The Rockies have one of the best signings of the off season (Ramon Hernandez) and one of the worst (Michael Cuddyer) according to a position by position opinion piece by L.A. Times writer Mike DiGiovanna. While I think many would agree with his picks, DiGiovanna focuses a bit too much on cost and age, and not enough on contribution (or at least on the wrong aspects of contribution) to leave me feeling that it's any sort of authoritative piece on the matter.
After Thursday's post about the numbers of pitchers the Rockies have competing for rotation slots, one critical thought was that the sheer volume of arms wouldn't allow for enough innings to properly evaluate them during Spring training. Although I haven't seen anyone from the Rockies come out and say it, it's a dilemma not lost on most MLB organizations, as Boston manager Bobby Valentine puts it:
"You rely on your evaluators and you make sure you're not fooled by results," Valentine said last night. "You've got to understand what you're looking at, and then hope that the bright lights don't change anything. I think you can make a proper talent evaluation given seven weeks of spring training."
The Rockies have an advantage over the Red Sox and several other teams in that most of the pitchers that Colorado will be attempting to evaluate in these conditions have minor league options left, meaning they can hold them back at Salt River for just a little longer if necessary to be certain.
Frankly, it's much better to be in the position of having too many arms than not enough. It means that somebody has to step up and actualy reach their potential to get noticed. As the Rockies new elder statesman once put it to young Philadelphia Phillies pitchers:
"You know why I'm still pitching in the majors? Because none of you have taken my job. I invite every one of you to come take my job. That's the way this game works."
What Jamie Moyer's saying is that professional baseball's evolved over 130 years or so to allow true young talent to shine through when it's ready. There really aren't super star prospects that get blocked by veterans, but there are hyped mediocrities that aren't really ready for the Show.
The Rockies don't really need a Felipe Paulino, a pitcher that will only become good after released when the season's over and nothing matters, nothing's on the line to play for. They need a couple of pitchers that are clearly going to be assets from day one. The kind that can show enough separation from the pack in the short time given to be an obvious choice. If none of them are really capable of this, I don't know how much, if any, difference on the team's season will be made by making the wrong choices. It would be a case of having no cream to rise to the top.
It shouldn't surprise any Rockies fan to learn that the team has the most Venezuelans of any MLB team on the 40 man roster, with nine. I would say that eight of the nine (the suspended Eliézer Alfonzo being the exception) have a decent shot at breaking camp on the 25 man roster. Pitchers Edgmer Escalona and Guillermo Moscoso, and infielder Jonathan Herrera are on the bubble for bench or bottom of the rotation jobs, with Rafael Betancourt, Jhoulys Chacín, Ramón Hernández, Marco Scutaro and Carlos González being locks to make the team in prominent roles.
One more Venezuelan that could have had a job, but turned the Rockies down (link in Spanish) was Melvin Mora, who wishes to play for a team closer to his Maryland home. After Mora rejected the Rockies overtures, they turned their attention to Casey Blake to fill the same role as a place-holder to keep third base warm while Nolan Arenado develops. I bring this up because Mora is even more obviously a partial season fix, almost a back-up plan, than Blake is. I think a lot of Rockies fans are assuming that the third base job is Blake's to lose, but it might be more accurately stated that it's Arenado's to win.
Baseball America has put out it's early top 100 for the 2012 draft. With the Rockies having five picks in the top three rounds (#10, #46, #71, #102, #124) it's fairly likely that a few of these names might be in the organization within a few months. It should be pointed out, however, that two names, #90 Peter O'Brien and #95 Preston Tucker, already could have been in the organization had the Rockies been able to sign them after drafting them in 2011. That said, I'm still fairly convinced that it will turn out to be a mistake on O'Brien's part to turn down the Rockies, as his eligibility at Miami is still up in the air and with a slow start, he could easily get passed by prospects not currently on the national radar. With fairly rigid slotting rules now in place, he'll still get drafted, but likely get only as much or even less on the table than the Rockies offered last season and have a year of pro development get lost in the process.
The decision to re-enter may not work out for Tucker, either, but I'm actually much more sanguine on his prospects, and lean toward the opinion that in his case it was a mistake on the Rockies part not to reach out a little further.