Do the Rockies have the best infield in baseball?


The Colorado Rockies have a talented infield, but is it the best unit in baseball?

In terms of national analysis and narratives, the Colorado Rockies struggle to overcome the stigmas attached to Coors Field. The position players don’t get enough credit because their offensive production is discounted. The pitchers don’t get extra credit despite pitching half of their games at Coors Field.

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It is interesting, then, to see that the Rockies were dubbed the best infield in baseball by Buster Olney of ESPN (insider subscription required and encouraged). Here are some thoughts based on that designation.

DJ LeMahieu, not mentioned, plays crazy-good defense

In Olney’s description of the Rockies, he discusses shortstop Troy Tulowitzki at length and then writes about Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau. He fails to mention LeMahieu. Still, the fact that LeMahieu’s presence at second was not seen as a hindrance in constructing this list is something worth noting.

DJ LeMahieu is a career 4.0 WAR player. He was a 1.5 WAR player in 2014 who batted a paltry .267/.315/.348 in 2014. Even with those underwhelming numbers, LeMahieu played such outstanding defense that he got enough attention to win a Gold Glove.

Even if he’s not mentioned in this particular analysis from Olney, LeMahieu is an important part of this designation. And that’s true because…

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They’re making their money with their defense

Tulowitzki, Arenado, and Morneau are all elite hitters. But in the world of national attention, that caveat always comes with a big huge stinky “BUT”, as in, “but they play their home games at Coors Field.”

If this ranking was just about offensive production, the Rockies would not get ranked as the top infield in Major League Baseball on anybody’s list. It’s not just about offense; this is about the best defensive infield in baseball and the fact that they also occupy the middle of the Rockies’ batting order with great effectiveness.

Thank goodness for Justin Morneau

To say that the decision to sign Justin Morneau in 2014 was met with skepticism would put it kindly. The Rockies got ridiculed and downright laughed at when they pegged Morneau as Todd Helton‘s replacement at first base.

The move may not have made sense in terms of roster construction, but it still looks like a stroke of genius. Morneau won a batting title and played elite defense. Rather than going with a spare part of a player without a position at first base, the Rockies went with Morneau. That decision is a big part of what makes this infield elite.

Nolan Arenado’s star is rising quickly

Like, really quickly. Known for his defense first and his bat second, Arenado is one full breakout season at the plate from being on another level. As noted here on Rox Pile previously, that might position him as the second most important player on the Rockies. The most important player, of course…

Troy Tulowitzki is unbelievably good

Considerable electronic ink has already been spilled on the pages of Rox Pile on this topic, but consider this your most recent reminder that, injuries or not, Troy Tulowitzki is one of the best players in baseball. The Rockies have the best infield in baseball, and it’s built around the best shortstop in baseball.

Next: Wilin Rosario: The Rockies are bluffing, probably