Third base. The "hot corner." A position for the Rockies that was, with the exception of an insanely brilliant season in 2006, definitely not hot in the time after Coors Field creation Vinny "El Matador" Castilla hit 21 homers on the road and 35 overall in his 2004 swan song.
That decade contained out-of-nowhere brilliance from Garrett Atkins who hit like a first baseman in 2006 but, by 2007, was fielding like one too. It also contained spectacular flame-out in the form of Ian Stewart, who peaked at No. 4 on Baseball America's Top 100 as a five-tool, 19-year-old in Asheville. He performed OK through his age 25 season, accumulating 2.7 WAR per 650 plate appearances and had many of us waiting for a breakout. Instead, what we got was a 20 OPS+ in 2011. Apparently Stewart falling apart was so traumatic that the resulting effects caused the front office to think that Jordan Pacheco (-18.5 UZR) and Chris Nelson (-26.9 UZR) could play third.
Thank goodness we were eventually rescued by ...
The stud (and incumbent starter)
Here is a patently unfair comparison wherein I attempt to ignore the fact that Player 1 and Player 2 were rushed through the minors and basically did their Double-A and Triple-A stints in MLB. If you weren’t so lazy and actually volunteered to write this article instead of me, you could have written up your own comparison in which you didn’t create falsely positive clickbait. Shame on you.
Since I did write this, allow me to present the through-age-23 numbers of Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez and our own Nolan Arenado. Pay particular attention to the 5.8 rWAR/162 number that is pretty damn amazing for all 22- and 23-year-old players not named Mike Trout. A revelation on defense, Arenado has superstar upside with his bat as well.
Charlie Culberson has gotten more than his fair share of anger directed at him by the fan base, and while that is almost often true about utility players (Jonathan Herrera jumps to mind), I think it is a bit unfair. I don’t want him getting 300 plate appearances any more than the next guy, but it is certainly not his job to scout himself and decide if he should spend time at shortstop or third base.
Rafael Ynoa has a minor league line of .273/.348/.373 that looks an awful lot like Cristhian Adames' .273/.344/.362, except that Adames did it as a guy who reached Triple-A as a 22-year-old -- an age when Ynoa was kicking around Low-A. But Ynoa has a few things going for him that may end up making him a better depth option at third: he is a switch hitter, he doesn’t strike out a ton, and his defense certainly passed the eye test there.
On the farm
The reclamation project
Josh Vitters was the the Greg Reynolds of the Cubs system. Drafted No. 3 overall in 2007, Vitters was selected ahead of five high school players that have gone on to accumulate at least 10 rWAR: Madison Bumgarner, Jason Heyward and Rick Porcello in the first round; Giancarlo Stanton and Freddie Freeman in the second. Vitters is a bat-first third baseman who, if he ever saw the MLB roster, might leave us begging for the days of Jordan Pacheco. But hey, if the organization can turn a once-perceived future first baseman like Arenado into the second coming of Scott Rolen, then why not take a chance on a former top 50 prospect who hit .304/.361/.518 as a 23-year-old in Triple-A? I really hope that we never have to see Vitters in a Rockies uniform this year, but remember: he is just one month older than Kyle Parker. Both have lost their shine, but both still have some percentage of a chance of a major league career.
The question mark
Is Rosell Herrera the the guy who hit .343/.419/.518 as a 20-year-old in the South Atlantic League, or is he the guy who hit .240/.302/.344 the next year in High-A? Can he stay healthy? And, perhaps more importantly for this list, is his future actually as an outfielder? These and other questions will be answered this year, when the 6’3 Dominican will be among the most intriguing players in the system.
Ryan McMahon scares me. He scares me in one sense because he can be so good; his skill set has produced some true MLB monsters. But he's also frightening because he has many of the same hallmarks of other spectacular prospect flame-outs.
Striking out too much doesn’t necessarily mean that a player can’t succeed; for example, Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson struck out in 28 percent of his plate appearances in his first full season, which came at a time when only 10 players in the whole league struck out at a 20 percent clip. While that doesn't have to be a death blow to prospect statuses and McMahon does have the tools to improve, it is certainly something to keep an eye on as he enters his second full season in the minors.
Kevin Padlo was among the youngest players in last year’s draft and was the youngest performer in the Pioneer League. And you couldn’t have asked for a better debut. His overall line of .300/.421/.594 with per 650 PA raw numbers of 60 doubles, 16 triples, 32 homers, 128 runs and 176 RBI was nutty. Padlo’s tools have been dismissed by many as average-ish, however, that he has been so young (2015 will be his age 18 season) compared to his competition, his tools improving as he matures would hardly be a surprise.