The addition of Gerardo Parra adds an interesting wrinkle to the Rockies' plans for 2016. Suddenly, an outfield that looked pretty good with three outfielders now looks even more pretty good with four. Combine that with energetic players like Brandon Barnes and you have an interesting dynamic as the team moves forward with its plans to provide a winner to the diehard fans of the Party Deck.
Finally, we won't have to drink three dollar Coors Lights in sorrow and pain anymore! The plans for Parra and the outfield have been vast and varied, from the probability of the Rockies moving one outfielder in a trade to the much more likely option that the Rockies will construct a massive trap door system to employ hundreds of men to catch fly balls.
With the Rockies moving forward with this outfield, and with two positions definitely filled by Corey Dickerson and Carlos Gonzalez, we look to center field for what may be the Rockies' biggest position battle this spring. Let's analyze each contender's pros and cons to see who is best suited for the majority of innings in center.
★ ★ ★
Let's start with the incumbent, the man we've seen patrolling the most the last two years.
All things considered, much like most Rockies hitters, Charlie didn't perform very well on the road. This isn't to say he's a Coors Field creation, but he falls into a lot of traps the Rockies hitters have had the last two seasons. He's too aggressive on the road and doesn't walk; his OBP drops to .283 on the road and he's struck out 50 more times over the course of his career away from Coors Field in 30 fewer at-bats. That isn't good and it hasn't worked for the Rockies to be not good on the road so far.
Charlie's cheap now, but he's only going to get more expensive. With David Dahl coming up, Blackmon becomes an expendable resource in center because Dahl will be on a rookie contract which is worth, I believe, somewhere around $14.95 a year.
Charlie is without a doubt the best runner on the team and adds a dynamic on the base paths that isn't seen with any other Rockies hitters. The Rockies may force players like DJ LeMahieu and Corey Dickerson to attempt steals but Chuck provides the biggest boost to the lineup from this perspective with 43 bags swiped last season. For a team that doesn't draw walks, doesn't get on base, strikes out quite a bit, and has a deceptively bad all around offense, stolen bases all of a sudden become more important.
No other center field option here provides the pop that comes from Charlie's bat. Of course, this could change with Parra moving to Coors Field, but Blackmon's 36 home runs his last two seasons is unrivaled by the other contenders. Charlie's career .773 OPS is also the best of anyone else currently contending.
Chuck's the only member of the outfield currently bearded. It is a glorious beard. It should not be undervalued.
★ ★ ★
Let's now move into the new guy, the newbie, the Gerry man himself... Gerardo Parra.
Gerardo is making $26 million the next three seasons with the Rockies and has $1.5 million guaranteed after that if the Rockies don't pick up his option for the fourth season. That's a lot of skrilla, as the kids say, and Parra sitting on the bench making that much cake is not a good business plan for any team, let alone a team that is building from the farm.
Might not be able to play in center field
Gerardo is well known around baseball as being one of the better defensive left fielders in the game. Starting him in center may be a bad plan for a team that sort of needs good defensive outfielders due to their pitchers giving up a lot of hard hit fly balls out there, because Parra's center field numbers aren't really any good. So it's difficult to imagine the Rockies letting him take the majority of innings in a position that undercuts his value to the team.
Name is hard to come up with nicknames for
I know I called him Gerry up top but I will guarantee Parra doesn't want to be called that. Gerardo isn't hard to say but you know Goodman and Huson will be out there trying to hand him a nickname that just doesn't stick or belong in anyway. You know how they do puns for the Rockies post game show headlines? I don't even want to know what Parra's puns will be. How many times can you use ‘Parra for the course' before I build a giant cannon and shoot myself into space? We will find out this season.
Parra can play all over the outfield and even though he's not very good in center, it's easy to keep him in the lineup when other players need a rest in order to keep the lineup solidly intact. Adaptable outfielders can't be overstated, and they are nice for any team to have.
Coors Field will improve his numbers
We've seen what Chuck can do in the friendly confines, let's see if Parra can start to rip the seams off when he plays 70+ games in a ballpark that has thin air and thinner expectations.
