The Rockies have a dilemma on their hands at second base, writes Rotographs' Mike Podhorzer, as the team enters the 2014 season with a pair of viable candidates for the position in DJ LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge .
Podhorzer believes that Rutledge's superior offensive ceiling and decent performance -- 15 home runs and 19 stolen bases -- over what amounts to a full season's worth of plate appearances makes him a worthy starter. Of course, that's ignoring what LeMahieu's glove does for the team (though, to Podhorzer's credit, he does mention that in the piece).
The Rockies need strong gloves in the infield, and with the exception of newly signed first baseman Justin Morneau, that's exactly what they'll be returning. Make no mistake about it: the presence of LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton were a huge reason why Colorado had three starting pitchers post ERAs under 4.00. Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood are probably already due for some regression, and removing DJLM's glove in favor of that of Rutledge will only make that blow more considerable. Proof of that can be found in comparing the duo's defensive metrics:
Total fielding runs above average at 2B, career
LeMahieu has logged a lot more innings at second, sure, but his glove has been exponentially better. Rutledge is an even worse defender at shortstop, which poses a whole different problem if (when?) Tulowitzki lands on the disabled list, but that's a discussion for a different day.
Fantasy baseball and real baseball are two completely different things. Sure, Rutledge has a chance to be a pretty good hitter one day, but as far as who is a better fit to contribute to this version of the Colorado Rockies -- as well as future versions that will have potentially dominant starting pitchers who need nothing less than to have a bunch of undependable gloves behind them -- I'll take LeMahieu's glove any day of the week, even if that means dealing with a sub-.700 OPS at the plate.
All indications point to the Rockies sharing that belief.