The Coors Effect

February 20, 2010 1:58 PM

Opening Day roster chances

The Rockies open spring training with 40 players on the 40-man roster, and 22 more as non-roster invitees.  Over the next month and a half, they'll have to winnow those numbers down to 25 players for the Opening Day roster.

Obviously, some of the spots on the 25-man roster are relatively set in stone.  Barring injury or trade, these players will be on the Rockies' Opening Day roster:
Rafael Betancourt
Aaron Cook
Jorge de la Rosa
Jeff Francis
Jason Hammel
Ubaldo Jimenez
Franklin Morales
Huston Street
Chris Iannetta
Clint Barmes
Todd Helton
Ian Stewart
Troy Tulowitzki
Dexter Fowler
Carlos Gonzalez
Brad Hawpe
Seth Smith

So, effectively, the Rockies have 45 players competing for eight roster spots.  And note where those roster spots are: the starting rotation is basically set, unless somebody gets hurt, as are three bullpen spots.  (I'm not including Taylor Buchholz, because we know he won't be ready for Opening Day, though clearly he would be on the roster if he were.)  The eight starting position players are set, as well as one of the backup outfielders.  That leaves, roughly, four spots in the bullpen (assuming the Rockies carry 12 pitchers, which they pretty much always do), a backup catcher, two backups in the infield, and one in the outfield.  And clearly, some players in camp have a better shot at making the team than others.

Should be on the team, but shouldn't be apartment-hunting in Denver just yet

Matt Daley
: Daley pitched pretty well in his major league debut last season, and that should make him a strong candidate to claim a bullpen spot, though not a dead solid lock for one.  The main problem for Daley is that the Rockies have a bunch of right-handed pitchers with live arms who could ultimately be better relief options, but probably need a little bit more seasoning in the minors.

Manny Corpas: If he's healthy and effective, Corpas should be in the bullpen for the Rockies.  But health and effectiveness are two things that eluded Corpas in 2009.  While he does generally have good command, his strikeout rate has never really been what you would want from a late-inning reliever.  His strong 2007 is becoming more of a distant memory.

Randy Flores: Assuming Jim Tracy wants a lefty specialist in the bullpen, Flores is probably that guy.  But seeing how Flores is the best option for the role -- Jimmy Gobble is worse, and Matt Reynolds probably isn't ready -- I'd be just as well with the Rockies not even carrying one.  But we have to assume they will, and Flores is probably the guy.

Miguel Olivo: Like Chris Iannetta, Olivo is a low-average guy who can hit for power (23 homers in 2009.)  Unlike Iannetta, he doesn't draw walks (.292 OBP.)  Still, though, the Rockies will probably carry Olivo on the roster to start the year to buy more time for Michael McKenry, and the two Pauls (Lo Duca and Phillips) are probably worse options.

Jason Giambi: Giambi can still hit and draw a walk (we think, at least, based on last September.)  And we're assuming he'll probably make the team since the Rockies did sign him to a major league contract.  Then again, Giambi has basically zero defensive value.  Basically, his only value to the Rockies is as a pinch hitter, and since (unlike last September) the Rockies have a limited number of roster spots available, they might decide this is a bad idea.  Of course, it was only three years ago when the Rockies decided that carrying John Mabry on the roster was a good idea.

Melvin Mora: Again, Mora's on a major league contract, which I think ups the odds that he'll make the roster.  Supposedly, he can back up third base and second base, though he hasn't played second base since 2006.  I feel about as good about Eric Young playing third base as I do about Mora playing second, so I'm not sure why the Rockies did this.  I have a nagging feeling that Mora and Giambi are Steve Finley and John Mabry, Part Deux, but we'll see about that one.

Even-odds to make the roster

Matt Belisle
: In the past, the Rockies have usually kept their starting pitching prospects, well, being starting pitchers in the minors rather than bringing them to the majors to work in the bullpen, which is why I think Belisle will claim the last spot in the bullpen.  Belisle as a swingman/mop-up reliever isn't really that bad of an idea, particularly if it buys more time for Chacin.  But he'll have to hold off several other candidates for the spot -- aside from Chacin, there are other live arms like Esmil Rogers and Samuel Deduno, and there's Justin Speier in camp as well.

Ryan Spilborghs: Spilborghs wasn't great in 2009, to be sure.  If he's to have any value to the Rockies, a team with three lefty-hitting outfielders, he needs to do better than the 757 OPS he posted against LHPs in 2009 (I'm thinking more like the 914 he had in 2008.)  Melvin Mora (who should be on the team) can be the righty bat off the bench -- but he doesn't really solve the problem of having an outfielder to start against lefties.  So the Rockies don't have a clearly better option for the last position player spot on the roster.

