Now that I've dissected the 2009 Colorado Rockies starting rotation and bullpen as part of my season preview (albeit the last entry being about a month ago), I feel it's time to tackle the infield prospects the Rockies will be molding as they prepare for the regular season.
Let's begin with the obvious.
Troy Tulowitzki will man the shortstop position for as long he keeps his batting average above the Mendoza Line and the splintered ends of his bats out of the flesh on his palms.
If the pain in Todd Helton's back doesn't continue to be a royal pain in his ass, you can pencil the legendary lefty into the three-spot in both the batting order and the fielding lineup.
If his back pain flares up, however, it will set in motion a shuffling of players reminiscent of an old parlor game of three card monte.
Garrett Atkins, the incumbent third baseman, will shift over to first bringing Ian Stewart in to replace Atkins. Stewart's time at third will give more playing time in left field to Seth Smith or Matt Murton or whoever wins the left field job coming out of Tucson.
Stewart's potential and production last year in his time with the Major League club should pay off in the form of a full season with the Rockies in whatever position Skip Hurdle needs him.
Hurdle has told the media that Stewart will be taking ground balls at third and fly balls in left in hopes of finding a spot for his powerful bat more games than not.
Second base will be an interesting option for Hurdle this year because of his options at both the Major and Minor League levels.
Clint Barmes will be given the chance to win or lose the position in Spring Training after a solid, if unspectacular performance (.290, 11, 44) at the position in 2008. Jeff Baker will also be given at bats to try and crack his way into Clint Hurdle's starting lineup, a feat he's never been able to consistently accomplish in his four years with the Rockies.
Coming up quickly through the Rockies' ranks are youngsters Eric Young, Jr., a familiar face around Tucson thanks to his father, and Chris Nelson, the 2004 number one pick who's finally starting to hit his stride offensively (.321, 6, 17 in 29 games in the Arizona Fall League).
Young absolutely tore up the AFL as he led the league in hitting with a .430 average in thirty-one games while knocking five home runs (one inside-the-park) and tallying twenty stolen bases in only twenty-one attempts. His coming-out party earned him an invite to Tucson and he projects to start the year in AAA Colorado Springs barring a spectacular performance in the month of March.
Omar Quintanilla will perennially provide dazzling defense and lackluster lumber while prospect Christian Colonel, former Rockie Luis A. Gonzalez, and pint-sized speedster Jonathan Herrera will also get the opportunity to prove they belong in the infield mix as well.
I'll profile the catchers in the next exciting installment of Generation Redemption: the 2009 Colorado Rockies.