Before the Rockies went on their massive flurry of trades and signings, there were a lot of questions about who was actually going to man the hot corner for the Rockies. Then, on December 21, 2011, the Rockies signed Casey Blake, and seemingly answered that question. Casey Blake would be the veteran stopgap for one Nolan Arenado, likely to emerge in late 2012, possibly 2013.
Before Blake was signed, the Rockies were kind of exploring the same situation at 3B that they were facing in 2004 at SS: rush the young talent to the majors, play a utility guy as a starter until he falls apart and then throw another utility guy in, or bring in Royce Clayton. In the case of 2012, the Rockies can: rush Nolan Arenado, start Chris Nelson or Brandon Wood, or bring in somebody like Royce Clayton.
The minute we signed Blake, it just became apparent that he would take the 3B job. He is Royce Clayton, just at 3B, and instead of dreadlocks, he has epic Beard potential.
Take a look at what the other 3 major candidates are bringing to the table:
At Fan Fest, Jim Tracy told people at a panel that Chris Nelson is a vastly improving. We didn't get to see enough of Nelson (at 100%) in September 2011 to really get a strong handle on what he'd bring to the table, but if we consider draft caliber and time spent with the organization, it could give him an inside track to some sort of MLB job. Also when you consider the fact that the "lots of talent that isn't turning out production" crew has pretty much gotten shipped out and then realize Nelson's still here, well, that could just mean something regarding his status with the team.
Wood joined the Rockies on a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training. His reputation is that of a strong gloveman whose bat really hasn't joined the party yet, as evidenced by his career 35 wRC+ (suggesting that he is 65% below average for his career).
Prospect wunderkind Nolan Arenado has a heavy mantle on his head, along with high expectations and zero AB above A-ball. That said, he looks to be a "good contact" hitter with solid gap power, and if he continues to progress the way we saw him in Modesto, he could be knocking the door down after the All Star Break. We should temper expectations a BIT though, just so we're not resenting him for not being an All-Star in 2012.
Amusingly enough, between these three batters, ZiPS sees Arenado as being the best batter among Wood, Nelson, and Blake, sporting a projected .316 wOBA over the .299, .309, and .310.
So my question is: what changed from December to now? Well, for the most part, we are still expecting Blake to start. He has a $2M contract that hinges on whether or not he breaks camp with the team, and incentives to bring it up to $3M in value. I get the impression that the job is "his" to lose, but it might not be as hard to lose as that might imply. His value as an Arenado mentor is potentially something that will impress Tracy enough to give him the starting job, regardless of what his competition does.
Really, Blake is going to be the starter. Rox Girl talked about this exact issue back in December, that we shouldn't take Brandon Wood lightly. In a season where everyone's a stopgap for a younger guy, I'd like to see Wood stick around the Rockies, but he's very likely redundant to Chris Nelson.
So could Wood outplay Nelson AND Blake? Sure. I guess the new question is "Who wants it more?".
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If you haven't seen this clip of J.P. Arencibia doing his Tim Kurkjian impression yet, it'll be the best 90 seconds of your day.