Happy April Fools' Day Purple Row! At this traditional time of trickery, news is typically taken with a grain of salt. What I report to you this morning, however, is no joke or prank. It is however, a bit of a monster Rockpile. The big news of the day is the Colorado Rockies' moving toward finalizing the 25 man active roster that they will be utilizing on Opening Day this year. Tracy Ringolsby has his own positional roster breakdown.
The most surprising announcements were that Dexter Fowler had played his way onto the roster and that Franklin Morales would begin the season with the Rockies--slotted to start Colorado's third game, against the Diamondbacks next Wednesday the 8th. Fowler was certainly excited:
"When they called me into the office, I didn't know what was going on," Fowler said. "And when they told me, I almost started crying."
Morales and Fowler Analysis
To a degree, both Morales and Fowler being included on the roster is quite a surprise and a risk for the Rockies. From Renck:
Hurdle said after one time through the rotation he will decide whether Morales will return to Triple-A Colorado Springs to remain on his regular rest, or stay with the Rockies.
My personal opinion on the matter is that Morales will probably be well served by keeping his regular rest, while one of Colorado's many AAA pitchers will be glad of the two week stint in the majors. Morales has shown a great deal of promise this spring and in the past, but it remains to be seen if he can sustain his excellence over a long period of time. If he can secure the fifth starter spot for the entire year, the Rockies will be in a pretty good position.
As for Fowler skipping AAA entirely to join the big club, that decision is much more complex and inherently risky to me--not to mention that it runs counter to the Rockies' recent modus operandi, Troy Tulowitzki notwithstanding. While Fowler is at 23 years old the Rockies best prospect and is definitely one of the Rockies' best 25 players, he will likely sit on the bench for the early part of the season. That will mean missing potential developmental time in AAA and not a lot of game action early on. Or, if he does crack the starting lineup sooner rather than later, Fowler will likely send promising LF Seth Smith to the bench. And that's just the risk from a baseball standpoint.
I can get behind getting the Rockies' best 25 on the roster (though Matt Murton should be on it in place of Omar Quintanilla were that to be true), but it's the financial risk of this decision that bothers me in particular. As I've stated in my salary arbitration column, as soon as players become arbitration eligible, they get prohibitively expensive for teams (averaging a 120% raise)--more so if, as I hope from Fowler, the young players are developing into stars. With last September's call-up and this year's Opening Day roster nod, Fowler will be in line for Super Two arbitration status a full year earlier than he would have otherwise been (after the 2011 season rather than after 2012)--becoming eligible for a big raise very early. So it makes little sense for the Rockies to waste Dexter's valuable pre-arbitration service time with him on the bench--unless they're looking to go the Tulowitzki route and sign Fowler to a long-term deal early on. Other teams in the Rockies' position have chosen to send down prospects like Matt Wieters and David Price to avoid such an occurrence in the near future.
In any case, despite my reservations about the move's baseball and financial implications, I can't help but be excited at Fowler's long-term potential and ability to help the Rockies win now. It's an aggressive move that shows the Rockies are looking to win now while developing Fowler on the fly. If he's anywhere near as good as Tulo was his rookie year, Hurdle and O'Dowd will be vindicated in their decision. I can only hope that this is the case.
Here is Troy Renck's take on the Fowler decision, agreeing with it but wondering as I have as to what will happen with Seth Smith.
Roster layout and more analysis after the jump...
As a result of these roster decisions, Scott Podsednik (and his wife), Dan Ortmeier, Sal Fasano, and Jonathan Herrera were reassigned--though Podsednik and Fasano have the ability to opt out of his contract on Friday. Ortmeier signed a minor-league deal without an opt-out clause and thus will begin the year in AAA. Christian Colonel will also likely be optioned to AAA in the coming days.
That leaves the Rockies with 26 players in major league camp and 25 slots to fill on the roster, with the only big decisions remaining being closer (Clint Hurdle is reportedly leaning toward Huston Street over Manuel Corpas) and the last man in the bullpen (out-of-options Juan Morillo or minor-league-deal Matt Belisle). Morillo should be the one to survive the last cut and get a two month audition for a bullpen job until Taylor Buchholz returns from injury.
Here is what the Rockies' 25 man roster will most likely look like next Monday, Opening Day against the Diamondbacks:
RH Aaron Cook
RH Ubaldo Jimenez
LH Franklin Morales
RH Jason Marquis
LH Jorge De La Rosa
RH Huston Street
RH Manny Corpas
RH Ryan Speier
RH Jason Grilli
LH Alan Embree
LH Glendon Rusch
RH Juan Morillo
Fielders (B/T), * = projected bench player
Chris Iannetta (R/R)
Yorvit Torrealba (R/R)*
1B Todd Helton (L/L)
2B Clint Barmes (R/R)
3B Garrett Atkins (R/R)
SS Troy Tulowitzki (R/R)
1B-2B-3B-LF-RF Jeff Baker (R/R)*
2B-3B-LF-RF Ian Stewart (L/R)*
2B-SS-3B Omar Quintanilla (L/R)*
LF Seth Smith (L/L)
CF Ryan Spilborghs (R/R)
RF Brad Hawpe (L/L)
OF Dexter Fowler (S/R)*
It looks like a pretty good roster to me, with excellent balance--though team speed is probably a little lacking. The Rockies' pitching, as is usually the case, will determine just how good the club can be this year--especially Jorge de la Rosa and Franklin Morales. If they shine, the Rockies will be contenders.
Other Rockies Links:
Jack Etkin makes a list of underappreciated great individual seasons by some lesser-known Rockies.
Cross the Houston Astros off the list of potential Jeff Baker suitors and potentially add the Cincinnati Reds, who traded utilityman Jeff Keppinger to Houston for a PTBNL. With the roster announcements today, I don't believe that Baker will be traded. His versatility and right-handed bat fit in perfectly with our roster as it stands, and I for one am glad he appears to be staying.