The Rockies Organization: Post-2010 - Position Players

There will be no Rowbot Radio today, so instead, I'll bring you this monstrosity I've been working on for the past week. I was going to write this as a Fan Post, but Russ went ahead and told me to main page it.

The purpose of this post (which I was given permission to put on the front page here) is to lay out in one place all of the contractual situations, conditions and properties of those players that figure to be the major players in each of the Rockies positions over the next year, and further.

As you all know by now, I am not a fan of making predictions about inherently unpredictable things. As a result, I'm not going to try and predict trades, free agent signings, injuries or any such things, only discuss their possibilities in how they can be used to shape the team in the upcoming months and years, not how I think they necessarily will.

Each position is broken down by the current organizational players that have the most important effects upon the position at this point. Things will change, and as they do, I may reconstruct these reports every once in a while. Much of this information is more than common knowledge, but it serves to break down just where we stand when it comes to each of these players, organized here at one central point.

This report does not focus on every prospect considered to be potentially valuable. This only covers the more advanced players contractually, mostly those who are already on the roster, have been on a roster, or could be added to the roster this season, plus a few spare parts we have floating around AAA. Thus, for example, there is no mention of Kiel Roling, Nolan Arenado, etc, as their situations are not particularly notable coming out of 2010 or going into 2011.

Please offer any thoughts and/or opinions in the comments, as my interpretation of these issues is only one such perspective. This is how I am looking at these players right now, not necessarily how anyone else is.

If you guys want a pitchers edition, I can probably create that sometime. This is going to be incredibly long, so I have hidden the entirety of the post behind the jump. Follow me there.

CATCHER

Major Players:
- Miguel Olivo (Primary catcher, MLB)
- Chris Iannetta (Backup catcher, MLB)
- Michael McKenry (Catcher, AAA)
- Paul Phillips (Catcher, AAA)
- Wilin Rosario (Catcher, AA)
- Jordan Pacheco (Catcher, A+)

The Rockies almost certainly have more depth at the catcher position than they have ever had. With three legitimate prospects in McKenry, Rosario, and Pacheco looking to receive some sort of significant promotion in the near future (by 2011 at the latest), the depth is juicy, but also expansive, and as it will be shown in the upcoming discussion, it may be a threat to our roster space.

But let's start at the MLB level. Going into 2010, most of us felt Miguel Olivo was a one year bridge between Yorvit Torrealba and another backup catcher, perhaps Michael McKenry to play behind Iannetta in 2011. It's safe to say at this point that Olivo has more than surpassed expectations, and is well on his way to earning another year with the Rockies.

Miguel Olivo has an optional year on his contract lined up for 2011, which is worth $2.5 million. Cot's Contracts lists the option as a club option, but the option can change depending on the number of games he plays, which is unspecified. The nature of this clause was likely to give Olivo more power in the decision if he became the starting catcher, which for the time being he has, so I think it's likely that this alteration occurs. While Olivo may have control of his own fate, I think it's likely that as long as he continues to be treated well by the Rockies, and they continue to have success, he will agree to his end of the option. He has had nothing but a positive effect on the team so far, he fits in well, and he seems to be pleased with it as well. The fact that the option is so cheap is helpful as well. If for any reason the option is declined by the team or Olivo, he leaves for free agency.

Chris Iannetta was purchased from the minors in late 2006, and optioned down for the first time in mid 2007 after hitting some doldrums, much like he was earlier this year. With those two notched out, Iannetta still has one option year left, meaning he can play in the minors should we need him to in 2011. He signed a 3 year contract last offseason, ensuring that he would garner $2.55 million, just a hair more than Olivo's optional salary. This complicates Iannetta's situation quite a lot. If Olivo is picked up to be the starting catcher in 2011, Iannetta will be making more money as a backup. If Iannetta picks it up over the rest of the season, a 2011 platoon is also not out of the question. The salary, however, does indicate we probably won't be sending Iannetta down to the minors long term. With so much depth coming up in the system, which I will discuss below, trading Chris Iannetta this off season is not without potential merits. Hopefully we will not have to sell too low if that is the case.

