Friday Rockpile: Backing Up Hernandez

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 06: Catcher Wilin Rosario #12 of the Colorado Rockies plays defense against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field on September 6, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Since the Rockies' inception, there have been many a persona of the man backstopping the team. There's been the consummate veteran (Joe Girardi), the "No, seriously, I've still got it!" (Jeff Reed), the Awesome Name (Jayhawk Owens), the "We're paying him, we might as well play him" (Charlie Johnson), and the ever Controversial Chris Iannetta. Only a few of them ever gave us strong seasons (Jeff Reed for example, maybe even a little Miguel Olivo and Charlie Johnson). They were generally sound fielders (you know, like Danny Ardoin). The backups were often hard to distinguish from the starters, especially with the concept that Coors Field catchers are like 100-115 game players, tops.

While he'll likely cap out at around 90 games, Ramon Hernandez is kind of the "duh" candidate for starting C in 2012. While Hernandez caught 133 games as recently as 2008, he peaked at 97 in 2010, and I can't see him at more than 90 in 2012. So this brings up the next best question: who, exactly, will be backing up Mr. Hernandez in the upcoming season?

Now, the obvious choice is Wilin Rosario, hot prospect and starter down the stretch in 2011. Rosario thus far has been equipped with a cannon on his shoulder, simply prodigious power in his bat, and the ability to block a ball in the dirt of Dan Cloutier. Rosario put up a frankly poor season in AA Tulsa, .249/.285/.457 with 21 HR. The homers were pretty impressive, but that slash line really leaves a lot to be desired. Furthermore, and this part is kind of interesting to me, but Rosario's work ethic has been questioned, which may or may not put his future in jeopardy.

Off Topic

Jordan Pacheco is also an option. He caught his whole way through the minors since just after Rookie Casper. As it stands, he's slated as a competitor in the Corner-Utility discussion along with Brandon Wood and Brendan Harris. His ability to play the Catcher position is going to add that extra versatility (so we can use one of the Catchers as a PH). Really though, I see him as a utility guy at this point, and I don't think the organization is going to push too hard to strictly move him back to Catcher.

The other guys in the conversation at all include Lars Davis, Wil Nieves, and Wilkin Castillo. They're non-roster invitees to Major League camp, and much of the reason for that is the sheer number of extra pitchers coming to camp and the need to have somebody catch the balls they are throwing. It is conceivable that any of these catchers COULD take time away from Rosario as the backup/1B, it'd likely be in the event of injury or demotion.

The way I see it, this offseason's theme has been "Don't disappoint us as a starter or high-leverage relief pitcher or we'll trade you for some form of cost controlled pitching". Rosario has recently been disappointing, and it's questionable to see how well he responds as a backup. That might be dependent on how well Hernandez holds up in the early going. (For all of you hockey fans out there, I can't help but see this as somewhat of a Jiggy/Varly situation - not verbatim, obviously, but there are parallels). Ideally, Rosario is stealing the starting role from Hernandez in mid-August and never looking back. But only time will tell as far as that goes.

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