Holiday 40-man roster breakdown: outfield

Rob Tringali

Though the outfield contains a relatively small number of players for us to discuss, the arrangement of them on the opening day roster is going to be a subject of much speculative debate until we start seeing players actually on the field in the Spring. The outfield crew seemed pretty set after the Dexter Fowler trade, but with the acquisition of Drew Stubbs earlier in the month, at least one of those players seems likely to be sent down for at least the start of the season. Who will it be?

Well, two players we know will be unaffected by the roster alteration are Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer, who will remain occupying two of the three outfield spots on most days, though Cuddyer could easily be seeing extra time at first base if Justin Morneau is platooned. Whether or not we see Gonzalez move to center field is like dependent on the team's plans for Drew Stubbs, an interesting mystery that I have plenty to say about.

Stubbs' presence on the roster now creates a bit of a logjam between several outfielders on the periphery. Each of Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon and Brandon Barnes has good arguments for and against getting one of the remaining bench spots. All three players can still be to optioned to the minors freely, as can Stubbs, though his leadoff skillset, arbitration salary and comparably large MLB experience makes it pretty unlikely he'll be the odd man out of his own presence. Let's break down the case for each of the three other players.

One thing I feel pretty strongly about Stubbs is that despite his platoon profile, he's probably going to be starting a lot more games than people think. I know that Troy Renck said that he sees Stubbs more as a fourth outfielder, and you don't have to tell me how attractive the idea of having a "counter-lefty" lineup with these guys, but Stubbs is the most clear "typical leadoff guy" in the mix right now, and even if he's not starting every day, it's probably going to be a lot more than just one quarter of the time too.

If Stubbs is indeed going to be at least a pseudo-starter, the guy it hurts most is Corey Dickerson. Between Dickerson, Blackmon and Barnes, Dickerson is the youngest, has the highest upside and is probably the best candidate to be considered a legitimate starter. On the other side of the same coin, it also means he makes the most sense in terms of continuing to develop in the minors. I am still concerned about the chance that Dickerson's meteoric ascent through the minors was so spectacular in part because he was never exposed to a level long enough to fail, and I still think a massive step backwards in production is a possibility. Dickerson profiles better as a starter, and would likely maintain more value to us were he starting every day for the Sky Sox than playing off the bench for the Rockies.

With that said, if the team's plan IS to use Stubbs in a more limited capacity, Dickerson is the most obvious choice to keep so he can start all of those games, shifting the choice to Blackmon and Barnes. Dickerson is the better defender, while Blackmon is better at the plate. Blackmon is a lefty, Barnes hits from the right. Both are of a similar age and have comparable experience. It is my belief that should the team hang on to Dickerson, it is the assembly of the rest of the bench that may make the difference. If Ryan Wheeler makes the roster as the 25th man, Barnes may have the edge as an extra righty. Same goes for Blackmon if Charlie Culberson finds his way into the mix, though I still believe Culberson is the least likely bench candidate to make the club.

All of this could change in an instant based on Spring performance, which will likely be the key to sorting out which players fit where. So while each of us has an opinion about what should/is most likely to occur, I encourage everyone to keep in mind that with this set of players, we won't know anything for sure until we see these players take the field in February.

The final two names to cover are Kyle Parker and Kent Matthes, both of whom were added t the roster as Rule 5 protectees. Parker is being included here with the outfielders largely because with the Justin Morneau signing, Parker's emergency transition to first base is a lot less immediately relevant, and we will likely see Parker get time at both first base and the outfield this year with the Sky Sox, as his next most relevant role system-wise is a Michael Cuddyer replacement candidate should he not be extended this season.

Matthes, who had already been eligible for the draft once, was a bit of a surprise addition, but it made sense at the time due to the system's over-abundance of lefty relievers. With Stubbs and Barnes now in play, Matthes' spot became redundant. The Rockies usually like to keep their November additions on the roster for at least half a season before moving on, but Matthes might still be first in line to get cut at this point if another 40-man spot is needed. Assuming he's still here by the end of Spring, he will join Parker on the Sky Sox.

Outfield Breakdown:

Signed
- Michael Cuddyer, $10.5M, free agent after 2014 (Gen. 5 Protection)
- Carlos Gonzalez, $10.5M, signed through 2017 (Gen. 5 Protection)

Arbitration
- Drew Stubbs, salary projected at $3.8M (3 options remain)

Pre-Arbitration
- Brandon Barnes (3 options remain)
- Charlie Blackmon (1 option remains)
- Corey Dickerson (3 options remain, 2013 was never burned)
- Kent Matthes (3 options remain)
- Kyle Parker (3 options remain)

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