Wednesday Rockpile: Will Colorado Once Again Have Black Holes in the Lineup?

Chris Nelson: Freed. Is this a good thing?

The news that Colorado had released veteran 3B Casey Blake outright wasn't surprising given Blake's neck pain and the roster bonus due him (he still gets $491,000 for a month's work), but it was a little disheartening for those of us who had hoped for some league average performance at the hot corner.

Yes, the barriers to entry for super-prospect Nolan Arenado have once again been lowered, but the Rockies clearly don't believe he's ready for the Show yet. Instead, they'll be relying on a combination of former 1st rounder (and home stealer) Chris Nelson and former 2B then former C Jordan Pacheco at the hot corner. As much as I've argued for consistent playing time for Nelson in the past, this is hardly an encouraging development.

Dan Szymborski's ZIPS projection system projects Nelson and Pacheco as mediocre options in a major league role, with Nelson getting the edge in offensive projection (79 OPS+ vs. 73 for Pacheco). Of the two, Pacheco seems to be more polished offensively with Nelson getting the edge on defense, but Nelson has always been the more touted prospect given his exceptionally quick wrists and power potential. There's a non-zero chance (more likely in Nelson's case) that either proves to be a competent player at the hot corner, but I'm not holding my breath.

Both men will be eager to prove themselves -- and let's be clear, the bar was not set very high last year. Rockies third basemen hit a combined .222/.281/.348 (78 sOPS+) last season, which is horrendous (22% below a league average 3B). Now, according to ZIPS the Rockies should be expecting similar production from the position this year. But if all goes poorly, Rockies fans could be crying out to Arenado for salvation very soon.

Fowler Struggling in Spring

Spring doesn't matter. Spring doesn't matter. Spring doesn't matter. It looks like Rockies management has taken that mantra to heart in the case of Dexter Fowler, who has hit .106 so far in Cactus League play thus far. If that's indicative of his regular season performance (and if he can't find his form, it very well could be), we would have multiple black holes in the lineup yet again -- but I don't foresee Fowler being an issue in 2012.

In fact, I'm expecting big things from Fowler this year, so while this start has been a little discouraging, I'm a huge proponent of not projecting performance of practice games into the regular season, and it looks like the Rockies agree in Fowler's case.

Off-Topic.

Dodgers Get Liberated from McCourt

The big news in MLB last night was the Dodgers being sold for the crazy price of $2 billion to a group whose frontman is Magic Johnson. And that $2 billion only buys half of the parking lots (supervillain Frank McCourt will retain half)!

Obviously, if the deal passes bankruptcy court approval the Dodgers will be getting owners with some deep pockets, and that's bad news for the Rockies and the rest of the NL West. The Dodgers should have been a superpower over the last decade but haven't been due to mismanagement by McCourt and others, but with the amount of money they're bringing in we could have a Yankees West situation.

Maury Brown writes for Baseball Prospectus about the problems with Forbes valuations of MLB teams. In the case of the Dodgers' sale, Forbes had given LA a projection of $1.4 billion in value -- underestimating the sale price by about 43%.

Other Relevant Links

Grant Brisbee of Baseball Nation has put together an entertaining 2012 Rockies preview. He's not exactly crowning them the champions of baseball (that's my job anyway), but some encouraging stuff is certainly there.

Veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez is making quite an impression on the Rockies' young pitching staff.

Rob Neyer of SB Nation writes about groundball pitchers and how Jhoulys Chacin is a pitcher to watch.

The 2012 regular season has an official game in the books, with the Mariners getting a 3-1 win over the Athletics.

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