Paul Phillips, who cleared waivers and accepted assignment to AAA after being designated for assignment earlier this year, will be due once again for minor league free agency after 2010 ends. This is Phillips' second year in the Rockies organization, and after 2009, he declared free agency, only to re-sign with us days later. It may seem somewhat pointless to consider Phillips taking up another AAA spot in 2011, but there are a few things going for him. First, he as twice now served adequately at the MLB level for a short period of time where our MLB catching depth was depleted for one reason or another, and secondly, he seems to have had a very positive influence on our young pitchers, including Jhoulys Chacin and Esmil Rogers. Practically his entire career has been spent in the third string catcher role, so he's not going to be upset without a promotion. Whether or not he re-signs with the organization depends a lot on how many between the others we end up keeping. If it's all of them, Phillips is probably squeezed out.

Michael McKenry was added to the 40 Man Roster this off season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. His first option year was used this Spring, meaning 2013 is when he is earlier obligated onto the MLB roster. He profiles more as a backup catcher than anything right now, which expectations that he should be defensively solid and offensively adequate (keeping in mind we won't know for sure if he's better or worse than this until we see him; no predictions here, move along, move along). He's ticketed most likely for AAA if we keep both Olivo and Iannetta, and will be a possibility for the backup catcher if we don't. He also represents a trade possibility, as it would be counterproductive for both McKenry and Rosario to be playing in AAA together, unless they're okay with favoring Rosario.

Wilin Rosario will be added to the 40 Man Roster this offseason to protect him from Rule 5. He's likely to start next season at the AAA level. Adding him pre-2011 makes his MLB option cutoff date 2014. He is less likely to be a trade candidate than Iannetta or McKenry unless a serious trade chip is needed for something specific.

Jordan Pacheco is in a similar position to Rosario. He's had a fantastic year at Modesto so far, and will move up to Tulsa next season at the latest (if Rosario wasn't in Tulsa, he may be there now). He also figures to be added to the 40 Man Roster for Rule 5 protection this December.

Conclusion: When it comes to roster space, having five catchers on the roster might be a bit of a squeeze. Olivo has a good chance of staying here, while Iannetta's comparable salary as a backup would be frustrating. One of Iannetta and McKenry may be traded if Olivo stays.

 

FIRST BASE

Major Players:
- Todd Helton (First Baseman, MLB)
- Jason Giambi (Backup First Baseman, MLB)
- Brad Eldred (First Baseman, AAA)
- Mike Paulk (Utility IF, AAA)

Todd Helton saved us a lot of money this off season, by cutting what would have been a nearly $20 million dollar salary for 2011 into closer to $11 million, plus reductions further down the line. However, Helton was also set to be off the books completely after 2011, with 2012 being an optional year. Now, Helton is signed (albeit for very small ~$5 million salaries) through 2013. With the way he's performed this year, Helton on the team for that long is concerning. His defense and OBP still shine. 1B is not normally known as a defensive position, but the trope of having power corner IFs is meaningless when you have power at SS and C like we do. Helton can survive on this team. He just needs to stop hitting third.

Jason Giambi will be leaving via free agency, and it's incredibly unlikely he returns. Oh wait, that's what we all said last year. There are a lot of flaws to having Giambi on the team. He's not doing a great job in the pinch, is a significant defensive downgrade from Helton, and tightens the roster significantly. Common sense from a forward thinking, team building perspective suggests quite clearly that adding him for another year would be boneheaded. That said, he's had a positive impact on the players (at least, we think he has, and so do they), and having Giambi backing up Helton once a week or so has actually, at least recently, worked about as well as it could be expected to. There are worse options out there, but there should be better ones. There are no organizational tools that really jump out as a key backup 1B right now. For this roster spot, they are most likely to skip over Giambi, and look within the free agent market for someone who cal play more positions and is younger and better on defense to fill it.

Brad Eldred joined the team as a minor league free agent signing this year, and has caught fire at AAA. Having signed a traditional one year minor league deal, Eldred can depart the organization after this season. The closest drafted 1B depth is at AA in Kiel Roling, who is not Rule 5 eligible yet, and therefore will be out of the roster equation. Depending on whether or not Roling is determined to be ready for AAA (which he may or may not be, don't know at this point), Eldred would not make a bad return minor league signing. There is a slim but possible chance Eldred is added to the roster in September, but he's not a priority on that list. He can play the OF as well as 1B, so he wouldn't be tightening the roster as much as Giambi. The right handed power bat off the bench is attractive, but he's not a proven player.

