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2011 Rockies Player Reviews: The Backup Infielders (Herrera, Nelson, Kouzmanoff)

When the season began, the Rockies hadn't officially declared a starter for the 2B position. There was Jonathan Herrera, the slappy hot streak hitter and solid glove man up the middle. There was Chris Nelson, the underperforming 1st round pick who couldn't seem to stay healthy OR effective. Jose Lopez was traded for, and everyone was hoping that his line drive hitting ways would reappear in Coors Field and we'd have a youngish 40+ double a year hitter.

There was a gigantic debate over who should be the Rockies starting 2B. Not nearly as bad as the infamous Catcher Wars, but they weren't much fun.

Lopez "won" the job out of Spring Training by batting .224 with no distinguishable power to speak of. Herrera held up his end of the bargain, posting nearly a 1.000 OPS, fueled by a .371 AVG.

Herrera made the Rockies regret not making him the starter by posting a 127 wRC+ (27% above average) during the month of April. He then rewarded the Rockies by not posting an OPS above .650 in any month the rest of the season. The good thing is that Herrera was rated as Above Average at 2B, SS, and 3B in the 2011 season. Granted, he played 500 innings at 2B where he was jussssst a shade above average and 100 innings combined between 3B and SS. If we are to trust WAR, Fangraphs has Herrera as an even slimmer shade above Replacement Level than his fielding was above average; Baseball Reference pegged him as below replacement. Not a strong season from Mr. Herrera - although his 3 HR season was pretty awesome. Ultimately though, everyone in that Lopez/Herrera argument left the party with egg on their face.

Nelson, on the other hand, played 15 games in Spring Training, batted .125, and actually found a way to underperform Jose Lopez in SRFats. Nelson strangely enough had some OK moments - that is to say, he batted like crap every other month and then the months in between he had like 10 PA and batted like .500 during those months. In Nelson's defense, he also batted .375/.423/.667 in his 14 games in September. To rag on him some more, he had that one game where he almost blew the entire game with an errant throw to Ty Wigginton that likely Todd Helton could've gotten to. Also Carlos Pena could've gotten it. Probably any other number of competent 1B. Also, it birthed this Game Wrap. Ultimately, Nelson posted a .664 OPS, beating out Herrera's .612 OPS and Lopez' .521 OPS in a Rockies uniform.

Finally, Kevin Kouzmanoff. Kouz has been a 3B of long time interest to the Rockies due to his generally awesome glove at 3B. A glove so awesome that it spawned this gif. Kouzmanoff was brought in hopes that he might have enough gas left in the tank to make up for the lack of of a 3B on the Rockies for as long as it takes Nolan Arenado to hit the majors. The plan failed, however, as Kouzmanoff played at roughly the same level that Herrera did (near replacement per Fangraphs, well below for BBR). The irony is that Kouz' glove seems to have lost a step, but he batted roughly at Mark Ellis levels with the Rockies. The strange thing is that he did, indeed, outperform Ian Stewart, but I think a statue made of Lego blocks of Mike Schmidt could have outperformed Ian Stewart in 2011.

So, now for the stupid grades.

Subjective grades:

Johnny Herrera was expectedly awful. So he gets an F. But he hit that hilarious home run against the Mets in April, so he gets an A.

Chris Nelson was unexpectedly, yet unsurprisingly, awful. So he also gets an F. But he almost ruined that one game. So he gets another F. But he made me write that one funny game wrap that I linked up above, so that gets him a D-.

Kevin Kouzmanoff wasn't very good. Nobody expected him to be very good. He did outperform Ian Stewart, his expected role, so he gets an A for that.

Objective grades:

.257/.317/.387 was the NL aggregate for 3B. Kouz posted a slightly better line, but when you factor in park effects, it's really not that impressive.

.258/.319/.380 was the NL line for 2B, and once again, park effects make Nelson and Herrera's seasons that much more pathetic.

Final grades: F for Herrera, F for Nelson, D for Kouzmanoff.


Herrera and Nelson are both under team control and both will have a shot at a utilityman role next season. Kouz is a 3B, and it's not against the realms of reality to think that he might be back to just put a warm body who knows the 3B position intimately while we await the arrival of Mr. Arenado.