Nelson (10) fields a ground ball in the second inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Image: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

What Now, Chris Nelson?


There is a lot happening with the Colorado Rockies these days. Their front office is being transparent…ish. If nothing else they are letting fans know what they are struggling with. For instance, Dan O’Dowd recently said the following about playing in Denver: “We now realize where we are at and where we play…” Apparently that is something that confused them before. I’ll wait for you to either punch a hole in the wall or pick your jaw up off the floor, whichever reaction you chose…

…ready to proceed? Great.

Anyhow, in the midst of front office chaos and what seems to be a different pitching philosophy every day, there are some developments with the team that are traditional…and I mean traditional in a good way. You know, giving young players more playing time because your team is out of contention and seeing them develop into better pros. This is happening with their position players, and it is something that pays off, by the way. Their immediate decline after 2007 notwithstanding, the core of position players who all had career years to lead the Rockies to the World Series improved because of playing time at the ends of previous lost seasons.

Note: they also added that Tulowitzki guy to their lineup that season.

We have seen it work before, and the Rockies have young players improving yet again this year. Jordan Pacheco has shown a polished big league swing, putting the ball in play and being a steady presence in multiple spots in the lineup. Wilin Rosario is smashing the ball and trying to learn-by-fire when it comes to his defense behind the plate. Tyler Colvin has established consistency and Dexter Fowler has finally broken out. Eric Young Jr. did his best to force his way on the roster. And Chris Nelson, once known for stealing home and not much else, has finally shown he can produce offensively and perhaps approach the expectations that were heaped upon him as a first round pick.

It has been a confusing path to this point for Nelson. He puttered out and was added to the scrap heap of potential second baseman. Then, because of his athleticism, he profiled as a utility player and the Rockies continued their search elsewhere for answers at both second and third base. Then Casey Blake, the veteran solution at third and a great clubhouse guy, was released before the 2012 season even started. Then Nelson started the season at third base by default. Then he struggled, then he got hurt and Jordan Pacheco got a chance at third. Then Todd Helton and Michael Cuddyer got hurt, and Nelson was inserted at third yet again.

Then Nelson played well and forced himself into the Rockies’ future plans.

Got all that?

Here is my question: what now, Chris Nelson? To my eyes we need to see him trade flashes of excitement for consistency. It seems like he has started to do that, sustaining decent production while making fewer eye-popping plays, whether at the plate, on the basepaths, or in the field. He needs to keep that up to stay in the conversation, play every day and keep the brakes pumped on Nolan Arenado‘s once-rushed path to the big show.

Tonight he will look to continue his recent surge, which earned him NL player of the week honors, against Giants stud Matt Cain…in San Francisco. So maybe if we struggles tonight we can give him a pass. But after that, it’s down to serious business and a higher standard.

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