Mike Paulk wouldn't be in the discussion at all if he weren't Rule 5 eligible. Really, he still shouldn't be in the discussion. He's become a kind of Christian Colonel 2.0, who would only ever hit the majors as a utility man, and only if there were no one better around. In the organization, Paulk is probably the best we have in that department, but looking outside the organization, as stated above, is a much more likely avenue for finding. Like ELdred, he plays 1B and corner OF. Paulk is definitely not going to be added to the roster for protection, probably not going to be claimed, and may repeat next year at AAA as utility. If Eldred leaves and Roling stays at Tulsa, he could be given a chance at 1B regularly.

Conclusion: Helton will stay at 1B for the time being, but the organization needs to look beyond Giambi, Eldred, Paulk, and others in the organization for a backup in 2011. Brad Hawpe could once again be considered a possibility, but as you will see in the outfield section, his future with the organization is uncertain.

 

SECOND BASE

Major Players:
- Clint Barmes (Second Baseman, MLB)
- Eric Young Jr. (Second Baseman/Outfielder, MLB Disabled List)
- Kazuo Matsui (Second Baseman, AAA)
- Chris Nelson (Infielder, AAA)
- Jonathan Herrera (Infielder, MLB)
- Omar Quintanilla (Inflielder)
- Hector Gomez (Shortstop, MiLB Disabled List)

I'm getting chills of fear just thinking about this position. Since the original Eric Young, second base has been a rotating pit of mediocrity in the organization. Looking over the last few years, our starting second basemen have included Luis Gonzalez, Jayson Nix, Jeff Baker, and even for a short time, Ian Stewart.

Clint Barmes will not go away. At least not on his own accord. After spending most of the 2007 season in the minors, Barmes will be held back from graduating to free agency, and will one again be entering 2011 under team control with arbitration eligibility. Barmes was able to keep his job in 2009 thanks to a pleasantly surprising power surge, and of course, his generally potent defensive contributions. Barmes's performance in both areas has diminished, though not vanished by any means. Defensively, Barmes is still by far the best healthy option at the position, and is riding the wave of improved defense along with the rest of the team after the slow start in that area. The problem is that he still hasn't done anything to justify playing him every day as a starting second baseman. Organizational depth at the position is both voluptuous and dry at the same time, and Barmes has benefited from external factors more than anything, and the decision on whether or not he starts at second in 2011 will likely once again fall into hands other than his own. And let's face it, that's a good thing for him, because were other options available, he'd not be there anymore.

Eric Young Jr. is an outfielder to many in the organization, but his natural position is second base, just like his father. There is something to be said about the idea of having the next generation EY come and usurp the position back from the pit of suck, and he is an easy fan favorite for winning a starting job there. Young offensively profiles as a rather generic leadoff hitter, with a great deal of speed and not a lot more. Defensively, he has struggled, but there is room for improvement. The thing most standing in the way of an EY2 starting job is the desire to turn him into a more versatile player, likely headed for utility duty, though as we all know, his skills in the outfield need more than just a little development. It's become a paradox: without the OF, EY can't be much of a utility player, but with it, he can't focus on trying to bring himself to be a full fledged second baseman. If Clint Barmes continues at this pace, he'll definitely be considered for the starting job next year, though if Clint returns to 2009 standards (which, while not a lot, are passable 8 hole contribution), he's likely spend another year in the minors, hopefully having committed to improve his positional play wherever they put him. Young was added to the roster last year, and has used his second option this year, making 2012 his decision time year.

Kazuo Matsui, as of now, means almost absolutely nothing. There's no reason organizationally to have him here again next year, and the only reason he's even considered a possibility to see time with us is that it's Clint Barmes who would be replaced. Any other position, and Kaz wouldn't even be considered. He's not had a lot of time to settle in after having been signed to a minor league contract after release from the Astros, but he's not done much yet. For the moment, he only enters into this discussion as a possible option at the position going forward. Until we see otherwise, he's going to spend the rest of the season at AAA, barring depth emergency, and will be allowed to move on his way as a minor league free agent after the season. The only reason to sign him back would if the circumstances allow him to make him have a comeback at the MLB level some time this season.

Chris Nelson is the closest prospect to being an MLB second baseman in the organization past Eric Young Jr. At the AAA level, Nelson is still mostly a shortstop as he has been his entire career, but with Troy Tulowitzki in the way, he's been seeing more time at second base this year. Added to the roster last year, Nelson has one remaining option year, giving him until 2012 to be ready to go. Nelson's career has been plagued with injury. A former number one pick, he's not yet to be considered damaged goods, but his development has been more than slowed by this. Repeating AAA is more than likely.

