Even though it’s been a rough 2021 season with the Rockies battling the Twins and Tigers for worst-recoding winning percentage honors (through Thursday, the Twins are winning at losing at .343, with Tigers just behind them at .351, and the Rockies surging ahead at .368 with two straight wins), there have been some bright spots.
Beating the Dodgers on Opening Day. Ryan McMahon hitting three homers in one game vs. Arizona. Three grand slams. Three walkoffs.
Another positive, especially lately, has been the play of the infield. Despite a mix of players being injured or playing in different positions, the Rockies now have some interesting questions to answer: what’s the best infield combination? Who plays? Who sits out?
A little over a month ago, Purple Row’s Eric Fayeulle wrote about this in terms of where Brendan Rodgers would fit in when he comes back. With Rodgers set for his first Triple-A game on Friday, this could become an issue sooner than later. In the meantime, with Chris Owings out until at least mid-June and CJ Cron currently on the 10-day IL, the Rockies have found themselves awash with infielders and not enough places for them.
Here’s a breakdown of Bud Black’s options when he fills out the lineup card.
Write them in with Sharpie
As long as he’s in a Rockies uniform, Story should be and will be at shortstop (even though he had the day off Thursday). He’s fielding is off the hook, despite having four errors on the year. He’s hitting .278/.351/.474 with 21 RBI, four homers, a team-high 10 doubles, five stolen bases, and 22 runs scored.
At 1.6, RyMac is the only Rockies position player with a WAR over 1. The only thing to think about is if he should play third base, where he’s made 15 starts this year, or second base, where he’s made 21. He’s got two errors, but many more highlight reels at either spot, as proven by his NL-leading 1.0 defensive WAR. At bat, McMahon leads the team in homers (8) and RBI (24) and is hitting .269/.314/.811.
He can play in center field, where he’s started twice as many games as at second base (20-10), but Hampson has proved he should be on the field. He leads the team with 25 runs scored, which is also tied for sixth-best in the NL. His seven stolen bases are tied for best in the NL. He’s a good defender wherever he is at on the field, but with the flooded infield, he’s been starting more in center lately.
Go with the hot hand
He is in the zone. After hitting a homer on Wednesday, and then after hitting a walk-off double to beat the Padres later in the same game, Fuentes stayed hot on Thursday with another homer and four RBI performance against the Reds. Despite four errors, he’s got range at third and the arm to back it up. He’s also got versatility with 22 starts at third and another two at first. Through May 9, Fuentes was hitting .191/.206/.266 with two homers and 10 RBI. In the last two games, his gone 5-for-8 with two homers and seven RBI. He’s now hitting .223/.236/.585.
Making a good case
Joe is hitting .400/.609/1.075. That’s insane. In 23 plate appearances, he also has eight walks and rarely if ever swings at pitches out of the zone. He’s hit one double, driven in three runs – the first of his MLB career on Thursday - and scored another two. He’s made some good plays at first, along with two errors.
After making his MLB debut on April 10, Trejo struggle without regular playing time in April. In May, it’s been a different story even without consistent starts. In May, he’s hitting 6-19, five runs, two RBI, one double, and two walks. He can play shortstop when Story needs a day off, which he’s done twice now, but also plays second decently. On the season, he’s hitting .267/.324/.657.
Odd man out
The veteran first baseman hasn’t fared as well. In four starts and a few pinch-hitting appearances, he’s hitting .105/.190/.296 in 19 at-bats with one run. He’s walked twice, totaled two hits, and struck out five times. If the lineup starts to get crowded, Adams should be the first departure.
Cron was able to do a little bit of “pregame work on Thursday” and Black said he could get into the batting cage in the next few days. When he comes back, Joe’s been good, but not enough for Cron to be Wally Pipped. If Rodgers proves to be healthy and rocking with the Isotopes to earn a call-up, Owings, who is “still a ways away” comes back, and Story is still a Rockie, the Rockies might have to think about their roster makeup.
If you were in charge of the lineup, regardless of the opposing starting pitcher, what infield would you go with right now?
This poll is closed
1B: Joe 2B: McMahon SS: Story 3B: Fuentes
1B: Joe 2B: Trejo SS: Story 3B: McMahon
1B: Fuentes 2B: Trejo SS: Story 3B: McMahon
1B: Adams 2B: McMahon SS: Story 3B: Fuentes
Other combination (please share in the comments)
★ ★ ★
Rodgers will get the start at second base for Triple-A Albuquerque on Friday for his first action since suffering a hamstring injury in Spring Training. Bud Black made it clear that it’s too early to say where Rodgers is: “I think he’s got to get game stamina … No timeline, but he’s in a really good spot and we’ll get that underway.”
On Saturday, Kyle Freeland, suiting up for Triple-A Albuquerque, will make his first start of 2021 since straining his left shoulder in Spring Training. MLB.com’s Daniel Guerrero reports that Black and Freeland are feeling good.
“[Freeland’s] built up and we feel good about it, and [his] arm feels great,” Black said. “You know, that’s the most important thing is his health, and along the way, he’s felt confident in where he is physically and mentally, which is also a big hurdle to overcome. It’s how you feel mentally about your arm and he’s in a really good spot.”
If things go well, both Freeland and Rodgers could be back on the big-league roster before the month ends.
On Hall of Fame down, one to go.
On the farm
The Grizzlies were the only Rockies farm team to come up with a win on Thursday. They were led by an RBI triple by Grant Lavigne, who also came around to score on a wild pitch to have his hand in half the scoring for Fresno.
The Isotopes blew a 3-0 lead when Brandon Gold gave up two runs in the fifth and Jairo Díaz surrendered two more in 1/3 of an inning in the seventh in taking the loss. Díaz gave up two hits and one walk with one strikeout. Sam Hilliard went 2-for-3 with one run scored and one walk. Greg Bird and Taylor Motter both hit RBI doubles and Jose Briceno hit an RBI single.
The Yard Goats put up a valiant fight in shrinking a 6-2 lead to 6-5 with two runs in the eighth and another in the ninth, but they came up short after ending the game with runners on the corners. Coco Montes went 3-for-4 with one RBI and one double and Casey Golden and Manuel Melendez went 2-for-4.
Brenton Doyle hit a solo homer in a 2-for-4 night in Spokane’s losing effort.
★ ★ ★
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