the Rockies have two promising catching prospects close to the majors. , the top third base prospect in the system, is a long way from the majors and may not stay at third base. The time is now for Stewart, who the Rockies selected 10th overall in the 2003 draft and is still just 26 years old. Stewart got off to a strong start in 2009 by hitting .293 with four home runs in April, but for much of the season he struggled at the plate as pitchers got ahead in the count and started beating him inside on called strikes. As is the case with Iannetta, the Rockies hope Stewart will benefit from the presence of new hitting coach Carney Lansford, who worked with Stewart in the minors.
Wigginton will see time against left-handers. Lopez and Herrera also could see some time depending on how second base and the bench shake out.
SPRING TRAINING, 2012
The Rockies hope there will be no questions at third base in 2012. But if Stewart doesn’t make significant offensive progress in 2011, this position could be the source of plenty of intrigue next offseason.