Jonathan Herrera has been called up to take over utility duties while Dexter Fowler works things out. Having supposedly developed some outfield capabilities (which we have not yet had a chance to really see), Herrera does have more utility potential than EY2 at this point, as he can at the very least play 2B, SS, and 3B sufficiently. I like the idea of Herrera as a utilityman, though his roster status is a bit unclear. Herrera was first added to the roster upon callup in 2008, and was optioned down after Tulowitzki and Barmes were back to full health. After the season, he was outrighted from the roster, and went back to the minor leagues. He was off the roster until purchased on May 31 of this year. By what I can figure, he should have only burned the one option in 2008, but it has been reported that the organization believes him to be out of options. Unless there is some rule regarding option years and being outrighted from a roster, then he should still have two left, and I believe it was just a misrepresentation of his status. So Herrera either has two options, or zero. Big difference, I know. If he truly is somehow out of options, he may remain on the roster here for an extended period. If he is somehow removed, he can become a minor league free agent at the end of the season, even if he agrees to return to the minors for the rest of the year, and isn't a waiver claim.

Omar Quintanilla has been surpassed on the utility IF depth chart by Herrera. He's spent nearly all of the season injured, having just come back off the DL recently. Like Herrera, he doesn't figure deeply into the starting second base arena simply through profiling. If he's not on the roster by the end of the year, he will be eligible for minor league free agency after the season.

Hector Gomez is hurt once again, and has been most of the season. He was added to the roster last year, putting him in the same deadline generation as Young Jr. and Nelson, only a level behind them both. Gomez profiles as the most impressive of these three, but the farthest away. Injuries have lowered his value, and 2012 may not be enough time to get him here. His future is uncertain, and he has not yet begun the transition to second base, meaning the organization may intend to develop him and then trade him as a shortstop, but it's too early to tell. There's a lot of development ahead at the very least.

Conclusion: Second base is unclear at this point, with an under performing starter, slowed prospects, and several players more oriented towards utility play. If Barmes is at last deemed unfit to start, seeing a move to utility for him in favor of a free agent may occur.

 

SHORTSTOP

Major Players:
- Troy Tulowitzki (Shortstop, MLB)

Troy Tulowitzki is really the only relevant party here. In 2011, he'll be making $5.5 million, a $2 million raise from this season. Tulowitzki has never been optioned to the minors, and would be able to be if the need were to somehow arise. Chris Nelson and Hector Gomez, shortstop prospects, are no threat to displacing him at this point, and one or both are likely to be converted to econd base this year or next. Herrera and Quintanilla, as well as Barmes, can play shortstop out of a utility position.

Conclusion: Solidified with Tulowitzki, any utility infielder named above can back him up at this post. That's all that is needed.

 

THIRD BASE

Major Players:
- Ian Stewart (Third Baseman, MLB)
- Melvin Mora (Utility, MLB)
- Travis Metcalf (Third Baseman, AAA)

Ian Stewart is not likely to lose this position over the next year and two thirds. He will not have enough service time after this year to be guaranteed arbitration eligibility, but it is still almost a certainty that he will be the only player on the team qualifying for Super 2 Status, so he's due a pay raise. On a downswing now, his performance the rest of the season will likely dictate if they sign him to a small contract through his arbitration years like with Tulowitzki or Iannetta, or handle him year by year like Barmes. Stewart was a 2007 September callup, was optioned in 2008, and was not in 2009. He can be optioned down if needed.

Melvin Mora has disappointed this season after having been (foolishly, I may add) hired to be a utility player. With Jonathan Herrera joining the team, at this point Mora is little more than a backup third baseman, occasional backup first baseman, and a right handed bat off the bench. Mora will depart as a free agent this season, and there is little reason for us to bring him back. Defensively week for the most part, his only main positive has been his right handedness, but he's still not getting much pinch hitting opportunity. He's making $1.275, which is on the upper edge of releasable if need be earlier than the end of the season.

Travis Metcalf is our fill in AAA third baseman. Signed as a minor league free agent this offseason, Metcalf can leave and become the same after the season is over. He has not made as much of an impression as Eldred has at first base, and it seems less likely he'll be courted to come back and play again. He's having an average year with the Sky Sox. He is pretty much exclusively a 3B, and doesn't leave a lot of room for utility potential.

