Colorado Rockies: Do They Have a Problem Looming on the Bench?
By Kevin Henry
Heading into the offseason, the Colorado Rockies needed to accomplish two goals: Find a first baseman and solidify the bullpen. The Rockies did indeed check both of those boxes, but is there now another weakness that Colorado needs to address?
The Rockies signed four players in the offseason as a part of a rebuild of their 40-man roster. Ian Desmond was brought on board to be the team’s first baseman while Mike Dunn and Greg Holland were inked to bolster the bullpen. The fourth signing, however, is the one that perhaps shines light on Colorado’s next spot to be improved.
When Alexi Amarista was signed, it certainly brought versatility to the team. However, it didn’t bring a lot of offensive pop. The utility man, who new manager Bud Black knows well from their days together with the San Diego Padres, can play infield or outfield when needed. That’s great, and mirrors a bit of Desmond’s versatility as well. But is Amarista a player you can count on when a pinch hitter is needed to come through with a clutch hit late in the game?
This is by no means a knock on Amarista as a player, but rather that his versatility doesn’t equate to offensive success any more than Cristhian Adames and his versatility did last year at the plate. As a note, we talked about how Amarista and Adames were very similar creatures in this article.
Think about Colorado’s potential Opening Day lineup…
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Charlie Blackmon – CF
DJ LeMahieu – 2B
Nolan Arenado – 3B
Carlos Gonzalez – RF
David Dahl – LF
Trevor Story — SS
Ian Desmond – 1B
Tony Wolters or Tom Murphy – C
That’s a formidable lineup to say the least. Some are projecting it to be one of the top offensive lineups in Major League Baseball. But what happens in the later innings when someone is needed off the bench?
This year’s bench is shaping up to be Amarista, Adames, Gerardo Parra, and Raimel Tapia and/or Jordan Patterson (depending on how Bud Black wants to mold his lineup). None of those established names project to be a major factor off the bench while the newcomers remain with an incomplete grade at the Major League level.
Take a look at some of the 162-game averages or 2016 statistics for the players mentioned above.
Cristhian Adames — .215 BA, .292 OBP, 2 HR, 21 RBI
Alexi Amarista — .230 BA, .276 OBP, 5 HR, 40 RBI
Jordan Patterson — .444 BA, .474 OBP, 0 HR, 2 RBI (19 plate appearances last season)
Gerardo Parra — .274 BA, .321 OBP, 9 HR, 52 RBI
Raimel Tapia — .263 BA, .293 OBP, 0 HR, 3 RBI (41 plate appearances last season)
Of the group above, Parra seems to have the most potential but has yet to show it with the Rockies. However, remember that either Wolters or Murphy will be available as well off the bench when the other is behind the plate.
Another concern is that, of all of the players mentioned above, only Adames is a switch hitter. The others are left-handed batters, meaning the season might begin without a focused right-handed batter on the bench. That will be the case when Murphy is starting and Wolters (a left-hander) is on the bench.
So with runners on first and third and one out in a 3-3 tie in the eighth, who do you feel comfortable with at the plate for the Rockies? It’s going to be a decision the Rockies will more than likely face at some point during the opening series of the season, if not the season-opener against the Brewers.
Last season, Colorado’s best options at times were Daniel Descalso (who proved invaluable to the Rockies last season) or Ryan Raburn (who flourished at times but not often enough) off the bench. Neither of those players are with the Rockies this season.
There are some reasons to be concerned heading into the season with the bench. Of course, much could change with promotions from within the organization. However, looking at Colorado’s 40-man roster, only Pat Valaika and Dustin Garneau are right-handers who are projected not to make the season-opening trip with the Rockies to Milwaukee.
So who do you trust in a pressure situation? Have the Rockies shorted themselves on the bench? We’d love to know your thoughts below.
Next: The Bottom Line on Why Larry Walker Belongs in Cooperstown
As an aside, we’ll project Colorado’s full 25-man roster for the 2017 season in an upcoming article.