There have been a slew of articles in the Denver dailies about a few of the Rockies young outfielders over the last few days so I think it might be a good time to delve into some of the Springtime battles there.
Choo Freeman and Cory Sullivan have each come to camp with a little extra this year, Freeman with extra practice with outfield coach Dave Collins and Sullivan with twenty-two more pounds. In addition, Brad Hawpe enters camp with added expectations, according to the Post's Troy Renck. The outfield mix was already heavy with Jorge Piedra and free agent Eli Marrero, as well as Ryan Shealy and Jeff Baker who are both trying to prove capable of switching positions.
With the starting three of Matt Holliday, Sullivan and Hawpe, pretty much locked into place, the question comes down to how many back-ups the Rockies plan to leave camp with and who among the rest have the best shot of being there. On offense, Shealy is hands down the best of the question marks and in fact is better at the plate than at least two of the three starters (Holliday being the only likely exception) but he's probably the least capable defender. Freeman has the athletic ability to cover and since the Rockies don't have any other options to back up Sullivan in center I think I would have had to give him an early edge if he hadn't been so ineffective in the majors in the past. In all, I'm not buying the Freeman renaissance story and still like Jorge Piedra better -even with his limited range- but I can see how management would shy away from having three lefty outfielders.
The wild card here is Eli Marrero, who can no longer catch very effectively (he has played a grand total of six games behind the plate in the last three seasons) and who doesn't hit enough or cover enough ground any more to play outfield at Coors, but who management has latched onto like some talismanic utility totem. With Atlanta two years ago I will admit he was very good in the outfield and at the plate and maybe everybody seeing him all the time on the Superstation has blinded them to the fact that he's a career .245/.302/.410 hitter over nine seasons. If we decide to keep Marrero coming out of camp in April, I am telling you right now it will be a mistake. My five would be Holliday, Hawpe, Sullivan, Piedra and then Shealy for a big bat off the bench (check out the community projection of Shealy at Beyond the Box Score). Baker will probably wind up being trade fodder this year and Freeman I see as likely to be cut outright. Ryan Spilborghs has a shot at sneaking in, though, if somebody gets injured or just doesn't measure up, so don't count him out just yet.
Anyway, that's my take, the rest of the mix in the outfield will pretty much be rubes we don't really need to concern ourselves with, so I move on.