Saturday, March 9, 2013
The Rox third base breakdown
By Jason Catania
For the Colorado Rockies, third base has become a very interesting battle, as there are two frontrunner candidates for the job, two more who are in the mix and a top prospect who's just close enough to further complicate matters.
Last year, the position was split primarily between Jordan Pacheco and Chris Nelson, both 27, who are the top two candidates entering 2013. Even though neither has much name recognition, the duo helped Rockies third basemen hit a combined .302 -- second-best in the National League to the Mets' .306. Where the pair came up short, though, was in the power department, as they totaled just seven home runs in over 600 plate appearances at third.
After Pacheco and Nelson, who both hit from the right side, there's DJ LeMahieu, who hit .297 while seeing most of his action at second base last year, and rookie Ryan Wheeler, who is an intriguing option as the only one of the four who bats left-handed. Wheeler was acquired over the winter from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for reliever Matt Reynolds.
Beyond those four is Nolan Arenado, one of the Rockies' top prospects, who is considered the club's third baseman of the future. Admittedly, while Pacheco, Nelson and LeMahieu have all had some success to this point, none of them has the potential of the 21-year-old Arenado, who isn't entirely out of the competition just yet, even if he is on the outside looking in, writes the Denver Post's Troy Renck.
As for how this all plays out, well, new manager Walt Weiss could go several different ways, especially because almost all of the players above with big league experience are at least capable of handling more than one position. Aside from third base, Pacheco can play first and even serve as an emergency catcher, Nelson and LeMahieu can man second base and Wheeler can also double as a first baseman. Expect Pacheco and Nelson to be the primary third basemen again, with LeMahieu seeing most of his time split between the hot corner and second base, where he'll be Josh Rutledge's primary backup. Wheeler still has options left, so he could wind up in Triple-A with a chance to factor in at third and/or first base.
Arenado has had a big spring so far, but ESPN Insider Keith Law thinks the Rockies shouldn't push him to the majors based on just that:
Keith LawArenado should prove himself at Triple-A
"More to the point, good teams don't base major roster decisions off spring training performances, and Arenado should at least be asked to go to Triple-A, which would still be a promotion, and show both that his off year last year was a fluke and that the poor effort level he showed in 2012 is a thing of the past. It won't hurt the Rockies any to wait to start his service-time clock anyway."