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Tuesday Rockpile: Third Base - Pain in the Neck

You should pay more attention to Brandon Wood.
You should pay more attention to Brandon Wood.

Andrew One did a solid job profiling fifth starter candidates, which is certainly an interesting battle. I am probably a little less interested than most though. As I see it, one of the twelve candidates will win the position, but a majority of them will have the role at some point. I'm a little more interested in third base right now.

The Colorado Rockies got -1.5 fWAR from their third basemen in 2011, making it the second-most pathetic production by a team at one position in MLB. Only the Seattle Mariners' collection of left-fielders were worse. So truly, it matters little who actually plays third base in terms of improvement. It will come. Who provides it remains a mystery.

Third base is not intended to be a position battle. Dan O'Dowd signed Casey Blake to be the man there, yet he was scratched from yesterday's game with a sore neck. This is a guy that had surgery on a pinched nerve in his neck six months ago. Oh, but fear not:

Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Blake woke up with a stiff neck after sleeping on it wrong. The Rockies say the stiffness is not related to the neck surgery Blake had last September. - Patrick Saunders

Riiiiiight. Ignore it if you wish, but I will go ahead and take this as a cue to look at Plan B. Which is...Chris Nelson? Yuck. DJ LeMaheiu. Ehhh. Jordan Pacheco. Huh. I suppose Michael Cuddyer could move there temporarily. Nolan Arenado? Just...not yet. If Blake's neck continue's to stiff him, we might just be looking at Brandon Wood at the hot corner.

Wood is the guy that was ranked the #3 prospect in the game six years ago by Baseball America. He had an .888 OPS in 8 minor league seasons....and a .515 figure in 751 PA covering five seasons. He remains a source of frustration for Kevin Goldstein, who still cannot identify what is wrong with Wood, or how he unilaterally fooled every prospect evaluator. No one seems to be able to explain Wood's struggles away, although @ProductiveOuts has a theory.

At his lowest value, the Rockies pounced. Wood tripled and singled yesterday to raise his spring average to .438 (7-16) and is the talk of camp. Before you scream SSS!!!! (oh, too late, you're fast with that trigger), check out the quips from Patrick Saunders this morning in his mailbag:

He had gotten by on a lot of athletic talent, but he never really understood his swing....(Jim) Tracy watched Woods (sic) and said he had "an incredible hitch" in his swing, was covering only half the plate, and standing too upright.

After the Rockies signed Wood to a minor-league contract this winter, Tracy and hitting coach Carney Lansford worked with Wood extensively in December. They watched film, broke it all down and made changes.

Troy Tulowitzki has taken Wood under his wing and nearly every morning work together on Wood's swing.

Brandon Wood should not be under your radar any longer. Ignore what you know of his past MLB record. Be skeptical that the Rockies have discovered the flaw in Brandon Wood that the Angels tried daily to find and fix. But this is real. They may not have paid a lot for Wood, but the franchise core is investing time in him. Whether it pays off will be interesting to see, but one would have to consider Wood a serious contender for a roster spot based on the Rockies' actions towards him, especially if Blake continues to have a pain in his neck.

Off Topic

White plotting for success in Rox rotation- Owen Perkins, He has a hill to climb to change the minds of Rockies fans that are already disgusted with him, both on the field and off. As these things tend to do, if he pitches well, all will be forgiven.

Rox featured on '30 Clubs in 30 Days' Tuesday - Today is the day for purple in MLB Network's season preview series. So make a plan to sit in front of your TV at 9PM MT tonight, or make sure you DVR it.

Speaking of MLB Network, the baseball-only network not only provides more insight during Spring Training than ever before for fans, it also provides more exposure for little known players. Sometimes, as Kent Matthes shared last night, that isn't such a good thing:

Just saw myself on MLB Network shirtless, wearing a blue wig and dancing to Nicki Minaj. It wasn't pretty.. #WhiteBoyDanceMoves

Rockies' Jamie Moyer relies on changeup to foil batters - Troy Renck There is nothing shocking about that headline, but Renck does include a video of Moyer showing off his change-up grip, and Renck features many change-ups around the game. He even cites Fangraphs.