After the departure of DJ LeMahieu following the 2018 season, the Rockies attempted to convert Ryan McMahon to second base from his natural position of third base. McMahon did an admirable job, leading the Rockies with 860 innings at second base in 2019 and then again with 248 in the shortened 2020 season. McMahon, however, is now likely headed back to third base which leaves another vacancy behind.
Brendan Rodgers made his major league debut in 2019, but struggled mightily in his 25-game stint prior to injuring his throwing shoulder and undergoing surgery. He started 2020 at the alternate site, and played seven games at the major league level before injuring his shoulder again. Will the Rockies let him have full reign of second base this season whether or not his struggles at the plate continue? Let’s take a look at the full picture of the second base position for the upcoming season.
Rockies fans have been waiting (too long) for this moment: Brendan Rodgers will likely be the starting second baseman for the 2021 season. Rodgers, the third overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft, was for many years tabbed as the organization’s top prospect. To date, he’s had very few opportunities, amounting to a total of 102 plate appearances scattered throughout the 2019 and 2020 seasons. Originally drafted as a shortstop, Rodgers’ recent shoulder injuries have made second base a better fit where arm strength is less important.
Rodgers has been consistently evaluated by scouts as having a plus hit tool and plus power but has not been able to showcase his skills at the big league level managing a meager slash line of .196/.235/.227. With Ryan McMahon expected to move over to third base, it opens the door for Rodgers to play everyday and prove he was worth the faith put into him by the Rockies front office when he was drafted.
Rodgers has completely recovered from the shoulder injury that ended his 2019 season and has been hitting well early on in Spring Training, highlighted by this home run on March 4 against the Seattle Mariners:
Garrett Hampson is likely to slot in as the first option at second base should Rodgers need a rest day or (again) fall victim to injury. At the plate, Hampson has struggled to find consistency slashing a .245/.305/.385 in his three seasons with the Rockies. He’s shown flashes of power with 13 career home runs and is probably best known for his blazing speed (ranked seventh in all of MLB in 2020 in sprint speed). Defensively, Hampson has performed close to league average.
Chris Owings, a non-roster invite to Spring Training, filled the utility role well in 2020 before going down to a hamstring injury in August that kept him out of action the remainder of the season. Owings exceeded expectations at the plate prior to his injury and can play adequate defense at almost every position (he logged innings at second base, third base, and left field in 2020).
While not a “backup”, per se, Ryan McMahon may get the occasional start at second base if it fits Bud Black’s strategy for a given game situation. McMahon, of course already mentioned as the expected starter at third base, remains a breakout candidate with great power potential that has been limited by poor plate discipline.
Eric Stamets and Alan Trejo have both logged some innings at second base in Spring Training and could figure into the picture if the Rockies start to run thin due to injuries. Stamets, a sixth round pick of the Los Angeles Angels in 2012, was signed as a free agent by the Rockies in 2019 and has yet to appear in an official game for the team outside of spring training. His primary position is shortstop and although he’s a versatile fielder, he will not contribute much offensively as he finished his last season in Triple-A in 2019 with an OPS of .685.
Trejo (No. 40 PuRP), also a shortstop, has seen a lot of action as second base. He’s a good fielder and has shown some pop at the plate having slashed .243/.290/.391 with 15 home runs in Double-A in 2019.
On the farm
While third base is his natural position, Aaron Schunk (No. 6 PuRP) spent time learning how to play second base at the Rockies alternative site last year. A second-round draft pick in the 2019 amateur draft, the 23-year-old has hit the ball incredibly well while also being lauded for his leadership ability. While still a few years away, Schunk is on a good trajectory to the big leagues.
Eddy Díaz (No. 14 PuRP) spent 2019 in Grand Junction splitting time between shortstop and second base. He’s a few years away from the big leagues but mashed in the Pioneer League en route to a 114 wRC+.
In case of disaster
There are not many second basemen left unsigned but that may change after the season ends and non-roster invitees hoping to break camp on a big league roster are left behind. In a disaster scenario, the Rockies may look to pick up a veteran on a league minimum salary as a stopgap. Maybe Scooter Gennett? Hopefully it does not come to this.