With the acquisition of Marco Scutaro over the weekend the regular starting nine for the 2012 Colorado Rockies should be established. The only real questions left for position players in the back-up spots.
There will probably be only two spots open for middle infielders, with a second catcher, Jason Giambi and a forth outfielder taking three of five bench spots. That means a maximum two spots open for a combination of Eric Young, Jr., Chris Nelson, Jonathan Herrera, DJ LeMahieu and Jordan Pacheco with Thomas Field and Hector Gomez as long shot options.
Every one of these players has positives and potential that they could bring to the team, as well as glaring holes in their game. The obvious choice for the backup middle infielder job is Chris Nelson for the simple reason he is the only one without minor league options and can play second, third and short. Eric Young Jr. also has a shot at the 25th man on the roster spot, mainly because Jim Tracy thinks EY2 can play the outfield, despite Young showing no ability to do so in the past. Jordan Pacheco also has the versatile label, which basically means he doesn’t play one position well enough to stay there full time, but his ability to catch makes him a somewhat unique super-utility guy. Jonny Herrera somehow has a minor league option for 2012, so chances are he will start the season in Colorado Springs and be the next man up in case of injury. DJ LeMahieu comes in from the Cubs, but has only spent half a season above AA and will probably need more time in the minors. The problem with all the candidates for this spot is the lack of offense. Nelson and Pacheco have the most upside here, but with just over 200 MLB plate appearances, Chris Nelson not shown much ability to hit major league pitching. My favorite here is Pacheco, who in limited at bats this past September showed a good approach at the plate, and is a career .303 hitter in the minors.
Of course the deciding factor for a lot of these players will be what happens in spring training. There have been rumors of teams being interested in trading for Eric Young, Jr., and if you can get something for a player without a position, I say go for it. My prediction for opening day is that Nelson is the only one of these infielders to make the team, along with Tyler Colvin, Charlie Blackmon, Giambi and either Rosario or another back-up catcher. It’s sink or swim time for Nelson, and this is the season he has to show, in limited time, that he belongs in the majors. All I know is that I could not be happier that we are no longer talking about picking a starter out of this group, although with Scutaro only having one year left on his contract, and the next group of prospects including Josh Rutledge, Trevor Story and Rosell Herrera a few years away, we might be in the same spot in 2013.