Jack Etkin breaks down the Rockies recent non-roster invitees, with particular emphasis on Scott Podsednik, who seems the most likely outside of Glendon Rusch to see significant playing time with the MLB club. Right now, the odds seem fairly solid that Podsednik will be on the opening day roster as a fifth outfielder and backup center-fielder. Let's look at what that would imply for the rest of the roster. Right now, given the words of Dan O'Dowd and other club officials this winter, it seems the Rockies are leaning to this alignment for the starters:
LF: Seth Smith
CF: Ryan Spilborghs
RF: Brad Hawpe
There will be five position player bench roles if we assume that the team is going with a 12 man pitching staff. One will go to Yorvit Torrealba as the backup to Iannetta, and Omar Quintanilla seems to be the frontrunner for the middle infield defensive specialist role behind Tulo and Barmes. Jeff Baker will be a super utility player able to back up all four corners and second and add offensive pop. That would leave two spots, one the team seems inclined to give to Ian Stewart as a left handed version of the same Baker role (at least until Todd Helton proves healthy and the team decides it can trade Garrett Atkins) and the other would be a centerfielder to backup Spilborghs. If the Rockies were willing to sacrifice Carlos Gonzalez's development, he would be almost a perfect choice for that position. He's left handed, a plus defender in center with some speed and some serious pop. The problem, of course, is that if Gonzalez is able to work out some contact issues that are holding him back, his potential is so much more than fifth outfielder, backup centerfielder, so what the Podsednik signing makes clear is that the Rockies want to give Gonzalez every opportunity to rise to that level by honing his hitting at Colorado Springs.
That's the conservative path of least resistance the team has set up for itself heading into Spring, but it's not without issues. Adding Podsednik or Rusch to either the 40 man or active 25 man roster will require cutting somebody else loose, probably relief pitchers for both of them. One seems relatively easy to identify: Juan Morillo is out of options and seems to be in a boat similar to Ramon Ramirez was last season when the Rockies traded him to Kansas City for what turned out to be Jorge De La Rosa. Morillo, however, doesn't have the MLB resume that Ramirez did although he does have the best velocity in the majors on his fastball according to FanGraphs. Right now, I'm thinking the other would be either Ryan Speier or Steven Register, pitchers who don't have the velocity of others in our pen, but get by on craft. Register at this point seems the more likely, but Springtime always holds some surprises, and with Speier's MLB work, he may have more value in a trade for a prospect. I'm thinking the Rockies will want to keep Ryan Mattheus, because mixing solid velocity with decent command, he's got a higher upside than the other two.
Of course during ups and downs and twists and turns of the season, more pitchers than what you ever anticipate become needed. That's where signing guys like Belisle comes in, and he's a solid choice for depth. If we see any of the others it will mean something's gone horribly awry with the season, so let's hope it doesn't come to that with possibly the exceptions of the decent chance for Luis Gonzalez or Jonathan Herrera outplaying Quintanilla into that defensive backup slot.
One player who the Rockies had been grooming to be competition for that defensive utility position two or three years from now has a solid chance of being the Padres opening day starter, according to this report. The Padres have also been rumored to have strong interest in Omar Vizquel, who's old enough to be Everth Cabrera's father. Added to their recent acquisition of Chris Burke, bringing in Vizquel would significantly reduce the chances that they'd hold on to Cabrera, so that's what Rockies fans should probably be hoping for.
It's not often that baseball players from my home region of Northwestern Colorado get the attention of MLB scouts or Division I NCAA programs, so you'll have to forgive me for giving a shout out to Steamboat High pitcher Alex Wood, who recently drew some attention at the Pro Showcase Instructional League Baseball Camp in Denver. The big left hander seems to have been leaning to football as a walk-on at the next level, but if what those scouts were saying is true that with mechanical tuning he could get over 90 mph, than I'm going to have to agree with them in encouraging him to come over to the better sport.