After the second half of 2011, it seemed like the future of center field for the Rockies was bright. Now that we’ve seen how guys are doing in the spring, there are some doubts. Will center field be the next offensive desert in a team that’s had too many of those?
How I want Dexter Fowler to be the center fielder he is supposed to be. Those long legs! They seem tailor-made for a center fielder and for a lead-off hitter. But sometimes he seems completely ill-equipped for either. His defense is less worrisome to me; though he still has a little growing to do in terms of understanding when to attempt a sliding catch and when to play the ball on a hop, he’s generally effective in the field, and he has a strong arm. But his performance at the plate this spring has been nothing short of abysmal. In 62 at-bats he’s managed just 8 hits, and he’s struck out 17 times. This is disheartening, since Dex’s stint in Triple A last season really seemed to cure whatever was wrong with his swing and get him back into fighting shape offensively. He can’t be this inconsistent and expect to keep the starting job. Also, I really don’t like him hitting lead-off. The fact that he does is a perfect example of Jim Tracy’s inability to think outside the box. He has great speed, therefore he ought to be good at stealing bases, therefore he ought to hit at the top of the order. But he is NOT good at stealing bases, and that is showing no signs of getting any better. He also strikes out way too much for a lead-off man. I maintain that his offensive strength (when he’s hitting at all, that is) is extra-base hits with runners on. That’s a job for the 7-spot. He won’t hit there, though. That’s not the Tracy way. Let’s just hope that whatever is going on with Dex right now will get fixed in time for opening day, because he’s got the job and we need him to be good at it.
Blackmon’s really a corner outfielder, but he can play center and might if Fowler continues to struggle. In fact, there’s an idea. Fowler still has an option left, so if he really can’t get it together within the first month of the season, I say we send him down and bring Blackmon up for a while. It could work.
Wheeler’s name has come up as possible trade bait, but so far the Rockies have held onto him. I think they should keep holding on, because he’s a top prospect with a lot of pop in his bat. He’s not on the roster and won’t make it on just yet, but he’s not far from a big-league call-up. He’s hitting a so-so .263 this spring, but he did hit a walk-off home run a couple of weeks ago, and I know he’s got more of that in him.
Eric Young Jr.
I just can’t seriously consider EYJ a legitimate candidate for center field. That doesn’t work for me. But I don’t call the shots, and he’s actually the only other guy on this list besides Fowler who’s made the active roster. Which means on an off-day for Fowler, he is the center fielder. Yikes.
Who makes the 40-man: Fowler, Blackmon, Young
Who makes the 25-man: Fowler, Young
Who starts on opening day: Fowler