Blackmon, Brothers lead rookies to watch this spring

February 10, 2011 | 7:51 am | 13  

The Colorado Rockies have only one rookie — left-handed reliever Matt Reynolds — nearly guaranteed a roster spot this spring. But a number of other rookies could force their way onto the Opening Day roster or be key contributors this season. A few to watch this spring:

Charlie Blackmon, outfielder: The Rockies’ second-round pick in 2008 is likely to start the season at Triple-A, but he will get a long look in spring training after a solid 2010 at Double-A and a good Arizona Fall League. Has some speed and pop. His defense fits better in left in the majors, but he could also play center.

Rex Brothers, left-handed pitcher: With Brothers closing in on the majors, the Rockies didn’t go after a left-handed reliever in the offseason and extended a non-roster invitation to their 2009 supplemental first-rounder. A good candidate to make his major-league debut at some point this season and a disappointing spring by Franklin Morales could force a quick change in plans.

Christian Friedrich, left-handed pitcher: After a disappointing and injury-plagued 2010, the 2008 first-rounder hopes to return to the fast track and make his major-league debut at some point in 2011 to put him in line to compete for a regular spot in the rotation in 2012. Also a non-roster invitee.

Chris Nelson, infielder: Will be in the mix for the starting job at second base and could also win a utility role, but he’s most likely to open the season at Triple-A if he doesn’t win a regular job. A potential late-bloomer, the 2004 first-rounder could surprise this spring.

Casey Weathers, right-handed pitcher: After struggling to find consistency last season on his way back from Tommy John surgery, the Rockies hope their 2007 first-round pick makes progress this season. Where he starts the season will likely depend on how good a spring he has.

Jordan Pacheco, catcher: His ability to play some infield — he was drafted as a second baseman and played some first base in the Arizona Fall League — could put him in a position to surprise this spring and claim a utility role. He’s likely to open the season at Double-A, but is one of the better candidates to force a change in the Rockies’ plans.

Wilin Rosario, catcher: Whether he starts the season in Triple-A or in extended spring training could determine whether he makes his major-league debut this season. The Rockies’ top position player prospect has lived up to challenges throughout his minor-league career and the Rockies hope he does so again and picks up where he left off last summer.

Bruce Billings, right-handed pitcher: Converted to the bullpen last season where his arsenal profiles better than it did as a starter. Likely to start the season at Triple-A, but could be one of the first in line for a recall with a strong spring.

Edgmer Escalona, right-handed pitcher: Made his major-league debut last season with five appearances for the Rockies. Got a small vote of confidence when the Rockies kept him and elected to designate Samuel Deduno for assignment to make room for Clay Mortenson.Will be in the mix for one of the last bullpen spots this spring.

Adam Jorgenson, right-handed pitcher: Reached Double-A last year and had a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League. Received a non-roster invitation to spring training.

Mike McKenry, catcher: After making his major-league debut last September he will be in the mix for he backup catching job behind Iannetta. With Rosario and Pacheco coming up behind him, McKenry needs a big spring to define his role.

Cole Garner, outfielder: A candidate for the final spot off the bench as a fifth outfielder. Whether he wins it will depend on his spring and how the Rockies plan to use Ty Wigginton.

Thomas Field, infielder/Ben Paulsen, first base/Tim Wheeler, outfielder: Three players expected to move from high Class-A Modesto to Double-A Tulsa this year received non-roster invitations. The Rockies need solid position player prospects in the upper levels of the system and strong springs against major-leaguers from these three would be a boost.

13 Comments »

  • EdtheUmp | February 10, 2011 | 11:02 am

    Steve…for what it’s worth, my “source” said the probable loss of Michael Young(it’s all but dead, but the possibility hasn’t stopped breathing yet) opens the door wide for Chris Nelson. I’m predicting that he makes the roster if he has a productive spring.

    Additionally, I’m looking at Matt Lindstrom to slide into the closer role IF Houston Street falters. I think the “Apodaca influence” will work wonders for Lindstrom who has electric stuff and has proven he can command the strike zone when healthy.

    The sunshine is not far away now…both weather-wise and baseball-wise.

    For the Young-for-Young rumor posters from a while ago…yup I owe you a brewskie in Scottsdale.

  • ProgMatinee | February 10, 2011 | 1:38 pm

    I don’t think you owe us anything, Ed. Your source seemed pretty much on the money, even if the deal never closed.

    You generated a lot of fun speculation for us all, maybe except for Dustin ;).

    I’m weary about how many infielders can make this club, especially if Giambi makes it.

    I would really love to see either Nelson, Lopez, EYJ and Herrera all come in and just kill it during the spring to give the team a hard choice and possibly an option to trade one of them for a pitcher.

  • Karl | February 10, 2011 | 2:38 pm

    Ed, you were right in the beginning and perhaps now too. Well done. Gave everyone an opinion and you stuck your ground. Was fun to read through and comment on.

    As for the rookies, the next 6-7 weeks will be exciting. Very nice problem to have to try to figure out whom will be on the roster and not looking for extra non-mlb ready players filling out the last couple of spots. I think for many of these guys, will have more benefit to be playing at AA or AAA. Without known number of at bats, harder for rookie to sit the bench mainly and have to gear up in crucial situations. Nelson did it briefly last year, but I think it comes down to him or Herrera this spring for the 25th spot. I hold to the fact that Giambi (24th spot btw) was the 3rd highest producer of rbi’s per at bat behind CarGo and Tulo last year and I think he puts more fear into the opposing pitcher this year than say the SU player that could be the 25th man. Yes he is our Matt Stairs player, but I would rather have him there to get on base and let pitchers like Cook run for him as needed.

