Don’t look now, but two players who have not gotten much press are playing very well in spring training and are making their cases to make the 25-man roster. Those two players are Charlie Culberson and Paul Janish. Neither of these guys is a big name player, but both are at least somewhat established, and both can help greatly.
The race for the third, fourth, and even fifth outfield spot has been very public. Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, Brandon Barnes, and Drew Stubbs are all thought to be in the running for two or three spots. But one guy who hasn’t gotten any press is Charlie Culberson. Culberson was actually good for the Rockies in 99 at bats last season, hitting .293 with a couple of homers and four steals, but due to the additions of Barnes and Stubbs, and also due to the fact that he is not an outfielder by trade, he has been largely overlooked.
Culberson has played very well so far in spring training. He’s five for 16 with a homer, a double, a steal, and a .915 OPS, and this isn’t a surprise, given that Culberson played well last season in the Big Leagues. The problem is that Dickerson and Barnes in particular are also playing very well, so Culberson hasn’t been able to distinguish himself offensively in the race for a roster spot. There is one way in which he has an advantage over his counterparts, though; he can also play second base. In fact, given that second base is one of the biggest holes on this team, I’m surprised that people are focusing exclusively on DJ LeMahieu and Josh Rutledge. Culberson has proved to be a very solid defensive second baseman, and he hit well last year. If he can keep up this offensive production, why can’t he be the starter? The fact that he plays both the infield and the outfield is especially important for the Rockies, because they usually carry an extra relief pitcher or two given the circumstances and often carry just 12 offensive players. Culberson could be a valuable piece.
My expectations for Paul Janish are considerably lower. I’ve always liked Janish, so I love that he is a Colorado Rockie and is playing well in spring training, but I don’t think he will make the roster out of spring training. With eight starters, a backup catcher, a backup second baseman, and four or five outfielders all likely being part of the roster, there is just no space left for a guy like Janish. But I do think the fact that he is performing well is important. It tells the team that if Troy Tulowitzki gets injured again (I really don’t want that to happen, but it could well, given that it seemingly does every year), Janish is a viable backup option. He might be able to win a roster spot out of spring training if he continues to hit this well, but being the backup to Troy Tulowitzki isn’t the worst thing in the world.