Dickerson continues to impress at the plate, but his fielding needs work. Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Rockies probably aren’t going to lose 100 games, and their record at AT&T Park this year is highly impressive, but we all still know it’s over. This team does not have another 21-of-22 streak in them, much as Dick Monfort would give his right eyeball for one. So it’s time to start looking ahead to the future. The front office has some work ahead of them if they’re going to build anything like a winner for 2015. The pieces COULD be there, but Dan O’Dowd and Bill Geivett have to deploy them in the right times at the right places, and potentially fire the entire training staff too. Today we zoom in on the Rockies outfield and try to identify which three guys should be starting there come April. Let’s look at the candidates.
Barnes has been excellent off the bench this season, coming through with hits in clutch situations like it’s what he was hired to do. In many ways, it was, because Barnes definitely came into the season as our fifth outfielder. Thanks to Corey Dickerson‘s success, Barnes is really looking more and more like a 6th, though he’s still getting playing time since Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez are permanent residents of the disabled list. I don’t see Barnes as a long-term solution as a starter; despite how clutch he is, his on-base percentage is only .290, and he strikes out often. His fielding can be spectacular, but just as often isn’t, especially in right field. He’ll continue to play off the bench wherever he is, and it’s fine with me if that’s here.
Blackmon has had a career year at the plate, despite his regression from hitting .600 the first week of the season. I think much of his success is due to the fact that he’s actually been able to stay on the field all year. In the past, he’s had hot streaks, but they were always interrupted by injuries or ordinary slumps, which would then be interrupted by injuries. He never had the time he needed to build momentum. He’s hitting a respectable .290 with 15 homers and 60 RBI, and he’s contributed 1.5 WAR this season. He’s still pre-arbitration, making pennies, and therefore he’ll no doubt be the starting something-fielder next season. I think the Rockies should lock him up for at least few more.
3. Michael Cuddyer
I had concerns about Cuddy from the beginning of the season, and I feel mostly justified in that. He’s too expensive to sit on the disabled list or play badly in the field, and I get the whole “clubhouse culture” thing, but I’m starting to feel like the Rockies need to start from scratch on that anyway. Maybe they need some guys who will get angry instead of the ones who are happy all the time. In any case, Cuddy is hitting .331 this season, but that’s in only 34 games. Can you believe that? I thought he’d played at least 50, but no. His contract is up at the end of the season, and I think the Rockies should let him go. But I’m pretty sure that they won’t.
4. Corey Dickerson
Dickerson has been the most pleasant surprise in a season full of unpleasant ones; he’s hitting .318 and just recently won the NL Player of the Week Award. He’s in the top 10 in the National League in several major stat categories and is pre-arbitration for two more seasons. If the Rockies don’t set this guy and Nolan Arenado up with very nice contracts in the offseason, they are foolish. Other teams can see how good these guys are, and even though it will be a while before they hit free agency, we need to show them the love while we still can. Dickerson’s main downside is his fielding; he’s prone to blunders like the one shown in the photo above and has 4 errors in 75 games in left field. He’s such an offensive upgrade though, and so cheap, that I would take him over anyone else any day.
5. Carlos Gonzalez
I’m not sure what to say about CarGo at this point. Much as I would love to never lose him, he is hurt ALL THE TIME, and you can tell how frustrated he is with it. It’s awfully hard to put it all out on the field when you’re pretty sure that “it” is going to wind up in an operating room before the month is out. CarGo has only played in 70 games this season, and he’s been so tentative that he’s actually lost .2 WAR for us. I think we all understand that he’s been in a lot of pain, in every single part of his body, but if he can’t get healthy, he’s never going to do the team the kind of good he should. I was firmly in the “Don’t Trade CarGo or Tulo” camp for a really long time, but I’m coming around to the idea of trading CarGo. When he’s good, he is SO good, but he’s been struggling for so long it’s getting hard to believe he’ll get there again.
6. Drew Stubbs
I have been plenty happy with what we’ve gotten out of Stubbs this season. He’s been solid in center field, with a couple of highlight reel catches just in the last week. His numbers are Blackmon-esque, though he’s had fewer chances and therefore fewer RBI. He has also struck out frequently, especially against righties, which was the caveat against him going into the season. He’s still hitting an mediocre .265 against right-handers, but he really is best in a platoon. He still has a couple years until free agency, but he’s already making more than $4 million a season, which is a lot for a guy who doesn’t play every day. I was actually hoping the Rockies would trade him at midseason, but they didn’t, so it feels like they’ll probably keep him.
7. Matt McBride
A recent call-up and a leftover from the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, McBride has collected 3 hits in 5 games. He also hit a grand slam last week, which was pretty awesome. He’s hit well in the minors over the last few seasons, and he has the potential to be a Barnes-type 5th/6th outfielder/pinch-hitter.
To sum up, I don’t anticipate a lot of changes. If the Rockies were going to make a move with any of these guys, they really should have done it at midseason. Perhaps they can find a decent trade partner for Barnes or Stubbs in the offseason; I hope they let Cuddyer go. My ideal Rockies outfield on Opening Day 2015 would be Dickerson in left, Blackmon in center, and CarGo in right, assuming he hasn’t been abducted by aliens yet.