  • Wayne | February 10, 2011 | 4:26 pm

    Ed, I agree with Prog and Karl, you gave us all some great entertainment and the rumor seemed to be spot on. I think it is us that owe you a beer for getting us through part of the winter.

    I want Nelson to kick butt this spring and make this team. I am not an EY2 fan, unless he learns to get on base more consistently, then he brings a dynamic to the team (he needs to learn to do that in the Springs). I do like Herrera but feel that Nelson has more pop and upside.

    Would like to see Friedrich have a great spring, go down to the minors, but we would all know that he is very close.

    It is staying lighter out longer. It’s almost here. :)

  • Rich M | February 11, 2011 | 7:58 am

    I am torn about trying to get to some spring training games. Would really like to but not sure I can make the time to get it done. However that said it is us (and that other site) that owe you Ed. Your source and rumor were spot on – thanks!

    As I mentioned earlier I now believe that Nelson is the better option than M Young. Provides a litlle better speed and defense(?), while doing it without the financial obligations and cost in players that comes with M Young.

    It is a lot to ask Nelson to be the two hole hitter right away, however I like the way his skill set fits that slot in the long term. Really not a big J Lopez fan, but we will see how that plays out soon enough. Low average, low OBP, and average defense – other than a little power there’s not much to get me excited here.

  • ProgMatinee | February 11, 2011 | 8:52 am

    This is outside the box, but would Iannetta make a good 2 hole hitter. With his patience at the plate, combined with Cargo behind him, he would get good pitches to hit. Otherwise, he draws a walk and allows Cargo to hit with runners on. His speed isn’t ideal for the position, but he’s not as slow as Helton is. His average isn’t ideal for the 2 spot, but his OBP is not bad.

  • Trip | February 11, 2011 | 2:43 pm

    Prog,
    Interesting thought. I like it. Would be worth watching in ST.

    As to EdTheUmp, I disagree, he promised us beers, I think he needs to pay up…..

    hahahahahaha

    Just kidding Ed, it was fun speculating.

  • billkaz | February 12, 2011 | 8:19 am

    Hey all, new to ITR. Seems like a great group of Rox fans. Also, hard to beat Tracy, Steve and Jack as sources! Nice to be here.

    I live in the Phoenix area, so I’m glad they’re moving up north to Talking Stick. I’ll be there as often as I can. Former sports writer myself…

    Going into the spring, I’m really hopeful Chris Nelson will shine because I think he has real upside as an everyday 2B. Nice combination of speed, defense and pop, and that steal of home last September, that was just off the hook.

    Otherwise, I’ve never had the chance to watch Rex Brothers pitch. I’m hoping he can save me from further late-inning Franklin Morales-induced nausea.

    Bill

  • rockymountainhigh | February 12, 2011 | 12:43 pm

    For the first time in the franchise history, we have more or less have a 25-man roster set on paper. No holes to fill on the run during ST. In reality, ST training usually turns out a surprise or two every year like clock work.

    I think the best odds for surprises to make the Opening Day roster:

    Chris Nelson at 2B while Jose Lopez plays the role of Olivo/Torrealba of yesteryears. If Nelson goes Jason Nix on us, Lopez will step in. Jim Tracy might gamble and go without a true backup SS (by not keeping Hererra around) and let Nelson play maybe 5 to 10 games at SS.

    Rex Brothers makes the squad if Morales continues to throw all over the place. It is very doable since we have plenty of veterans (Street, Betancourt, Belisle, Lindstrom) to take the pressure off Matt Reynolds and Brothers.

    Blackmon might make it if Giambi decides to hang up his cleats.

    Jordan Pacheco if he outperforms Jose Morales.

    In summary, my order of odds (from best to worse) of making the 25-man squad is Nelson, Pacheco, Brothers, and Blackmon.

    Prog, good line of thinking regarding the 2 hole slot. In my mind, I’ve already slotted Helton there. He’s perfect there since he knows how to be patient allowing Fowler time to swipe a bag. Plus he has gap to gap power with a high OBP.

  • Matt | February 12, 2011 | 1:01 pm

    Just curious why Blackmon makes the team over Garner, when Garner already has a spot on the 40 man? Is it just that Blackmon will beat everyone else out?

  • Steve Foster | February 12, 2011 | 1:07 pm

    Both Garner and Blackmon are candidates to make the team and actually Garner probably has a better shot for the reason you mention, Matt. But Blackmon has more upside which is why I note he’s someone to watch.

  • rockymountainhigh | February 12, 2011 | 7:30 pm

    After some more thinking, is there a chance Jordan Pacheco makes the team as a second baseman if all 2B candidates bumble through spring training? Pacheco was drafted as a 2B-man in the first place. Pacheco would be very versatile off the bench that Jim Tracy loves – he has played C, 1B, and 2B.

    Another possibility – I noticed that Ianetta played a little first base the final two weeks of the season last year; is that a preclude to giving Ianetta some work at 1B or even 3B?

    It looks more and more like Ty Wigginton will have a big influence on how the roster sets up; will he play nearly every day and move around the field or will he spend more time on the bench than in the lineup?

  • Steve Foster | February 12, 2011 | 10:13 pm

    On Pacheco, the Rockies moved him away from second because they didn’t feel he could handle the position in the majors. For now he remains a catcher, but his ability to handle other positions could put him in line to be a utility player who gets 400+ at-bats at various positions. But he won’t be in the mix for the second-base job.

    On Iannetta, the Rockies moved him around a bit late last season to get him some more at-bats. But now that he’s expected to be the everyday catcher, he probably won’t see time at first or third unless he falters as the starting catcher or Rosario or Pacheco move a faster than expected and vie for major-league at-bats this season.

    On Wigginton, I expect him to get 400+ at-bats playing first, third and corner outfield spots, maybe second depending on what else happens at the position.