While much of the Rockies' roster is set for opening day, there are a few position battles to watch closely as spring training moves forward. Positions of note include second base/utility infielder, backup catcher, third/fourth outfielder, and fifth starter. Here is a breakdown of each competition so far.
Second Base/Utility Infielder
D.J. LeMahieu has not started spring training strong, batting leadoff in a, "I hope Weiss is just having fun," managerial decision. With Josh Rutledge being slowed by an ankle sprain after going hitless in two at-bats though, second base still seems D.J.'s job to lose. Paul Jannish, known for his glove, has done well so far in his three appearances as well as Rosell Herrera, who will likely start the season in AA. Charlie Culberson is now listed as an outfielder, but his home run yesterday displays the most power of the candidates to fill the utility role if Rutledge is sent to AAA to get regular at-bats.
Jordan Pacheco not seeing playing time due to injury has at opened the door a little bit for other catching options this spring. Unfortunately, Matt McBride (2 for 9) and Michael McKenry (1 for 8) haven't done much at the plate in his absence. Ryan Casteel has shown some promise for the future, going four for seven with two doubles and a home run.
With his glove and salary, Drew Stubbs is likely to take one of these spots. So far this spring though, his bat is not easing fan's concerns about his ability to be an everyday player (1 for 8, 5 Ks). Corey Dickerson is attempting to lay claim to one spot, hitting .500 in fourteen plate appearances (2 doubles, 1 triple), but his inability to draw a walk makes him a question mark at the top of the order. Charlie Blackmon isn't nearly as exciting but has also done well, .286 average with three extra base hits, albeit without a walk as well. Brandon Barnes also does not have a walk, nor an extra base hit in fifteen at bats, but he is hitting .333 and has the only stolen base in the group. While understanding that the Rockies felt they had the depth at the position to trade Dexter Fowler, I am not sure any of the depth will be able to replace him in the lineup.
While many Rockies fans have bad memories of Franklin Morales starting in his previous stint with Colorado, he was strong in his first two starts this week. He has allowed two walks and four hits in five innings pitched while striking out six and not allowing an earned run. Juan Nicasio is seeking to ensure his spot and make Morales merely an insurance policy. So far, so good for Juan on that front as he debuted yesterday without allowing an earned run in three innings with four strikeouts. Jordan Lyles and Christian Friedrich were not particularly strong in their spring training debuts and look to improve their next times out. As for the young hurlers, it is a mixed bag so far with Jon Gray getting two strikeouts while allowing no runs but three base runners in two innings and Eddie Butler getting tagged for two runs on one hit and two walks in three innings.
It has only been one week of spring training but it is never too early as fans to be watching these battles shape up. In just over three weeks this team will be playing games that matter and how these players do over that time will determine who Walt Weiss takes with him to Miami for that opening series.