Rafael Ynoa’s Path To The Opening Day Roster

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Sep 1, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies pinch hitter Rafael Ynoa (43) hits an RBI single in the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a Rafael Ynoa fan. I want him on the roster this year. Maybe I’ll start a fan club.

After being buried in the Dodgers system, he finally got an opportunity with the Rockies last season and impressed at the plate while playing second, short, and third.

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He hit in AAA, he hit in the big leagues, he’s hit this spring, and he can play multiple positions; in other words, he’s exactly the kind of guy you need on a National League squad where roster flexibility is paramount.

The problem is, through no fault of his own, he may not have a spot. The Rockies will definitely have Daniel Descalso as a utility infielder, and Charlie Culberson (I know…) could land the other spot.

The club is likely going to carry three catchers after not finding a trading partner for Wilin Rosario and evidently being committed to moving him to first base and the outfield. It remains to be seen how they’ll get enough at-bats for Rosario, Nick Hundley, and Michael McKenry, so at least for the moment it looks like three’s a crowd, and that, too, hurts Ynoa.

Ynoa’s most obvious path to the active roster is past Culberson. Both Culberson and Descalso have dealt with (minor) injuries this spring while Ynoa has put up good numbers, so perhaps staying in front of Walt Weiss and general manager Jeff Brdich will work in Ynoa’s favor. If a spot came down to Culberson or Ynoa, based on what they’ve both done recently, I would hope Ynoa is the choice.

A second path is more unlikely at this juncture, but a trade involving either Rosario or McKenry would open a spot. Like most of you, I’m skeptical about Rosario in the field, and I’d imagine a few American League teams could use a back-up catcher/designated hitter. Similarly, McKenry does a lot well and could fetch an interesting return.

The third path that could help Ynoa is the early schedule. With an early day off, the Rockies may only carry four starting pitchers for a while. That extra spot will probably go to a reliever, but, hey, I guess you never know.

“I’m going on record as a Rafael Ynoa fan. I want him on the roster this year. Maybe I’ll start a fan club.”

So what’s most likely?

Recall Corey Dickerson’s 2014. Dickerson earned a big league spot by Opening Day but was crunched out quickly in a numbers game and couldn’t find time, so he was sent back to AAA. After just three games, he returned to the Rockies, worked his way up and eventually into a starting role.

Ynoa is in a similar position to Dickerson; a young player who’s earned a shot at the big leagues but is nevertheless in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Now, Ynoa won’t overtake D.J. LeMahieu at second, and I’m fairly certain he isn’t going to beat out Nolan Arenado or Troy Tulowitzki on the left side of the infield, but he can play and he deserves a long look off the bench.

The more of Rafael Ynoa we see this summer, and the less of Charlie Culberson, the better off the Rockies (and my fledgling Rafael Ynoa fan club) will be.

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