The Colorado Rockies closed out the 2012 season with a glutton of decent-to-mediocre options at third base, a position that had yet to be nailed down by anyone in particular. They also felt the need to add depth at first base, which had been manned by a revolving door of players -- none of whom were great options heading into 2013 mostly because of a poorly-constructed bench -- while Todd Helton was injured last season.
Enter Ryan Wheeler.
Having just turned 24 years old, the Rockies acquired the Loyola Marymount alum from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for relief pitcher Matt Reynolds on Nov. 20, 2012. I liked the move at the time; Wheeler hit .351/.388/.572 for Triple-A Reno in 2012, but perhaps more impressively, posted a .294/.358/.465 line as an age-appropriate 22-year-old in Double-A.
Unfortunately for the Rockies and Wheeler, he was unable to beat out stalwarts such as Chris Nelson, Jonathan Herrera and Jordan Pacheco -- as well as newcomer Reid Brignac -- for a spot on the opening day roster and landed back in Triple-A.
Sandwiched in between another impressive offensive showing in the Pacific Coast League, Wheeler wound up serving a couple of stints with the Rockies. Upon being called up in April, Wheeler had one hit in nine plate appearances spanning six games before being sent back down to Colorado Springs. There, he put up a .306/.351/.463 campaign before making his way back to the Rockies in late-August.
Wheeler was never able to make his mark with the big club, finishing with a .220/.238/.268 line in 42 plate appearances, leading to a -0.7 fWAR and -0.8 rWAR. In all fairness, he didn't get much of an opportunity for regular playing time, as Helton's body held up to a degree throughout the year and Nolan Arenado emerged as the everyday third baseman.
Arguably Wheeler's greatest contribution to the Rockies was a two-run single in a 6-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals during the team's final homestand of the season.
Grade with the Rockies: D
I can't fault Wheeler too much, as he wasn't given consistent at-bats. However, part of being an MLB-caliber player is making the most of one's opportunities, and that simply didn't happen, especially when the Rockies needed some type of offensive contribution while still in contention during Wheeler's stint early in the season.
|2013 - Ryan Wheeler||28||41||1||9||2||0||0||7||1||10||0||0||.220||.238||.268|
Wheeler's future with the Rockies could be, at least in some way, dependent on whether or not the team goes after an impact bat to place in either right field or at first base. Either way, with the breakout performances of Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson, Wheeler won't be anything more than a bench option next season, and will likely spend the majority of the year in Colorado Springs.