While we don’t know when spring training will resume for the Colorado Rockies and Major League Baseball, we do know there were players who could have benefited from our longer stint before play was halted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease pandemic.
One of the most important aspects of spring training is the multiple position battles that take place as teammates on the Major League roster bubble fight it out for the final openings on the big league roster. However, now that Major League Baseball has halted spring training and pushed back Opening Day, which Colorado Rockies will be most impacted by the shortened spring?
Non-roster invitees to spring training like starter Ubaldo Jimenez are in perhaps the most awkward position. Preseason baseball was their chance to show their worth to the team. However, after a shortened spring, their auditions were cut short.
This is especially true for Jimenez who, though looking decent at times, pitched to a 8.44 ERA in three games and could have had a chance to bounce back if given a couple more chances this spring. Now, the Rockies will have to make a decision on him based on a small sample size that generated very poor results.
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Fellow NRI, catcher Drew Butera, had an opposite spring. Butera hit a pair of home runs, drove in six, and slashed .333/.429/.917while leading the club in OPS at 1.345. But Butera had only 12 at-bats and fellow catcher Elias Diaz (another NRI) was also one of the Rockies’ hottest hitters this spring, hitting .429 with a 1.030 OPS in 21 at-bats.
Without the benefit of a full spring, it’s hard to make this decision. That said, I’ll lean toward Diaz here because we’ve seen a lot of Butera recently and he’s never looked like he had a lot of offensive firepower so his spring numbers might just be the result of a small sample size. Diaz, on the other hand, has spent the last couple of seasons playing regularly in the Majors and is not that far removed from a strong campaign at the plate in 2018.
The catching dilemma isn’t an isolated incident. Other key position battles are left up in the air as well. Who wins out if you have to choose between outfielders Raimel Tapia (.355 BA, 2 HR, 7 RBI) and Sam Hilliard (2 HR, 5 RBI)? Garrett Hampson looked like he was going to get a shot after his torrid end to last season, but Josh Fuentes has had a better spring.
Younger prospects like Bret Boswell (1 HR, 9 RBI, .417 BA, 1.083 OPS) and Colton Welker (.438 BA, 1.128 OPS) took advantage of their opportunity this spring. While they may not have made the big league roster, a full spring would have given them an even better chance to prove their worth to the front office for future promotions.
Even regulars like Nolan Arenado and Ryan McMahon who were having terrific springs could be impacted as their hot hitting could have carried over into early-season success, especially for a young player like McMahon, who’s looking to build off a breakout 2019.
On the other hand, players like Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Estevez who found themselves mired in spring slumps might benefit from a break. Their roster spots are secure and a mental reset might be enough to get them back.
Roster decisions that were already hard could be made harder because of the shortened spring. Players that were heating up will have to get going again. Players who struggled in small sample sizes may have blown their shortened opportunities. But, all of that aside, we will be playing baseball again … hopefully sooner rather than later.