Charlie Blackmon, the man known as @Chuck_Nazty, the man spitting the best Twitter game of anybody in the Colorado Rockies organization, currently plays for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. In spring training a cut suffered on his knee while sliding hindered his chances of making the opening day roster. Blackmon was then joined by Tyler Colvin as the Rockies expressed a preference for versatile infielders over versatile outfielders. While Reid Brignac and Jonathan Herrera make Rockies fans wring their hands on a nightly basis, Blackmon and Colvin are left to mash AAA pitching and wait for their turn.
Blackmon is doing just that, producing to the tune of .372/.485/.628. It seems that every Sky Sox game summary mentions Blackmon with multiple hits and usually an extra-base hit. He has also stolen 5 bases and only been caught twice.
Remember the buzz when Blackmon was first called up? Remember the ensuing disappointment when he lost the rest of that 2011 season to injury? Do you realize that Chuck Nazty has only played in 69 Major League games? I believe that there should still be buzz about Blackmon, and it should still be the type of buzz reserved for exciting prospects where we wonder about what lies ahead. We know what Blackmon’s game looks like, but that does not mean we fully know what he has to offer.
Consider Eric Young Jr.’s season for a moment. As in seasons past, coaches and fans alike salivate at the possibilities of putting his speed at the top of the lineup. When asked what position he played this spring, Young said: “Lead-off hitter.” The dude was ready to wreak havoc. The execution of that plan, however, has been suspect.
Young has stolen 2 bases and he has been caught twice. For your consideration, here are the stolen base totals for some other Rockies. Josh Rutledge is 5-for-5 in stolen bases. Carlos Gonzalez is 4-for-4. Michael Cuddyer is 2-for-3 in stolen bases. Wilin Rosario has stolen 3 bases and been caught only once (yes, that Wilin Rosario…the husky power-hitting catcher).
So Young’s electric speed has gained two stolen bases, but it has also thrown away 50 outs (approximately) thanks to poor decision making and ill-timed aggressiveness. He is still hitting at a nice clip, posting the following numbers: .303/.338/.474. But if he is not consistently impacting the game with his legs, what are we talking about here? You have the occasional play where Young takes the extra base or scores easily from first as he did last night on a Carlos Gonzalez double. Otherwise you have a 4th outfielder who hits reasonably well, plays average defense, and steals the occasional base. Charlie Blackmon does all of those things, and he does them better.
I love watching Young play and I understand why the team is so intrigued by his skill set. But we have reached a point where it is reasonable to ask: how much longer are the Rockies going to bang their heads on the wall while they wait for him to show that he has grown out of foolish base-running mistakes? Because if he is offsetting his own speed, then he is just another pretty good 4th outfielder. And if he is offsetting his own speed, Blackmon and Colvin both might be better options.
The Rockies showed they are willing to make difficult decisions in order to stick as legitimate contenders when they promoted Nolan Arenado ahead of schedule and traded Chris Nelson to the Yankees. They will face another one when the time comes to cut Jeff Francis loose in favor of either Tyler Chatwood or Drew Pomeranz. If both of those young pitchers are ready, then they might also face a difficult decision with Juan Nicasio. And down the road, they will face yet another tough call if Eric Young Jr. does not show improvement in his decision making. That’s in the long term.
In the short term Charlie Blackmon deserves a shot right now. The Rockies know where Tyler Colvin fits if he proves his bat is right. What they need to find out is if Blackmon is a better fit for Young Jr.’s role. They need to relegate Young to a 5th outfielder/pinch hitting/pinch running role. They need to call up Blackmon to take one of the spots currently occupied (inexplicably) by either Ryan Wheeler or Reid Brignac. And they need to give Blackmon the spot starts that are currently carved out for EY2.
If the Rockies are truly committed to making tough decisions to put the best players on the field, then they need to see if they have an upgrade available in Charlie Blackmon.
What do you think, Rox Pilers? Would you like to see Chuck Nazty get a shot? Should it be somebody else (like Colvin)? Or should the Rockies stand pat with the current roster? Let us know what you think in the comments.