Conclusion: Stewart seems pretty set as our third baseman through the near future. Much like Tulowitzki's case, all we need in 2011 is a utility player that can handle 3B. Herrera, Quintanilla, and Barmes all have experience at 3B.

 

OUTFIELD

Major Players:
- Carlos Gonzalez (Outfield, MLB)
- Seth Smith (Outfield, MLB)
- Brad Hawpe (Right Field, MLB)
- Ryan Spilborghs: (Utility Outfield, MLB)
- Dexter Fowler (Outfield, AAA)
- Matt Miller (Corner Outfield, AAA)
- Cole Garner (Outfield, AAA)
- Chris Frey (Outfield, AAA)
- Jay Payton (OF, AAA)

Carlos Gonzalez is currently starting in center field, but can hold the every day duties at any one of the outfield spots. Where he starts in 2011 will depend on what happens to the other outfielders, but his bat will be in the lineup, probably at either leadoff or third as often as possible. After this season, he will be past his second full year of service time, but will most likely not qualify for Super 2 status, meaning he should be under full team control and minimum salary eligible for 2011. An option year is left if necessary. He'll probably be the right fielder if Hawpe leaves.

Seth Smith has taken over left field duties for now. He profiles best there, and will probably return there in 2011 unless Gonzalez, Fowler, and Hawpe are all determined to be starters, in which SMith would return to the fourth OF spot. He can, however, play any of the OF positions if needed, including center, though he's probably behind at least three other players there on the depth chart. Smith is a little closer than Gonzalez to qualifying for Super 2 status, but Ian Stewart is still the only Rockie who figures to. Smith currently has two option years left if needed.

Brad Hawpe is once again the big question mark to how the 2011 outfield is aligned. With an expensive $10 million option, Hawpe's time with the Rockies will probably be coming to a close, barring some kind of amazing second two thirds of this season that raises his value significantly. Hawpe may be taking the Pat Burrell route, being signed by an AL team to DH due to poor OF defensive capabilities. Hawpe's arm would be going to waste, but most seem to be in agreement that the arm itself doesn't counterweight the lack of range. Because he's free agent bound if the option is declined as it likely will be, we'd have to re-sign him for lower to get him back. His potential as a backup first baseman is itneresting, but we probably won't get a chance to see it now.

Ryan Spilborghs is guaranteed $1.95 million next season. He is likely to remain is essentially the same capacity, a fifth outfielder that is well liked in the clubhouse and can be serviceable all three outfield spots. He cannot be optioned, and will therefore make the team regardless as long as he is able. He's not likely to win a starting outfield job unless Dexter Fowler falls off track again.

Dexter Fowler may be down in AAA for now, but I think it's pretty likely he returns to the CF role for 2011. He's done well in AAA so far. We all agree he still has some mechanical issues to get over, and it's still possible (though no hints have been made yet) that they'll dump him as a switch hitter by then. However, this was only Fowler's first option year, meaning he can be sent down in 2011 and 2012 at least, if he needs more development. However, a loss of Fowler to the minors would likely require the signing of a free agent starting outfielder, as Spilborghs probably isn't a better option for start in CF or RF.

Matt Miller is in his final guaranteed organizational year, and can depart as a free agent after this season. Miller is mostly a corner outfielder, who despite success at every MiLB level, has never gotten the chance to show his stuff at the MLB level, and probably won't. He doesn't figure to be added to the roster, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him give another organization a go, one where he has a better shot of making it.

Cole Garner is a bit more impressive than Miller, and has similarly been quietly Rule 5 eligible the past few years, and judging from his draft date in 2003, will also be eligible for minor league free agency. it is more likely Garner is added to the roster for a September callup, though not necessarily a certainty. If he is, and there's room, he may be kept on board as outfield insurance if the above depth simply isn't enough for all five MLB spots.

Chris Frey is a AAA outfielder who will be Rule 5 eligible this off season. He will almost certainly not be protected, and is simply included here as AAA depth. He will probably repeat AAA again, or be released.

Jay Payton will, of course, be eligible for minor league free agency. There is really no reason at all to re-sign him. He's been doing well at AAA, and some people have been sounding off that he may be a minor league trade candidate this year. I'd be surprised if we traded him to a team somewhere, but it'd be cool if we could.

 

If there are any other players you want conditional information on, let me know in the comments, and I'll add them to the post.

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