Somehow actually younger than Charlie Blackmon
It feels weird that Parra is younger than Chuck, but here we are. It's not by much, and it's honestly not enough to make a definitive claim on. But Charlie is approaching his 30's and everyone I've ever known who turned 30 suddenly became very lame and stopped going to dive bars with me to yell over The Eagles and chicken out of talking to hot girls. Charlie is going to hit that number before Parra.
★ ★ ★
Former U.S. President Millard Fillmore
Let's look at the former President, who adds an interesting wrinkle to the outfield debate.
Has been dead for over 140 years
This is a bit of a doozy for Millard, who died in 1874, a few months after his 74th birthday. It is unknown how well a dead person will play in center field or why the Rockies are even considering a 140-year-old corpse of a former President for the position.
Helped destroy a political party; not a good teammate?
Millard was the last elected President of the Whig Party, a party that split apart due to the debate on slavery in the 1850s. Fillmore helped contribute to the eventual breakout of the Civil War by passing the Compromise of 1850 and the party eventually dissipated in the late 1850s after getting their asses kicked in the 1852 election. A lot of Whig members formed the beginnings of the Republican party.
Would have to have the rules explained to him
Though baseball's roots can be traced back to during Fillmore's lifetime, it's doubtful the man played the game since he was busy being a politician that, as far as I can tell, hated fun. There's literally zero pictures of this dude smiling. I Googled 'Millard Fillmore smiling' and got this:
Oh look! It's frowny, fat Alec Baldwin. Can't wait to have that in the outfield.
There's just no way this guy ever played baseball, so the entire spring training would be spent teaching him the basic fundamentals of the game. It's extremely disturbing that Jeff Bridich would even sign this guy, and frankly, I have to question Jeff's player evaluation skills here.
Millard won't cost a lot, due to being dead. The Collective Bargaining Agreement has yet to rule on dead former Presidents playing Major League innings, so the Rockies could honestly probably get away with anything here.
Proven clubhouse leader
You don't become President by being a meek loser, that's for sure. Millard was an outspoken leader of the Whig Party throughout his time, even after they decided he shouldn't be nominated for election in 1852. That kind of veteran leadership could really add a lot to the clubhouse.
★ ★ ★
Finally, let's analyze the energetic and lovable Brandon Barnes.
The worst hitter of the bunch
Brandon can't hit at the big league level consistently. He's a career .244 hitter and although you can argue its because he hasn't gotten consistent at-bats, it's fairly easy to make the case he's not a hitter good enough for starter's innings, anyways. Even Fillmore might hit better than Barnes.
May not know how to draw a walk
Brandon has only drawn 62 walks in 1,063 ABs, which is interesting. For a bit of perspective, Mike Trout walked 67 times in his rookie season in 2012 where he only had 589 ABs. It makes me question whether or not Brandon knows how to draw a walk. I mean, he may have Francoeuritis, which is the disease in which you think the strike zone stretches from the ankles to the moon above and will swing at anything that may come close. BJ Upton is the worst sufferer of this affliction but it has plagued many a Major Leaguer.
Even in Coors Field, Brandon's bat lacks consistent pop. He carries a 74 OPS+ throughout his career which is considerably below players like Will Venable, Chris Iannetta, and Dan Uggla.
Every team has that guy that is there only because of his grit and determination. Brandon has a lot of that. He's always trying his hardest out there and that goes a long way in winning over fans who prize things like running and almost being as good as the other guys.
Brandon is definitely the best looking guy in the outfield. Just look at his face up there and try to tell me you wouldn't want to plant a smooch on it. Combine that with his beautiful wife and honestly absurdly adorable kids, and you have the best looking family on the roster. That's got to count for something.
★ ★ ★
So what do you do if you're Bridich?
Whatever choice the Rockies make in the battle for their everyday center fielder, it's looking increasingly obvious that using historical figures that have been long dead is probably not going to be the next Moneyball.