Eric Young Jr.: Young can run, he can play second base and center field (and could probably play third base, and the corner outfield positions, if needed.)  The problem is the logistics: Mora can back up the same infield positions, and Spilborghs can back up all three outfield positions; and unlike Young, the other two give Tracy some options to play matchups as they'll allow Tracy to sit Stewart and Smith/Gonzalez against tough lefties.  As far as I know, Young doesn't hit lefties terribly well, so this lessens his chances of making the team.  There's an outside shot he'll supplant Barmes as the Rockies' starting second baseman, but from what I've heard this offseason, it would basically take an injury to Barmes for that to happen now.  Young should probably get a place in Castle Rock: that way, he won't have to move his stuff when he inevitably gets shuttled between Colorado Springs and Denver several times this season.

Less than even money to make the team

Jhoulys Chacin/Samuel Deduno/Esmil Rogers
: I'd say there's at least a 50-50 shot that one of these three makes the team.  All three are pitching prospects to various degrees, and all three are fairly close to being ready for the majors.  Chacin is the closest (if he's not there already), but he's also the one of the three whose future is clearly as a starter -- Deduno's future is probably as a reliever, while Rogers could go either way.  There would be a lot of benefit to having all three start the season in the minors, but there's also a pretty good chance that any of the three could do better than Matt Belisle in the bullpen.  Based on what the Rockies have done in the past, though, I think that unless someone gets hurt all three will start the year in Colorado Springs.

Justin Speier: Speier has been an above average to very good relief pitcher in the past, but 2009 was a down year -- though his peripherals suggest that he was more unlucky than bad.  Ultimately, he's Matt Belisle's main competition for the final bullpen spot, even though he's 36.  The odds of Speier making the team go up considerably if any of the Rockies' relief pitchers get hurt.

Michael McKenry: McKenry is a good defensive catcher with good plate discipline and some pop, but he probably needs some time in Triple-A.  But with Miguel Olivo being the other option as the backup catcher, a good spring could earn him the backup job to Iannetta.  Still, though, I think the best bet is for him to start the year in Colorado Springs.

Unlikely to make the team

Tim Redding
: Redding is specifically around for this situation: one of the Rockies' starting pitchers gets hurt, and Jhoulys Chacin doesn't do enough in spring training to convince the Rockies that he's ready.  Redding would then be a placeholder until Chacin is ready (or whoever gets hurt is ready to return.)

Greg Reynolds: ... or, if the Rockies remember that Tim Redding isn't a very good pitcher, they could go with Reynolds in that situation.  But Reynolds missed virtually all of 2009, and hasn't done much to convince anyone that he's a good pitcher.

Greg Smith: Or it could be Smith.  Smith was sort of effective as a full-time starting pitcher in Oakland in 2008, before coming over to Colorado in the Holliday trade and then missing all of 2009.  The Rockies might consider trying him as a lefty specialist: lefties had just a 663 OPS against him in 2008, and with no starting spots open (and, at the very least, Chacin and Redding ahead of him in the pecking order), he could be useful to the Rockies in that role.  But I don't really think the Rockies will see it that way.

Jimmy Gobble: Why do I think Randy Flores is so likely to make the team?  Because, assuming the Rockies carry a lefty specialist (and don't audition Smith for that role), this is really the only other option.  Randy Flores isn't that good, but I think we can safely say that he's better than Jimmy Gobble.

Matt Reynolds: He's the sleeper to make the Opening Day bullpen.  Reynolds has pitched well in the minors and is left-handed.  With the unspectacular cast of lefty relievers in camp, Reynolds could prove to be the best of the bunch.

Omar Quintanilla: Him again?  Quintanilla was non-tendered by the Rockies this offseason, but is still with the team.  With Eric Young Jr. around, it would take numerous injuries for Quintanilla to make the team this time around.

Cole Garner/Matt Miller: With Ryan Spilborghs' struggles against lefties in 2009, he no longer has a clear hold on the job of "fifth outfielder who can hurt lefties."  Garner or Miller could supplant him, though both have their own issues: Miller doesn't really hit lefties all the well (though he's a generally good hitter, overall) and Garner hasn't played above Double-A and doesn't know how to work a walk.  Still, though, the Rockies should give both a long look in the spring, particularly if Spilborghs is struggling.

Paul Lo Duca/Jay Payton: Lo Duca and Payton have two things in common: they're 37, and neither of them played baseball in 2009.  Both of those factors make the suggestion that they're done a valid one.

Paul Phillips: Phillips should be the backup catcher... at Colorado Springs.  He's in camp, but realistically, he's behind Olivo and McKenry (and maybe even Lo Duca) for backup catcher.

Juan Rincon: Hopefully, the fact that Rincon hasn't posted an ERA under 5 since 2006 should convince the Rockies not to have him on the roster.

That's it for the players who have a realistic shot at making the roster.  The remainder of the players in camp are mostly prospects who are not ready, though some could see time in the majors this season. 

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