Yesterday, The Athletic’s Nick Groke tweeted what he believes to be the Rockies first base depth chart for the 2021 season.
Rockies’ depth chart at first base probably sets up to start spring as:— Nick Groke (@nickgroke) February 17, 2021
1. C.J. Cron
2. Josh Fuentes
3. Greg Bird
4. Connor Joe
Notably missing from his list?
This seems to confirm what a lot of Rockies fans suspected - It looks like third base belongs to Ryan McMahon following Nolan Arenado’s departure. With RyMac tackling the hot corner and Trevor Story the undisputed shortstop, the rest of the team’s infield options will have to battle it out to grab a place on the right side of the diamond.
While the next six weeks of Spring Training will give all of these guys a chance to move up (or down) in the eyes of the coaches, Nick’s first base breakdown will serve as a jumping off point for me, as I break down the various options the team has to man the “other hot corner”.
The Rockies newest addition, signed just this past Monday, leapfrogged his way to the top of the depth chart at first. Despite only signing a minor league contract with the club, Cron, who manager Bud Black referred to as a “great signing”, has the most Major League experience of these four and would bring a veteran influence to the infield. Following a solid four year stretch with the Angels between 2014 and 2017, Cron had a career year with the Rays in 2018 when he hit 30 home runs to go along with a .253/.323/.493 slash line. Last season, Cron was off to a hot start, knocking 4 home runs in the team’s first thirteen games, before a knee injury ended his season. Cron’s strength paired with the thin air at Coors Field should make him a strong candidate for a bounce back performance, assuming he shows no ill-effects following knee surgery last August.
For Rockies fans still reeling from the Arenado trade (i.e. most of us) Josh Fuentes is either the best option or the worst, depending on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. For the glass half full bunch, Josh Fuentes is a talented ballplayer, who as Nolan’s cousin, presumably shares some of the great baseball genes that run in the family and is the next best thing. If your glass is half empty, then Fuentes will be a constant reminder of what we lost in Nolan. On the field, Fuentes took some big strides last year, effectively replacing Daniel Murphy at first base down the stretch and finishing the season with a .306/.320/.439 slash line. Fuentes could win over the starting job during Spring Training, but will be the go-to if anything goes awry with Cron.
Bird, a Colorado native, took over the Yankees first base job in 2015 by smashing 11 homers in just 46 games, but could never reach those heights again as he was bogged down by injury after injury. Bird has had moments of greatness, most notably in the 2017 ALCS where he hit two home runs in a seven game series against the Astros, but hasn’t managed to stay healthy long enough to establish himself in a Major League line-up. Now, he’ll get the chance to return home and prove during Spring Training that he can live up to his potential, and stay healthy throughout the course of the season.
Connor Joe only has eight games of MLB experience to his name, all of which came during the 2019 season with the San Francisco Giants. Now, at 28-years-old, it’s unlikely Joe surprises everyone in Spring Training and makes his way to the big league roster, but in a season that will surely have its unexpected hiccups due to the pandemic, it’s not impossible that Joe could end up with some playing time in the bigs.
A million things can happen between now and the Rockies Opening Day game against the defending-champion Dodgers on April 1, but for now, the team has a few high potential options that could make for a very interesting position battle during Spring Training.
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While the Rockies are happily home to one of the best shortstops in baseball (for now) it appears as if they’re going to be stuck with another one in their division for a looooong time. The 22-year-old has quickly become one of, if not the, face of baseball due to his impressive athleticism, great talent, bat flips, and electric personality. The Padres have shown their desire to win, both now and in the future, all off-season long and that trend continues with the Tatis Jr. extension. For the Rockies, it will now be interesting to see how this changes the way they view locking down Trevor Story to an extension of his own.
Story, the latest face of the franchise who also is the center of trade rumors isn’t focused on any of the non-baseball stuff, as he told Thomas Harding this past week. “There’s no need for me to worry about will I be traded or anything that is out of my control,” said Story who spoke to Harding while experiencing a power outage that has swept a large portion of his home state Texas. The Rockies all-star plans to go about his business as he would any other year and focus on leading this club that is determined to prove critics wrong.
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