The Colorado Rockies have depth in the outfield for the 2019 season. We know that at first glance because we are familiar with the names of those outfielders, from the veterans to the prospects. We also see that depth in some of the projections for the upcoming season.
In practice, that depth means that they can afford to move Charlie Blackmon to right field to save his legs and hopefully prop up his offense. In practice, that means shifting Ian Desmond to center field in the hopes of getting more out of his athleticism and having multiple young players who can play the other corner. Is that the best deployment of those resources? Maybe, but probably not. You know the reason why.
We all assumed that Blackmon would move to left field when it became clear a position change was in order. It was initially surprising to learn he would be in right, but makes enough sense because he’s played there in the past and because left field at Coors calls for a guy with more range.
David Dahl looks like said starter with range on defense, as long as he stays healthy this spring. As the five-tool player we know him to be, he seems a better fit for center field, but I have already belabored that point and will resist the temptation to do so here.
Ian Desmond is still a very good athlete and should have a chance to do well handling defensive duties in center field. It’s also at least a little bit less painful to have his offense at that spot than first base, so that’s a plus as well.
There are two different questions we can ask at this point. Should Ian Desmond be an everyday starter? No, but since we know he will be, we can focus on the second question. Will the Rockies get better value from him as an everyday center fielder than they did at first base? The answer certainly could be yes. Let’s hope it is.
Raimel Tapia is the outfield reserve who will get the most attention this spring. The long-hyped prospect is out of options and still hasn’t truly arrived at the big league level. That is partially due to lack of opportunity and partially due to his own struggles. Whatever the reason, he has reached the moment where he needs to prove it to the Rockies or they might move on.
With the departures of Gerardo Parra and Carlos González, the remaining depth names start with some younger guys. Mike Tauchman and Noel Cuevas are familiar from their previous stints with the big club. Unfortunately they both looked over-matched in those respective stints.
Tauchman seems to offer a bit more upside because of his speed and ability as a defender. He rakes in the minor leagues, and if he could ever get enough of that to translate with the Rockies he could be a solid bench player. Speaking of fast guys, Garrett Hampson could potentially see time as a reserve in center field depending on how things shake out at second base.
Michael Saunders is the guy who we have all had on our fantasy baseball team at one point. The 32-year-old will try to get back on track after a disastrous 2018, when he toured the league and couldn’t find his swing. He is a non-roster invitee who certainly could make some noise if he has a strong showing in the spring. He was an All-Star in 2016, after all. That wasn’t so long ago, right?
On the farm
There were four outfielders in the top 30 of this year’s PuRPs. Of those four, Sam Hilliard and Yonathan Daza both have a potential ETA of 2019. They are both on the 40-man roster and could make an appearance if the Rockies needed help from the farm. Whether or not there would be such an opening would likely depend on what happens with Tapia.
Vince Fernandez and Daniel Montano are the other two outfielders in that top 30. Both are exciting but likely farther away from being on the big league radar.
The Rockies need more offensive firepower from their outfield. As far as breakout candidates who could have a real impact on the offense for a playoff contender, I come back to the two names that we’ve been mentioning for so many years: Dahl and Tapia. They’ve been the future for so long, and now it’s time to see why. Dahl needs to prove he can keep doing it. Tapia just needs to prove he can do it.
We know what we’ve got with Blackmon at this point. We know how the health question hangs over Dahl. And boy do we know the frustration with Desmond. The starters seem predictable, but not necessarily so set in stone that a guy like Tapia couldn’t break through. And there is depth in that there’s a number of capable options.
Let’s just hope that depth forces the Rockies to make tough decisions between multiple good options and not mediocre ones.