2013 Colorado Rockies bench position player review, Part 1

Doug Pensinger

Colorado's bench was terrible in 2013. How terrible? Perennial 25th man/Purple Row punching bag Jonathan Herrera was arguably the most valuable player among the pure bench players.

On the offensive side of the ball, one of the most direct areas that a manager can generate success is with the building and using of his bench. This success can manifest itself in an individual game, by having the right match up in a late inning, close game. The success can be long term if you have players that can fill-in offensively and in the field adequately enough to give starters a day off occasionally to remain healthy.

In today's and tomorrow's articles I look at who filled the bench for the Rockies in 2013, how they did in the job, how the Rockies' bench compared to the rest of the National League, and what these means for the team in 2014.

Bench Needs:

There are certain prerequisites for the group of four to five players that make up a team's bench. One of them will obviously be a back-up catcher. There also needs to be a bat from each side of the plate that can be used to pinch hit in the National League. Most teams also like to have a base stealing threat while also having an infield glove man and defensive outfielder to help keep late-inning leads.

Any one player that can meet all of these like to haves is probably a starter, so it falls on the manager and the front office to mix and match the players to have to meet as many of these goals as required. There can also be team specific needs, such as a platoon player if a team has a hitter with bad left/right splits or a back-up to an aging starter that is designated to start 30-40 percent of the time.

My ideal bench would include at least two left handed batters and two right handed batters. It would have a capable back-up catcher and at least one infielder and outfielder that was a positive defensively with one of the players being a base stealing threat. It would have a mixture of experience and youth with at least one known clutch batter in the mold of John Vander Wal, Seth Smith, or pre-2012 Jason Giambi. With all of that said, let us look at what the Rockies brought from their bench in 2013 and how their bench ranked compared to the league.

2013 Rockies Bench

The Rockies started the season with two switch hitters, one each left and right handed hitter, and a capable back-up catcher in the right handed hitting Yorvit Torrealba. Unfortunately, other than the aging Torrealba and the light-hitting Johnny 'Scrappy' Herrera, the bench didn't have anyone with more than a year of MLB experience.

Reid Brignac, Eric Young Jr., and Jordan Pacheco all brought good effort but also flaws in their game that kept them from being great contributors. Brignac didn't make it past the 15th of May with the team while EY Jr. was traded to the Mets a month later. While the other three stayed with the team, Pacheco did spend eighteen games with Colorado Springs trying to regain his ability to hit for average.

If you have been paying attention to the Purple Row postseason reviews, you know that of the 43 players ranked, these five finished 43rd (Jordan Pacheco), 42nd (Eric Young), 33rd (Yorvit Torrealba), 31st (Reid Brignac), and 19th (Johnny Herrera), in terms of rWAR. Brignac would have been worse if given more time to add to his -0.5 that he earned in a month and a half, while Scrappy was the only one of the five to record a positive number. Here is how they graded out overall, offensively, and defensively.

Name Off rWAR Def rWAR Total rWAR
Pacheco -0.6 -1.3 -1.6
Young -1.3 -0.4 -1.5
Torrealba 0.4 -0.6 -0.5
Brignac -0.4 -0.1 -0.5
Herrera 0.4 0.2 0.3

With the lack of success from this original non-starting five, the team sought to mix and match throughout the year with various players in the system. Ryan Wheeler (39th, -0.8 rWAR) was the first bench player to join the team when Todd Helton went on the DL with an injury at the end of April. He left after two weeks and Charlie Blackmon (14th, 0.8 rWAR) was the next player up when Michael Cuddyer went down to injury. DJ LeMahieu came up to replace Brignac before becoming a starter and making Josh Rutledge (34th, -0.6 rWAR) a bench player.

The team and fan base got their first taste of Dickmania in June as Corey Dickerson (15th, 0.7 rWAR) and Blackmon took turns with the big league team due to injuries. Many fans were confounded with Tyler Colvin (41st, -1.0 rWAR) not being on the team out of spring training but his stint with the team showed why we should have some faith in the coaches' ability to grade talent and ability.

In all, the Rockies used eleven players in bench roles with Blackmon and Dickerson being two that still count as reserves although they had significant playing time as starters. These eleven, with links to their Purple Row reviews are listed in the below chart.

Name Games Off rWAR Def rWAR Total rWAR
Jordan Pacheco 95 -0.6 -1.3 -1.6
Eric Young Jr. 57 -1.3 -0.4 -1.5
Yorvit Torrealba 61 0.4 -0.6 -0.5
Reid Brignac 29 -0.4 -0.1 -0.5
Johnny Herrera 81 0.4 0.2 0.3
Charlie Blackmon 82 1.3 -0.7 0.8
Charlie Culberson 47 0.0 -0.6 -0.4
Corey Dickerson 69 0.8 -0.2 0.7
Josh Rutledge 88 0.5 -0.8 -0.6
Tyler Colvin 27 -0.6 -0.4 -1.0
Ryan Wheeler 28 -0.4 -0.5 -0.8

Analysis

There is not a lot that is positive in these numbers, but the good thing is that the 2013 season allowed the Rockies to find out what they had in several young players. The team elected to let Young, Brignac (twice), and Colvin go with Torrealba not likely to return as well. Meanwhile, Herrera, Blackmon, and Dickerson appear able to provide positive contributions in 2014 and Pacheco may be given another chance despite his limitations. Whether Culberson or Wheeler have a future with the team remains to be seen.

As compared to what I called an ideal bench earlier in the article, the Rockies had the versatility in hitters from both sides of the plate and always had some speed available off the bench. However, defense was an issue for everyone except Herrera and there was not an experienced pinch hitter that could be relied upon in clutch situations. I had hoped that Xavier Nady could be this player when he was signed at the end of June but this never panned out. This is an area that I hope is addressed for 2014.

Obviously, with only two players graded by Purple Row Staffers above a 'C', the bench has room for improvement. Stop by tomorrow's article to see how the Rockies bench compared to other National League teams in 2013 and what we can look forward to from the bench in 2014.

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