On Friday morning, it was announced that the Colorado Rockies signed veteran utility middle infielder Jeff Bianchi to a minor league contract, according to a report from Baseball America's Matt Eddy. Bianchi, 29, has seen big league time in each of the last four seasons playing shortstop, third base, and second base for the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox.
Earlier this week on the backfields at minor league spring training, I watched a new player with a number not listed on the minor league roster take part in drills and scrimmages for the club; now, I know it was Bianchi, who was getting at-bats for the group most likely to start the season in Triple-A Albuquerque.
Eddy speculates that Bianchi is to be Triple-A depth at shortstop and across the middle infield now that the Rockies have officially promoted Trevor Story to the big league squad, and that may be true; the club still has Rafael Ynoa, Chris Nelson, and depending on who else they assign there, perhaps some other infield options for the Isotopes, though, too.
Bianchi's big asset is big league experience, and he could conceivably come up to the Majors and fill in much the same role we've seen from players like Ynoa, Daniel Descalso, Cristhian Adames, and Charlie Culberson in the last several seasons. To call him 'defensive-minded,' as Eddy does, is probably true—or perhaps putting it nicely. Bianchi has slashed just .215/.250/.281 in 165 Major League games, and .285/.338/.406 across his ten year minor league career (664 games).
Obviously, his bat is not the reason he was signed, and infield depth that can hang out in Triple-A and take the call if need be is a role for which he appears to fit well. Minor league rosters have been finalized, and we are working to get them as soon as we can, though it appears a safe bet that Bianchi will be appearing in the Pacific Coast League this season.
Some other minor league notes:
- Purple Row can confirm that Kyle Parker has been released. We heard rumblings about it yesterday morning and held off to be sure; it's official now, and Parker is a free agent. I spoke with him just last week about changes in his batting stance, but it appears the Rockies don't have a spot for him in Triple-A.
- As expected, Ryan McMahon confirmed with me late last night that he'll be in Double-A Hartford to start the summer.
- Perhaps less expected, Correlle Prime just confirmed with our own Cameron Goeldner that he will be starting the season at Double-A Hartford, as well. Prime had a challenging 2015 in Modesto, but redeemed himself Down Under over the winter.
- I talked to left-handed starter Sam Howard on Friday; he confirmed with me that he will be in the starting rotation at High-A Modesto to open up the season. He went 11-9, 3.43 in 25 starts for Asheville last summer. We'll also have a feature on Howard up later today.
- Ryan Castellani (No. 19 PuRP) confirmed with me on Friday that he, too, will begin the season in Modesto. The pitcher, who turned 20 yesterday, was 2-7, 4.45 in 27 starts for the Tourists in 2015. Here's more on him from earlier this spring.
- Left-handed reliever Jerry Vasto, who put up surprisingly good numbers in the Tourists' bullpen, confirmed with me that he'll begin 2016 in the Nuts' bullpen. Vasto was 2-4 with three saves, a 2.93 ERA, and 68 strikeouts in 58 innings last summer for the Tourists. We'll have an interview and video on Vasto published very shortly on this website.
- 2015 second-rounder Peter Lambert has confirmed on Twitter that he is heading to Low-A Asheville to begin 2016.
- Catcher Campbell Wear told me he's been assigned to extended spring training to begin the season. The UC Santa Barbara product spent 2015 with the Grand Junction Rockies. Here's more on Wear from earlier this spring.
- Minor league reliever Matt Meier, who spent 2015 with the Boise Hawks, informed me he's also being sent to extended spring training to start the season. "It's more opportunity to sharpen up a couple of tools," Meier told me. "I'm happy that the Rockies took a shot on me in the draft and are continuing to take a shot on me after spring training." He sounded excited to stick around; he'll be one to watch to see if he gets a call out to Asheville at some point over the next few months. Here's more on Meier from earlier this month.
- Good news on a guy I know many of you are rooting for: Mitchell Osnowitz is sticking with the Rockies! The club is sending him to extended spring training, as well. "I'll be here in extended for the time being," he texted me on Friday. "Makes sense to me, just need to get some consistency. Seemed I have two or three good outings, then a bad one, then two or three good, so that's where I'm at. As we know it's a long season and guys move around all the time." Osnowitz is right about that; look for the Rockies to take a shot on him in Asheville or Modesto soon.