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With Brendan Rodgers out, the Rockies need a plan at second base

With Brendan Rodgers likely to miss the season, the Rockies are left scrambling to formulate their battle plan at second base.

In 2022, the Colorado Rockies seemingly had their second baseman for the future set in stone. Brendan Rodgers overcame a brutal April slump where hit hit just .078 and finished the season hitting .266/.325/.408 with 13 home runs, 63 RBI, 30 doubles, and three triples. His 137 games played was a career high and he won both a Gold Glove and a Fielding Bible Award at second base for his defensive efforts. His 22 defensive runs saved over 1168 13 innings led all major-league second basemen. It appeared that the finally healthy former top prospect was poised for a breakout season after finishing 2022 with a team leading 4.3 rWAR.

Last Tuesday afternoon, in the bottom of the first inning against the Texas Rangers, Rodgers made a fairly routine diving stop on a ground ball. Unfortunately, it quickly became clear something was wrong when Rodgers didn’t immediately get back up. Training staff escorted him off the field with a dislocated left shoulder and Rockies beat writer Thomas Harding revealed later in the weal that it was more serious than expected. The shoulder capsule had sustained more damage than initially thought and Rodgers is expected to have season-ending surgery.

The Rockies now have a little less than a month to determine who will be their starting second baseman for the 2023 season.

The Frontrunner

The most obvious solution for the Rockies is to move Ryan McMahon to second base. The back-to-back Gold Glove finalist at third base is also an extremely capable second baseman. Through his six MLB seasons, McMahon has made 222 appearances at second base over 1633 23 innings with a .975 fielding percentage.

In 2021 McMahon split time at second and third. He was a finalist for the Gold Glove at third base and was statistically on-par with the second base finalists. McMahon had more DRS and a better Ultimate Zone Rating over 368 13 innings than eventual winner Tommy Edman had over 1032 13 innings.

Ryan McMahon and NL Second Base Finalists - 2021

Player Innings PO A E DRS UZR
Player Innings PO A E DRS UZR
Ryan McMahon 368.1 76 132 2 9 2.9
Tommy Edman 1032.1 198 305 4 6 1.2
Kolten Wong 937 164 229 2 6 4.7
Ozzie Albies 1358.2 231 389 8 1 2.1

Moving McMahon back to second base would also clear third base for young guns Elehuris Montero and Nolan Jones to get big-league playing time, though it is currently unknown if either will be on the Opening Day 26-man roster. It would appear that the Rockies are currently weighing this option, as McMahon has already logged 17 innings at second since Rodgers went down.

Depth Options

With Garrett Hampson departing for the Miami Marlins the Rockies have yet to pick their backup middle infielder and/or utility man. The frontrunner for that position should be the 26-year-old Alan Trejo. Trejo has very little left to prove at the minor-league level after posting an OPS of .893 and .882 with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Trejo had a strong showing with limited playing time at the major-league level last season. In 35 games and 125 plate appearances he hit .271/.312/.424 with four home runs, 17 RBI, and six doubles. He split time across second base, third base, and shortstop. Though his primary position is shortstop, Trejo plays a solid second base and he should be the first person the Rockies turn to if they decide McMahon isn’t their everyday second baseman in 2023.

The Rockies did bring in two middle infielders for the backup and utility position battle. Former Pittsburgh Pirates first-round draft pick Cole Tucker and former Detroit Tiger Harold Castro were both signed to minor-league deals with spring training invites.

Tucker is 26-years-old and has a career slash of .211/.259/.314 over parts of four MLB seasons. Drafted out of high school by the Pirates, Tucker turned in impressive performances with the 2017 High-A Bradenton Marauders and in the 2018 Arizona Fall League. Unfortunately, his offensive performance has been lackluster at best since then. Tucker hasn’t hit above .240 since 2019 and last season with the Pirates he was worth -0.9 rWAR and hit just .175 over 18 appearances. Tucker has decent speed and is a solid defender, but needs to find his swing at the plate. So far this spring, Tucker is hitting .300/.364/.600 with a double, a triple, and a home run. He has also struck out seven times and walked twice.

Hittin’ Harold Castro is the oldest of the bunch at 29-years-old but is the better batter. Over parts of five seasons with the Detroit Tigers, he has a line of .284/.309/.377. Last season he led the Tigers in batting average with .271 and had a wRC+ of 94 over 120 games while setting career highs for himself in most standard batting categories.

The Wild Card

The Rockies recently threw a new wrench into things by signing infielder Mike “Moose” Moustakas to a minor league deal. Moustakas—a three time All-Star and former World Series Champion with the Kansas City Royals—has struggled over the last few seasons. After signing a four year deal worth $64 million to play for the Cincinnati Reds in 2019 he hit just .216/.300/.383 with 21 total home runs before being released this January. For comparison, he hit .259/.319/.498 with 101 home runs and 87 doubles from 2017-2019 with the Royals and the Milwaukee Brewers.

Moustakas has stated he’s injury free for the first time in years and has “found [his] way back to 100%,” meaning he could definitely be an asset for the Rockies. Per Thomas Harding he is unlikely to play second base and will fill in at first, third, and DH where needed. However, it’s entirely possible the Rockies end up slotting him in at his old position, where he hasn’t played since 2020.

On the Farm

Coco Montes of the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes is the most big-league ready of the Rockies farm hands. After being promoted to Triple-A last season Montes hit .274/.359/.500 with 115 total hits, 37 doubles, 77 RBI, and 20 home runs. Montes can play shortstop and third base in addition to second, has decent speed, and a good bat mix of both contact and power. This spring he is 3-for-13 with two home runs.

Julio Carreras (no. 24 PuRP) was protected from the Rule-5 draft by being added to the 40-man roster and was also invited to spring training. Carreras has only played 19 games in Double-A and is unlikely to be ready for MLB this season. Last year with the High-A Spokane Indians, he hit .289/.352/.473 with 37 doubles, two triples, and 11 home runs while also stealing 17 bases. Carreras is the Rockies’ no. 27 organizational prospect and is 4-for-14 this spring with two doubles.

Aaron Schunk (no. 33 PuRP) and Hunter Stovall are both likely to start the 2023 season with the Triple-A Isotopes. Schunk has primarily played third base in his professional career but has logged a decent number of reps at second. Last season with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, he hit .258/.316/.427 with 14 home runs and posted a 101 wRC+. This spring he is 1-for-2 with a home run.

Stovall split most of his time between second base and shortstop with the Yard Goats last season. Stovall is solid both defensively and offensively. At the plate last year he hit .267/.326/.420 with nine home runs, 27 doubles, and three triples over 108 games and posted a 103 wRC+.

Closing Thoughts

The loss of Brendan Rodgers doesn’t have to be as devastating as it seems for the Rockies in what will likely be a non-competitive season. However, the team does need to figure out what to do at the position. The most likely outcome will see Ryan McMahon take the majority of starts at second base depending on how the Rockies decide to use Mike Moustakas. One of the depth/utility options will end up being the backup for second base, and, in my opinion, it should be Trejo. If the Rockies end up turning to the farm then Coco Montes should get the nod, but I’m not sure the team has enough faith in any of their minor leaguers to make that choice.