In my most recent article, I explained how the stellar early spring performances by Colorado Rockies’ Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, and Pat Valaika were going to allow the front office the luxury of not having to rush prospect Brendan Rodgers to the majors.
What I failed to mention in that article was that these performances, specifically from Valaika, may have another consequence. Valaika possibly might be playing veteran Mark Reynolds out of a roster spot.
This offseason, the Rockies signed the 35-year-old Reynolds to a minor league contract. The plan was that Reynolds would add a much needed right-handed power bat to back up newly acquired Daniel Murphy at first base.
What the Rockies didn’t plan for was that the also right-handed Valaika, who plays multiple positions including first, would open up spring training on fire while Reynolds struggled. In early action, Valaika is hitting 12-for-30 (.400) with four homers, 10 RBI, and seven runs scored. On the other hand, Reynolds is only 3-for-19 (.157) with a homer, 4 RBI, and three runs scored.
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Management will also have past history to take into consideration. This will be Reynolds’ 13th season in majors where he is only six homers shy of 300. He also has had past success playing for the Rockies, including the 2017 season when he hit 30 home runs and drove in 97 runs. However, he is prone to striking out and he did not have a good season with the Nationals in 2018.
For Valaika, 2018 was also not a good season. Coming off a surprise rookie season where he was the Rockies’ best role player coming off the bench, he bounced back and forth between Denver and Triple-A Albuquerque and only hit .156 in 68 games.
So the decision could come down to who the Rockies trust the most. Will it be the old-time veteran or the youngster with everything to prove?
It is still very early, and a lot can happen in the next three weeks before Opening Day, but Pat Valaika is giving Bud Black and the Rockies a lot to think about.