There are only 42 days left until the Rockies kick off their season with a three game set against the Brewers in Milwaukee. There are a handful of players that will be competing in Arizona to make the big league team, and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top. The Rockies will more than likely see injuries this year, so there’s a good chance we will see a lot of different players get some playing time throughout the season. Below, I’m going to break down positions and point out the possible candidates and their chances of breaking camp with the team.
The four main infield positions are locked down with proven quality players, but that doesn't mean they're not prone to injury. Players can get injured at any time, and it's key to have quality backup players to be able to jump in and contribute when called upon.
Charlie Culberson was the Rockies primary utility infielder last season, and the results were poor. Luckily, the Rockies addressed the issue. This offseason, the Rockies traded infielder Josh Rutledge to the Angels and signed former Cardinal Daniel Descalso to a two-year, $3.6 million contract as his replacement. Descalso has been mostly a utility player in his career, putting up a .243 batting average and 1.1 WAR in five seasons with St. Louis. He will most likely begin the season as a backup for Tulowitzki and LeMaheiu, pushing Charlie Culberson, who had an abysmal 2014 season, hitting .195 in 210 at bats, down on the depth chart and possibly sending him to AAA to start the season.
Kyle Parker, who was ranked number eleven on the Purple Row prospect ranking, has seen very limited time at the major league level playing first base and right field. In 2014, he made his first appearances in the major leagues and hit .192 in 26 plate appearances, walking zero times and striking out 14 times. It’s hard to put much stock into that, given it’s such a small sample size, but that won’t be the only thing holding him back from making the big league roster. Wilin Rosario, who previously served as a catcher, will be taking a step away from his catching duties to let the newly acquired veteran catcher Nick Hundley take over. Rosario is a young right-handed power bat that the Rockies can use at first base against left-handed pitchers. He has absolutely crushed lefties in his career, hitting a slash line of .328/.361/.647 with an astounding OPS of 1.009 and 30 homers in 357 at bats. Combine this with Morneau’s inability to hit lefties, and they make for a perfect partnership at first base. Unfortunately, for Parker, this severely hurts his chances at a shot of making the big league team as backup first baseman.
Chance they make the MLB team out of spring training
Charlie Culberson: 15% - Unless Descalso goes down with an injury, or the Rockies decide they need to go with two backup infielders, I fully expect Culberson to start the season in Albuquerque.
Kyle Parker: 5% - The only way he gets reps at first base to begin the season is if Rosario goes down with an injury during spring training, and even if that were to happen, it would be less of a platoon with Morneau and more of an occasional pinch hit/spot start situation. He is 24 years old and needs to get consistent at bats to stay sharp, and there’s just no room for him at first base, but there's still a possibility he could break camp as an outfielder.
The outfield is still somewhat of a question mark. Can Corey Dickerson repeat his breakout 2014 season? Can Charlie Blackmon maintain a full season of all-star offense? And the biggest question, can Carlos Gonzalez return to being one of the top players in baseball?
Brandon Barnes played well in his outfield utility role, committing only two errors while playing all three outfield positions over 516 innings. His bat is just about what you’d expect out of a utility player, hitting .253 over 292 at bats. He can provide solid speed off the bench and can hit when called upon, leading the league in 16 pinch hits last season.
The outfield is also a spot that the Rockies can give time to Wilin Rosario, as they plan to experiment wih his ability to play right field. His bat is powerful and if his defense can suffice, that might have an effect on Brandon Barnes making the 25 man roster.
Kyle Parker, who I mentioned as a possible candidate for first base, has had some experience in the outfield. He is the only other real threat to take the 25th spot. The chances are very slim, and would most likely only happen if one of the other two suffered an injury heading into the season.
Chances they make the MLB team out of spring training
Brandon Barnes: 95% - Barnes has two full major league seasons under his belt, and has seemed to settle into his current role. Although Wilin Rosario can make a bigger impact offensively, Barnes has more speed and more outfield experience that it shouldn't cause him to start the year in the minors.
Kyle Parker: 5% - Like I said before, Parker should start the season in Albuquerque in order to get full time playing duties. If any of the above outfielders get placed on the DL during spring, then it's a possibly Parker could be placed on the 25 man roster.
The three candidates who will all likely get some playing time with the Rockies in 2015, but would be considered a longshot to break camp with the team are Cristhian Adames, Rafael Ynoa, and Ben Paulsen.
Cristhian Adames - Cristhian (pronounced kris-tee-yawn) put together an incredible Winter League performance, winning the Dominican League batting title, hitting .353/.426/.473. He is just 22 years of age, and had a brief appearance with Rockies in September last year, and it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see him again during the 2015 season.
Rafael Ynoa - Rafael had a great first impression on the Rockies roster last year when he hit .343 over 67 at bats. He’s a bit older, 27 years old to be exact, but provides infield depth if the Rockies need help at the MLB level.
Ben Paulsen - Paulsen has spent the last two seasons in AAA hitting .293/.361/.528 during that time. He has potential to be a player in the big leagues, but there’s unfortunately no room for him on the big league team. He could see time later on in the year at first base or in the outfield.
The Rockies will spend the month of March in Scottsdale not just to get back into the baseball routine, but to determine which players will stay on the team carrying over into the regular season. This is the time for these players to prove that they belong.