Time flies and it’s now only a week until opening day. That means that it’s decision time for determining who has earned a spot in the final 25 man roster. The big battle to make the team has been between a group of young Rockies battling to be the man at second base now that D.J. LeMahieu has moved on to the Yankees.
There are other opportunities – How about the fourth outfielder seeing that Charlie Blackmon in right field, Ian Desmond in center field and David Dahl in left field seem to be set in place? Raimel Tapia is the potential choice with Noel Cuevas also in the mix. The catch is that Tapia is out of minor league options. It’s not likely that he would make it through the waiver process and return to Albuquerque. How about the backup catcher which has come down to a choice between Tony Wolters and Tom Murphy? Murphy is also out of minor league options and if cut would almost certainly be lost on the waiver wire.
Let’s do a quick count. The word is that there will be a five-man starting rotation with an eight-man bullpen – that’s 13. With nine men on the field in starting positions that make 22. The backup catcher makes 23. The backup outfield makes 24 which means there’s only one remaining bench spot for the group of talented players that remain.
It’s often been said that spring training numbers don’t mean a lot. There’s some validity in that since spring training games are the time when hitters try to stabilize the swing changes they worked on during the winter and for pitchers to settle their mechanics and concentrate on that pitch they’re trying to add to their arsenal. Because of this, results can be erratic. Still selections have to be made and, like it or not, they have to be made based on performance.
I think there are some key performance indicators that will determine the final choices made by Bud Black and his coaching staff. Take a look at the second base position. Let’s just consider offensive potential. This has come down to a battle between Ryan McMahon and Garrett Hampson, and wait, you now need to include Pat Valaika as a possible candidate. Here are the key numbers. You can make your own judgement. Ryan McMahon: 42 at bats, two home runs, nine RBI, hitting .429. Garrett Hampson: 32 at bats, three home runs, six RBI, hitting .313. Pat Valaika: 43 at bats, four home runs, 12 RBI, hitting .302.
All three of these youngsters can play multiple positions, a big plus in the Rockies player profile model. This will be a tough choice to make. Next week we’ll see who’s on second.
Finally, a significant rule change will go into effect this season. There will be a single trade deadline July 31. No more last-minute maneuvering in August and September as playoff time approaches – something the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Rockies nemesis in the Western Division, have been noted for over the years.
In our next column we’ll review the final roster selections and take a close look at the key to making the playoffs for a third straight season – the Rockies pitching staff.
Make sure your cable bill is paid or, heck, just put a couple of season tickets on your credit card. I think this year’s Rockies will make you glad you did.
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