Colorado Rockies Roster Battles: 4 Most Intriguing Spring Position Battles

Ely Sussman@@MrElyminatorCorrespondent IMarch 16, 2012

Colorado Rockies Roster Battles: 4 Most Intriguing Spring Position Battles

0 of 4

    The 2012 Colorado Rockies have dozens of interesting players in spring training, but too few MLB openings to accommodate them all.

    Roster battles between MLB hopefuls rage on.

    Manager Jim Tracy must explore every imaginable combination of the 48 who survived the first round of cuts on March 15.

    The team finished fourth in the National League West in 2011 at 73-89. However, expectations have since been raised.

    Closely monitor the following competitions through the end of March as management decides who the 25 actives will be come Opening Day.

3rd Base

1 of 4

    Candidates: Casey Blake, Brandon Wood

    Jim Tracy's options at third base couldn't be more different.

    The favorite in this roster battle is 38-year-old Casey Blake. Colorado is his sixth MLB team.

    Blake is coming off an injury-plagued, unproductive season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He failed to slug double-digit home runs for the first time since 2002.

    Currently, he is being bothered by neck stiffness in the aftermath of his September surgery to repair a pinched nerve.

    Blake is hitless in limited at-bats this spring.

    He's feeling some urgency to get back onto the field. His $2 million contract isn't guaranteed unless he begins the regular season on the 25-man roster.

    Brandon Wood, 27, is still looking to play up to his once-great potential.

    The former Los Angeles Angels prospect showed terrific power in the minors, but he's unaccomplished in several stints at the highest level. He spent most of 2011 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    Troy Tulowitzki is very supportive of him.

    To earn the starting job, though, he will need to improve his plate discipline.

4th Outfielder

2 of 4

    Candidates: Charlie Blackmon, Tyler Colvin, Eric Young Jr.

    Michael Cuddyer, Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez comprise the starting outfield for the 2012 Colorado Rockies.

    So who will be first off the bench?

    The Rockies will either fill that position with power (Tyler Colvin) or speed (Charlie Blackmon/Eric Young Jr.).

    Colvin was acquired from the Chicago Cubs via trade this winter.

    He looked overwhelmed last season, unable to recognize off-speed pitches and striking out constantly.

    In spite of that, he stands a chance at making the squad. He simply needs to convince the coaching staff that his 2010 campaign—20 HR and .816 OPS in 395 PA—was no fluke.

    Blackmon appeared in 27 games for Colorado in 2011 and would have played more had he not been lost for the second half of the summer with a broken left foot.

    His professional track record suggests that his batting average could approach .300 with ample opportunities.

    Thirdly, Young has the most MLB experience of these candidates (not to mention a promising pedigree).

    He is an unstoppable base-stealer, having swiped 48 bags in what amounts to roughly one full season. He has only been caught on 14 attempts.

    Young also has the versatility to start games at either second base or left field. Truthfully, though, he is a defensive liability at any position.

    His slugging percentage is very discouraging. A mediocre .364 in three years at Coors Field, it plummets to .207 on the road!

Utility Infielder

3 of 4

    Candidates: Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson, Jordan Pacheco, Brandon Wood (if he doesn't win third base)

    Especially if Casey Blake starts at third base, the Colorado Rockies will depend on their primary utility infielder for hundreds of innings and plate appearances.

    The role is larger for this franchise than for most. After all, first baseman Todd Helton and second baseman Marco Scutaro are on the wrong side of 35 and superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is injury-prone.

    Jonathan Herrera is comfortable as a middle infielder, even willing to log time at the hot corner.

    He spent significant time on the Rockies in 2010 and won this battle last spring. The knock on Herrera is that he is a plain offensive player, although he is a sure-handed defender.

    Chris Nelson can be slotted at second or third base. He was a No. 1 pick in the 2004 first-year player draft and is out of minor league options.

    Jordan Pacheco has an interesting advantage: the ability to play catcher.

    He hit well in the minors and during a 2011 call-up, and he continues to rake in spring training.

    He turned 26 in January, which makes him the youngest candidate for this job.

    The aforementioned Brandon Wood will also be considered.

    He got his feet wet at every infield position with the Pittsburgh Pirates last year. In addition, this coaching staff is trying him out in left field.

4th and 5th Starters

4 of 4

    Candidates: RHP Tyler Chatwood, RHP Guillermo Moscoso, LHP Jamie Moyer, RHP Juan Nicasio, RHP Alex White

    The back end of the Colorado Rockies starting rotation is up for grabs!

    Jhoulys Chacin and newly acquired Jeremy Guthrie are locks. The talented Drew Pomeranz is, too, so long as the inflammation in his right glute settles soon.

    Jorge De La Rosa is still several months from returning as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.

    Consequently, starting pitching candidates are vying for two openings.

    Tyler Chatwood, 22, is looking more and more like a shoo-in.

    He was stretched out to 142 innings by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2011.

    He came to camp this spring with a new slider. Thus far, manager Jim Tracy is impressed with it.

    Speaking of sliders, Alex White says a middle finger injury prevented him from using his late in the year after being traded to the Rockies.

    The 23-year-old right-hander relies on inducing weak contact to retire the opposition.

    Guillermo Moscoso pitched to a 8-10 record and 3.38 ERA with the Oakland Athletics last summer, but he is mostly being seen as a bullpen arm.

    Then the stories get interesting.

    The ageless Jamie Moyer is working back into baseball shape after sitting out a season ago with a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

    Colorado will be his eighth MLB franchise if he makes the roster.

    The veteran lefty was previously a starter for the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Juan Nicasio also has a feel-good tale.

    A sharp line drive broke his neck last August 5. At the very least, it appeared his career was in jeopardy.

    He overcame tremendous adversity to return to the mound for an exhibition matchup with the Oakland Athletics on March 9.

    Nicasio's fastball sits in the mid-90s when he's at 100 percent. The talent is there.

    His health will be the lone determinant as to whether or not he fills out the starting five.