At long last, just five days before camp begins for the organizational pitchers and catchers, the Rockies have announced the 24 players that will be joining the 40 players on the MLB roster to compete for major league spots. Among them are eight players making their debuts with the Rockies organization.
Headlining the list in terms of career resume is 41 year old pitcher Miguel Batista, signed to a minor league contract this offseason. The right-hander has worked regularly in both a starting and relief role throughout a twenty-plus year major league career. He has pitched at the major league level with 13 different teams and has reached the level every year since 1996. His streak may be broken this year, as unless there is an unexpected opening for a bullpen hybrid role, there is no clear path to the majors for Batista. As he filed for MLB free agency last year, Batista will cost the Rockies an extra $100k if he pitches in the minors, making him a likely release candidate if no roster spot is available.
Chris Volstad is another name new to the Rockies this season, signed after being cut from the Chicago Cubs after a very rough 2012. The former Marlins prospect was likely a personal pickup on behalf of Mark Wiley, the Rockies new Director of Pitching Operations, who worked with the Marlins during Volstad's ascension to the majors. He represents the most likely NRI to crack the opening day roster, as he will be competing for a starting rotation spot with the likes of Christian Friedrich, Tyler Chatwood and Drew Pomeranz, all of whom can easily be stashed in the minors if needed.
Other pitchers new to the Rockies this year are right handed reliever Logan Kensing, a six year MLB veteran who hasn't reached the majors since 2009, and Erick Threets, a hard throwing lefty who has seen his MLB time limited due to control issues. Right-handers Jeff Manship and Mike McClendon, both of whom have limited but recent MLB experience, represent interesting options for the organization. The two pitchers are former starters who have worked in long relief situations, and may find themselves in hybrid roles, particularly if the practice is adopted at AAA Colorado Springs this year.
Three position players will be making their Rockies debuts at MLB camp this spring. Catcher Gustavo Molina, who has had a Paul Phillips-style career of third-string organizational catching for the past five years, will contend for a catching spot somewhere in the upper tiers of the system, an area that his cluttered with competition over the past few weeks. Former Astros shortstop prospect Tommy Manzella seems the favorite to occupy the position with the Sky Sox this year, particularly if Josh Rutledge is playing second base for the Rockies. Finally, the Rockies welcome first baseman Henry Wrigley, a 26 year old career minor league first baseman and outfielder out of the Rays system, looking for a chance to catch onto the system's first base depth chart.
A pair of familiar faces will be returning to the club this year. Catcher Yorvit Torrealba and right handed reliever and former closer Manny Corpas, both of whom played prominent roles in the two most important seasons of the past decade in Rockies history, return to compete for outside shots at the MLB team. Corpas has an uphill battle due to the one-inning reliever spots already being spoken for, but Torrealba could have a chance, particularly if Ramon Hernandez is traded out of camp and Jordan Pacheco's time at catcher fails to impress. Among other familar faces returning to camp this year will be Matt McBride, who made his MLB debut with the Rockies last year before being outrighted from the roster during the offseason. McBride re-signed with the team and will compete for first base and outfield time with the Sky Sox.
Twelve Rockies minor-leaguers will also be joining MLB camp this year. Former first round picks Nolan Arenado and Chad Bettis, both of whom suffered career setbacks last year for differing reasons, look to prove themselves in the eyes of the organization early. Both players represent potential midseason callups for the club.and Tyler Anderson will be making their first trips to MLB camp with the team. Top prospects
Longtime organizational catchers Lars Davis and Jose Gonzalez (who has re-signed with the club for the second straight season out of MiLB free agency this year) add to the mandatory large amount of catching depth present during Spring Training. The two join starters Parker Frazier and Nick Schmidt as NRIs that will be due to leave the organization via minor league free agency after the 2013 season. First baseman Ben Paulsen makes a return, now a frequenter of the MLB camp for three straight seasons, with right handed pitcher Dan Houston and outfielders Corey Dickerson and Kent Matthes wrapping up the list.
The final list of players features no significant surprises. The most notable player left off the list is likely 2009 first rounder Tyler Matzek, but this decision seems easily justifiable based upon the pitcher's continued developmental struggles. I speculated that perhaps we would see other notable but soon to be free agent names such as Cory Riordan or Joey Williamson included, but there was no need to include them with the amount of pitchers of that type already invited. Look for those two to make cameo appearances in games with short rosters.