With the regular season upon us and the 25-man Opening Day roster essentially finalized, there remains one positional battle that remains undecided, that being the battle for the final spots in the outfield. The Rockies have postponed this decision by deciding to carry six outfielders on Opening Day. In addition to All-Stars Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer, the four players competing for the starting center field and backup outfield spots will all break camp with the big club.
It is, however, likely that one of the four will be optioned early in the season when reliever Boone Logan is activated from the disabled list and another may go at some point later in the season as well. Here is a look at the four Rockies still battling for that precious playing time in the outfield:
Barnes, a sixth round pick of the Astros in 2005 came to the Rockies along with starting pitcher Jordan Lyles in a trade for Dexter Fowler this offseason. The 27-year-old right-hander has accumulated just 508 at bats so far in his Major League career with Houston, hitting a paltry .233 over that stretch.
However, Barnes did post an .825 OPS this spring and has been a good defender in center field in his previous MLB experience in Houston, which may help his cause in staying on the roster.
This will be Blackmon's fourth season in the Majors, as the 2008 second-round pick spent parts of 2011, 2012 and 2013 with the Rockies, posting a .737 OPS in 457 at bats. Blackmon saw his most extensive MLB action last year, when he hit .309 with 25 extra-base hits and seven stolen bases in 82 games.
A lefty at age 27, Blackmon has not shown to be much of a defender in center field, but his case to stay on the roster is bolstered by the fact that he has just one option year remaining.
Since he was drafted by the Rockies in the eighth round of the 2010 draft, all Dickerson has done is hit at every level of pro ball, including the Major League level in 2013. The youngest of the four candidates at age 25, Dickerson hit .263 with a .775 OPS, including five home runs, in 194 at bats in his MLB debut in 2013.
Dickerson did, however, struggle in left-on-left scenarios last season, but was surprisingly competent in center field in his limited action there in the big leagues in 2013.
Stubbs, the eighth overall pick of the 2006 draft, brings the most MLB experience to the table, with over 2,000 MLB plate appearances under his belt. However, he also brings a prodigious strikeout rate of 29.3% in his career. The 29-year-old does bring speed to the table, with three seasons of at least 30 stolen bases and has hit double-digit home runs in each of the last four years.
Stubbs has proven to be an average defender in center and has significantly better numbers in his career against lefties, making him a good platoon partner for Blackmon or Dickerson. He is also the only one of the group that is not on a pre-arbitration contract.
My best guess would be that either Barnes or Blackmon is optioned when Logan comes off the DL and the other is sent down if/when the need for another infielder presents itself. Stubbs' contract would seem to make him the safest of the group to remain with the big club.