As draft day rolls ever closer, we here at Purple Row are examining the organization's depth at various positions. That way we can see where the team is strong, where it's weak, and where it can improve. Today we focus on the corner infield.
Major League Level
Nolan Arenado, 3B
You might have heard of this guy. He runs like the kids from Scooby Doo, but can still make every play hit in the general vicinity of third base. Add in his breakout offensive year (.314/.338/.518) and Arenado looks to be cruising towards his first All Star berth. And he's only 23 years old, pre-arbitration. The Rockies appear to be set at third base for a long, long time. Also, 26 game hitting streaks are cool.
Both these guys can play third, though Arenado has yet to miss an inning in 2014. Should he ever need to, LeMahieu and Culberson are competent fill ins, though DJ has no power and Culberson is nothing more than a utility guy.
Justin Morneau, 1B
Colorado's big off season signing was met with a fair amount of skepticism--does he have anything left in the tank after two lousy years? Can he hit lefties? Shouldn't Michael Cuddyer shift to first? The early returns on Morneau have been nothing but positive. Morneau's .336/.356/.600 line earned him some Player of the Month buzz. His defense and scooping ability have been top notch, another key factor for this Rockies team. He has even hit lefties so far, something he had been struggling with mightily the last two years (.830 OPS this year). At $6.5 million for 2014 and 2015, Colorado might have gotten a steal on Morneau's services.
Honorable Mentions: Michael Cuddyer, Jordan Pacheco
These two will log some innings at first as well, though in Pacheco's case hopefully not many. Cuddyer is a 35 year old righty who won a batting title in 2013. When he comes back from the disabled list he will likely spell Morneau against tough lefties.
Triple A Colorado Springs
Kyle Parker, 1B/LF
Parker is probably the most interesting corner guy in triple-A, due to his draft pedigree (first round 2010) and power potential. Parker has blasted 20+ homers in each Minor League stop the past three years. He's hitting well again this year, putting up a .306/.377/.574 line with five homers. He still gets most of his innings in left field, but with the Rockies' current logjam in the outfield, his best chance of cracking the roster is probably at first (though it's kind of crowded there too...).
Ryan Wheeler, 1b/3B
The big corner infielder is struggling a bit in Colorado Springs, hitting .238/.275/.386. The lefty got some time at the big club this year (and hit a homer), but he's mostly injury depth at this point. Still, he has pretty consistently put up OPS numbers above .800 in his Minor League career, making him a quality depth piece.
Honorable Mention: Ben Paulsen, 1B. 26 years old, 1.017 OPS
Double A Tulsa
Harold Riggins, 1B
Riggins never gets too much press among Rockies prospects, but he has never failed to hit. His current line for the Drillers is .329/.395/.521 with three homers to his name. He's 24 years old and may never have big home run power (though he did swat 22 last year), but he's still an interesting player. He was selected in the seventh round of the 2011 draft.
Single A Asheville
Ryan McMahon, 3B
The 2013 draft is shaping up quite nicely for the Rockies so far with Jon Gray, the first pick, looking like a future stud, and Ryan McMahon, the second rounder, playing exceptionally as well. Just 19 years old, McMahon already has 20 professional home runs, including nine in the early going this year. His .273/.373/.626 line indicates good patience and great power. Asheville is known for its short porch in right field, but six of McMahon's homers have come on the road.
McMahon is starting to get some love nationally, and is rocketing up both Rockies prospect lists and could crack the top 100 next year. He's the best third base prospect in the system. Obviously Arenado isn't going anywhere for a while, but McMahon has at least two more years of seasoning ahead of him, so there's no point in worrying about Nolan blocking him until it actually becomes a problem.