Jefe, aka Marc Gustafson, Senior Director, Player Development: We have many beautiful outfielders in the organization, each of them filled with little surprises.
El Guapo, aka Dan O’Dowd, GM: Many outfielders?
Jefe: Oh yes, many!
El Guapo: Would you say we have a plethora of outfielders?
Jefe: A what?
El Guapo: A “plethora”.
Jefe: Oh yes, we have a plethora.
El Guapo: Jefe, what is a plethora?
Jefe: Why, El Guapo?
El Guapo: Well, you told me we have a plethora. And I just would like to know if you know what a plethora is. I would not like to think that a person would tell someone he has a plethora, and then find out that that person has “no idea” what it means to have a plethora.
Jefe: Forgive me, El Guapo. I know that I, Jefe, do not have your superior intellect and education. But could it be that once again, you are angry at something else, and are looking to take it out on me?
Despite El Guapo being a jerk, Jefe was right. The Rox do have a plethora of outfielders. From top to bottom, the organization is loaded with outfield potential. Unfortunately, it will take more than potential for the Rockies to win the division next season. Aside from Carlos Gonzalez and Ryan Spilborghs, their outfielders are unproven. Last year, they hoped Dexter Fowler and Seth Smith would have break out seasons, but Smith had trouble with left-handers and Fowler had to spend time in the minors. Colorado needs at least one of the two to perform this year.
There are eight outfielders in camp with the Rockies, but just five on the 40-Man roster. In all likelihood, they will keep four during the regular season, with EY Jr., Ty Wigginton, or Jonathan Herrera serving as an emergency option. Let’s take a look at the group that is in Scottsdale with the Rox.
As good as CarGo was last season, he still has much room for improvement. He was an absolute monster in Coors Field, but was a different player on the road. As a visitor, his OPS was nearly 400 points lower than at home. The Rockies were a bad road team last year and CarGo was a big part of the problem. If he can perform better when playing outside of Coors, the team will improve. The good news is that Carlos is just 25 and still developing as a player. He kind of sucked on the road last year, but managed to deservedly finish third in the MVP voting.
At this point in his career, there is little mystery about Spilborghs. He is a tremendous asset in the clubhouse and off the bench. Spilly is at his best when the Rockies use him as a utility outfielder. He can adequately play all three outfield positions and has a bunch of pinch hitting experience. Even though Spilly is a righty, he is better against right-handed pitchers. As usual, he will play a lot, but won’t start every night. There is a decent chance that Tracy will use him in a platoon with Seth Smith.
It’s time for Fowler to step up. His potential is limitless, but the Rox can’t wait around forever on the centerfielder. Reportedly, Dexter had a great off-season. He placed an emphasis on his diet and worked his tail off. If he can break-out this year, the Rox will have one of the best left-center combinations in all of baseball.
Smith was awful last season, making him this year’s biggest question mark in the outfield. For the season, he hit .154 against left-handed pitching and it’s unreasonable to expect a lot of improvement in that area. Over the course of his career, he is a sub-.200 hitter against southpaws. Next year, he will face left-handers only in the rarest of circumstances. I like Smith, but I’m afraid his vulnerability against lefties will prevent him from ever becoming a regular player.
We all love Wily, but some bad things would have to happen for him to make this team. In other words, we don’t want him on the Opening Day roster. My hope for Taveras is that he has a solid spring and finds an opportunity with another team.
Garner has no Major League experience, but is on the Rockies’ 40-Man. If the Rox decide to keep a fifth outfielder, it will probably be Garner. More likely, he is headed back to Colorado Springs for another season and will be a September call-up.
Blackmon is the wild card of the group. He is the Rockies’ top outfield prospect and is close to being ready for the Bigs. The Rockies will be patient with him for one more season, but I’m predicting that he will make a push for a roster spot in 2012. Of course, he could always get traded before he gets a chance. He was purportedly a bargaining chip in the Michael Young trade talks.
Wheeler was selected in the second round of the 2009 draft, but he hasn’t lived up to expectations. In two minor league seasons, he has struggled to hit left-handers. The fact that he is in camp speaks to his enormous potential. Wheeler spent the off-season training with Tulo in California and is hoping to get his career back on track this season.