Last Friday, the Colorado Rockies announced a list of 22 non-roster invitees that would be joining the team for Major League Spring Training. It’s an interesting list containing a plethora of pitchers, along with several position player prospects and veterans looking for a roster spot.
2⃣2⃣ non-roster invitees will be joining us for Major League Spring Training pic.twitter.com/auyIDXcgsw— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) January 27, 2023
The list is full of intriguing names and one of the best things about Spring Training is the competition for players jockeying for a spot on the big league roster or positioning themselves as an early call-up when the opportunity arrives. So, let’s take a look at some of the notable spots and players aiming to make a splash.
The Rockies traditionally are fairly lacking in the backstop department. While almost every position has a de facto representative in the team’s history, the catcher is a little thin. Currently, the team boasts two catchers on the 40-man roster, primary backstop Elías Díaz is slated for the starting role once again and Brian Serven has the advantage of being the incumbent backup. Unfortunately, Díaz regressed offensively in 2022, while Serven started off strong but petered out by the season’s end.
All eyes will primarily be on Drew Romo and how he performs. Romo experienced another solid campaign in 2022 with the High-A Spokane Indians. In 109 games, he batted .254/.321/.372 with a handful of home runs, 58 RBI, and 18 stolen bases. So, his bat is still solid and developing at a nice rate. His catching game still needs a few more improvements to get to a big-league standard. While he cut down on passed balls last season, he caught just 18% of would-be base stealers, a stark difference from the 35% in Low-A Fresno. Still, the Rockies are betting the farm on Romo becoming the face of the catching position sometime in the near future.
A more interesting battle to watch will be between Willie MacIver and Jonathan Morales. MacIver displayed a lot of improvement defensively last season and showed plenty of pop in the bat. However, strikeouts are a big problem, something that could hinder his bid for a big league spot. As for Morales, he showed a solid bat last season with Triple-A Albuquerque, taking advantage of the hitter-friendly PCL, while also providing quality defense behind the plate and the versatility to play both corner infield positions. He spent the winter in the Puerto Rican Winter League where he struggled offensively, but still, it’ll be interesting to see if either other of them can break through.
The Rockies are pretty set with their positions players, especially with the infield, hence the scarce invitations. A breakout season for Grant Lavigne, capped off by a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, warrants further exposure to the big league camp as he prepares to play in Triple-A this year. The same can be said for Coco Montes who also enjoyed a solid 2022 campaign and has a chance to break through on the infield depth chart, but it feels like they both will take a back seat to the other invitees.
Truly the battle to watch for a big-league spot will be between Cole Tucker and Harold Castro. It almost feels like a guarantee that one of them will make the roster, the only question is which one. Both players are pure utility players, capable of playing any position on the field, save catcher.
If I had to guess, I would say Harold Castro has a better chance to make the roster. Cole Tucker has struggled to a .211/.259/.314 across four major league seasons. So, adding a utility player strictly for defensive purposes doesn’t seem quite productive for the Rockies. Castro on the other hand is a useful contact hitter, that can also play solid defense whenever called upon. In five seasons with the Detroit Tigers, he has batted .284/.309/.377 which is a testament to a guy that prioritizes contact more than anything. He can throw out a home run here and there but fits in as a decent substitute for a Garrett Hampson-type.
The theme of the Rockies' offseason has been all about pitching. The majority of moves have been about amassing depth and bringing in bargain players of varying degrees of experience. So, it will be the position to keep an eye on as players are looking for a second chance and others are looking to take the next step in their development.
The most notable veteran vying for a spot is Fernando Abad. The 37-year-old last pitched in the big leagues with the Baltimore Orioles in 2021. After a disappointing season, Abad spent the 2022 season with the Triple-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners where he posted a 3.56 ERA in 40 innings of work. While the strikeout numbers aren’t excessive, he showed a solid grasp of the zone. Adding a veteran lefty reliever to the bullpen isn’t a bad move, and it will be interesting if the Rockies can catch Daniel Bard-esque lightning in a bottle twice.
After that, it’s a toss-up that allows you to pick your poison pertaining to your interests. Do you want to see a former big league arm try to re-establish themselves as a suitable arm barn option, or are you excited to see what a new arm like Jeff Criswell can do with a new organization? Perhaps you’re more interested in what the local kid Case Williams can do with the exposure. The possibilities are endless and I’m intrigued by how the pitching staff will shape up as Spring Training gets underway.
Spring Training moves
The big question looming over it all, is that if any of the non-roster invitees make enough noise to garner a spot on the 40-man roster, who gets the cut? The Rockies have a full 40-man roster, meaning they may have to make some tough decisions to accommodate subsequent moves. Perhaps some trades will come to fruition as play begins or they cut bait with some players that are still on the edge of the roster. Either way, Spring Training is just a few weeks away and I can’t wait to see how the competitions pan out.
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