Entering 2012, the Rockies were carrying three infielders on their bench: alleged first baseman Jason Giambi, alleged catcher Jordan Pacheco, and alleged hitter Jonathan Herrera. Herrera had beaten out players like DJ LeMahieu, Pacheco had outlasted superprospect Nolan Arenado to back-up Chris Nelson and Todd Helton, while Giambi had been given his roster spot on a silver platter.
Pacheco ended up performing more in a starting role, so he'll be covered in a later post, but in addition to Giambi and Herrera, LeMahieu made quite an impression as a reserve and will be covered here. While Josh Rutledge was in AA when the season started, I'd classify him more as a starter -- and though Troy Tulowitzki only got 203 PAs (less than Herrera or LeMahieu), I have trouble considering him to be anything other than a starter. Tommy Field also got a cameo in the middle infield this year before getting claimed off of waivers by Minnesota last week.
I'll be covering those four reserves in order of value according to fWAR:
DJ LeMahieu (1.2 fWAR)
In the Ian Stewart trade with the Cubs last off-season, Tyler Colvin was the player that got more press while DJ LeMahieu was a footnote. Colvin put up some great numbers, but LeMahieu was arguably the more pleasant surprise from the trade. LeMahieu ended up being one of the most productive position players Colorado had in 2012, ranking 8th in fWAR with 1.2 in only 247 plate appearances.
As a prospect, the 23 year-old LeMahieu was seen as a polished player known for his good contact tool albeit with a low ceiling due to his low power potential and middling OBP. To a large extent, 2012 bore this out -- LeMahieu's .297/.332/.410 batting line was the sort of high average, low production line (84 wRC+) you would expect from an effective reserve in that mold.
Defensively, LeMahieu comfortably handled 2nd base while also providing spot duty at all four infield positions. Unlike many of his fellow Rockies, DJ was rated as a plus fielder by both UZR and DRS, making him a rare bright spot on that side of the ball.
Going forward, LeMahieu profiles as a reserve player given his limited offensive ceiling and solid defense, though if he did get into games it would probably be at 2nd base. He'll be fighting with a roster spot with Herrera (see below) or Arenado next spring.
Jonathan Herrera (0.2 fWAR)
It's no secret that I've been befuddled by Jonathan Herrera's continued presence on this team over the last few years. He entered this year as the middle infield safety blanket for Jim Tracy and remained in that position for much of the year, two trips to the disabled list aside. It was an injury to Herrera caused by a wristwatch of all things that finally got Josh Rutledge his big league shot last year.
As is his wont, the 27 year-old Herrera provided very little offensive value with his .262/.317/.351 line (3 homers!!!) over 251 plate appearances (68 wRC+), while his defense at SS, 3B, and 2B was rated slightly negative by both UZR and DRS.
Herrera is arbitration eligible this year, meaning that his price to the Rockies ($700K-$1M) will far exceed his price on the open market (the minimum). That plus the fact that he's a marginal, easily replaceable player give me hope that Herrera won't be retained. If he is retained, expect Herrera to compete with (and probably beat out) LeMahieu for a reserve infield job next spring.
Tommy Field (0.0 fWAR)
Field appeared in two games and had three plate appearances without getting a hit in 2012. Once considered a potential utility piece, the 25 year-old Field was passed up by players like LeMahieu in the pecking order, meaning his days with the organization were numbered. When Colorado tried to outright him off of the 40 man roster last week, he was claimed by the Twins.
At least the former PuRP didn't actively hurt the team like the next player...
Jason Giambi (-0.2 fWAR)
Entering the season, many decried the presence of the 41 year-old Giambi on the roster, citing his lack of defensive utility and the roster squeeze that it created with the other bench positions. Unfortunately, those critics were proven right in 2012 as Giambi played in only 60 games (starting just 18) and getting only 113 plate appearances due to injuries and lack of a field position in a year where Colorado needed a durable first base back-up to Todd Helton.
Even when he was healthy and in the line-up, Giambi wasn't very productive, as his .225/.372/.303 line in mostly high leverage situations was below average (78 wRC+). Great walk rate though (17.7%). Giambi only actually played 13 games in the field in 2012, but he rated negatively in the small sample.
Let's face it, Giambi's had a great career and has been helpful to the Rockies at times (mostly off the field), but his time as a productive player is over. The free agent is not going to be the Rockies' manager in 2013, but I do hope that he considers becoming the hitting coach -- more specifically, I'd rather he not be a player for Colorado next year.
Next week, we'll review the catchers and the starting corner infielders.