Rockies are Taking A Big Risk at Catcher
There is little doubt about the Rockies’ starting catcher; the job is Chris Iannetta’s to lose. If this sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve heard it before. Chris was the team’s Opening Day catcher in 2007, 2009, and 2010, but has yet to maintain the job throughout an entire season. He’s talented, but has always had difficulty staying on an even keel when faced with adversity. When he struggled in the past, the Rockies had the option of playing Yorvit Torrealba or Miguel Olivo. This year, the Rockies entered Spring Training with no other viable alternative to Iannetta. If he falters, Colorado will have to ride it out or make a move for another catcher.
The Rox have seven catchers in the Big League camp, but will only keep two on the 25 man roster. The group consists of three journey men, three prospects, and Iannetta. Aside from Iannetta, none are in a position to help the club next year. Regardless, I’m going to discuss the situation with each player.
Chris Iannetta — It’s interesting that Chris’s best year was in 2008, the only season since 2006 that he wasn’t the Opening Day starter. That doesn’t bode well for Chris, especially since he has more pressure on him this year than ever. The Rox are all in with him as the starter. No one is worried about Chris’s defense or signal calling, but he has to improve upon last year’s .701 OPS. He is vital to the 2011 season, perhaps more than any other player on the roster.
Jose Morales — The Rockies acquired Morales in an off-season trade with the Twins. He has been a professional for a decade, but only has 181 Major League plate appearances. He is a light hitter and an average defender. If Morales receives significant playing time next season, the Rockies will be in bad shape.
Chad Moeller — Moeller made his big league debut in 2000. Since then, he has had 1539 plate appearances and only 29 home runs. He is a career .226 hitter, with a .640 OPS. He is also a below average defender. There is no room for Moeller anywhere in the Rockies’ system. The best thing they could do is make him a AAA coach so he can work with catching prospects.
Mike McKenry — McKenry was a September call up last season, but failed to get a hit in eight at-bats. In Colorado Springs, he hit .265 with 10 homeruns. While McKenry is a solid game manager, he has a below average throwing arm. He only threw out 29% of attempted base stealers last year. The Rockies will have to decide if they want him as the team’s back up or if they want to send him back to Colorado Springs so he can play every day. If the Rox want Jordan Pacheco and Wilin Rosario in AAA, McKenry might earn a spot on the roster.
Matt Pagnozzi — Last year, Pagnozzi started 12 games for the Cardinals. Don’t be fooled by his .359 batting average. Over eight minor league seasons, Pagnozzi is a career .214 hitter. I doubt he’ll make much of a contribution.
Jordan Pacheco — This will be Pacheco’s second Major League Spring Training. Last year, he made quite an impression on Jim Tracy. Pacheco only recently moved to catcher and still needs a lot of work defensively, but he can flat out rake. Since entering the Rockies’ system, he is a .310 hitter with an .824 OPS. In college, Jordan played second base and has played some third with the Rockies. Because of Wilin Rosario, his future may be as a super utility player.
Wilin Rosario — Simply put, Rosario is the Rockies’ future behind the plate. If not for a torn ACL last season, he would be a legitimate threat to unseat Iannetta this spring. He is that good. Rosario is a skilled defender with an excellent throwing arm. In his minor league career, he has gunned down over 40% of attempted base stealers, while displaying a penchant for picking off runners at first. He can also hit. Last year with Tulsa, he hit 19 bombs in just 270 at-bats. Because of his knee, the Rox are taking it slow with Wilin, but he will probably be a September call up. I’m predicting that he will be the Rockies’ starting catcher in 2012.
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