Mar. 7, 2012; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Colorado Rockies players line up during the national anthem prior to the spring training game against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE
I'm not talking about the rookie league (and now defunct) Casper Ghosts, either, but the painful memories of disappointing performances from players the Rockies and their fans expected so much more from. Earlier this week, we learned of Ubaldo Jimenez's desire to be traded before last season even started (SB Nation's Dan Lucero has an article summing up the feelings of betrayal that come with this revelation,) while today it's Ian Stewart's turn to take some of the focus. Troy Renck writes that Stewart could still be with the Rockies had Nolan Arenado not shown that he's close to MLB ready while playing in the AFL.
While the off season wound up working out for them anyway, that the Rockies would have kept Stewart but dealt Chris Iannetta and Seth Smith this past winter shows that the team scouts still could be getting HR happy in player evaluation to the exclusion of other offensive skills. At any rate, Arenado will be a more complete offensive player while not sacrificing much on defense. Arenado's path to the majors this Spring remains a bit of a long shot, as the team likely won't cut Casey Blake to add him without a clear separation between the two. Arenado would have to be considerably better than Blake right now, and while that might be true shortly, it's going to be highly unlikely to be discerned in the limited time that Spring Training will give the team to evaluate the players.
The two linked Denver Post articles do give a sample of the difference in the level of "passion" in Stewart and Arenado. Stewart equates his situation with the Rockies to that of a bored NFL coach, while Arenado, in the words of teammate Kent Matthes, is "a perfectionist. It's nothing for him to take 300 swings off the tee every day..." I actually do hope that Stewart does well with the Cubs, but I think the change of organizations was necessary for both the Rockies and Stewart if he's going to get to that level where an MLB team would be comfortable paying him a starting 3B salary. Arenado, on the other hand, seems to have the self-motivation to get there himself.
Speaking of players getting rejuvenated with a new organization, the Rockies Michael Cuddyer seems like he may have been in the process of burning out in his situation in Minnesota, as the team he developed with had largely dispersed already and the 99 loss Twins didn't look likely to have a quick turnaround on the horizon. He instead heads to an 89 loss team that he and Rockies fans hope does have that quick turnaround forthcoming in 2012. Cuddyer describes a Twins team in terms that Dan O'Dowd has used to describe last year's Rockies:
"It bugs you, sure. Not just the errors but the mental mistakes. Guys being too comfortable, not being prepared," he said. "There was a little bit of a divide - kind of a divided clubhouse..,"
More links after the jump...
Angels ace Jered Weaver threw to Chris Iannetta and immediately pined for the days of Jeff Mathis. Weaver went on to backtrack and praise his new teammate, CDI, but the cat was definitely let out of the bag there. Iannetta's work with Rockies pitchers might not have been a major drawback, but it certainly didn't add enough to his perceived value within the organization to make him a player the team wanted to keep past 2012.
Christian Friedrich has been under the tutelage of Cliff Lee this off season, while there's no reason to expect Friedrich to become another Lee, the lessons certainly couldn't hurt the Rockies prospect. That said, what a breakout for Friedrich provides the Rockies is "depth and options" in AAA according to the article. A positive sign of a turnaround for 2012 is that starting pitching, which so dogged the Rockies in 2011, is now so deep that Friedrich might actually have to become another Lee to draw notice.
Arenado and Chad Bettis drew the attention of Stockton Ports radio announcer Zack Bayrouty. The voice of the A's affiliate says that Arenado will be helping the Rockies sooner rather than later. The praise for the 3B as a future impact MLB player is near universal from people who saw him last season, whether affiliated with the Rockies or not.