Rockies Outfield: 2010 Look Ahead

Bob LockeContributor IDecember 13, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 11:  Carlos Gonzalez #5 of the Colorado Rockies celebrates with teammate Dexter Fowler #24 after hitting a game tying home run against the Philadelphia Phillies in the bottom of the fourth inning in Game Three of the NLDS during the 2009 MLB Playoffs at Coors Field on October 11, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/ Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Rockies' 2010 starting outfield should again be a source of strength, both defensively and offensively. Let's take a look at the five players likely to be manning the spacious outfield grass at Coors Field for the Rockies in 2010. (Player ages at the start of the 2010 season are in parentheses.)

Center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) made the leap from AA to The Show in 2009 and more than held his own at the plate (.266/.363/.406) while showing tremendous range and arm in center. The thing that impressed me about Fowler was his willingness to take a walk: he drew 67 of them in 518 plate appearances. That bodes very well going forward for the switch-hitter, but he is going to need to either improve on his RH/LH splits (.240/.321) or possibly give up batting right-handed to take that next step.

Carlos Gonzalez (24) splashed on the national scene in the NLDS against Philadelphia, but he had been putting up solid numbers (.284/.353/.525), primarily from left field, long before that. With 13 HR and 16 SB in just 318 plate appearances, Gonzalez has the makings of a 30/30 player given a full season as a regular and normal progression. If he improves his plate discipline just a tad (only 28 BB but 70 K) he will be a perennial All-Star as he also covers ground like a center fielder and has a right fielder's arm.

Manning right field, Brad Hawpe (30) made his first All-Star appearance with a .320/.396/.520 first half in 2009, but he tailed off badly in the second half (.240/.370/.442). Overall, he still produced 23 HR and 86 RBI for the season and was second on the team in both walks (79) and runs scored (82). There is talk of him occasionally spelling Todd Helton at 1B in 2010, which would be a return to his high school and college position that would give his legs a bit of rest while also opening up at-bats for Seth Smith and Eric Young, Jr.

Speaking of Seth Smith (27), he solidified his role as the fourth outfielder and was among the best pinch-hitters in all of baseball in 2009. Smith appeared 47 times in the pinch and produced some staggering results: .472/.574/.861 with 12 RBI and 12 runs scored. His overall numbers (.293/.378/.510; 15 HR; 55 RBI in 387 PA) were extremely good, too, and he proved to be more than capable with the glove while getting 76 starts in left field.

Ryan Spilborghs (30) had a bit of a disappointing season in 2009 (.241/.301/395). Coming into the season he was ticketed as the starting left fielder, or at least in a platoon with Smith but getting most of the starts. After a solid start to the season he stumbled in May and June and was largely relegated to being the primary right-handed pinch-hitter through season's end. Still, he is capable of playing all three outfield spots (though center is a struggle range-wise) and he is wildly popular with his teammates and the fans.

I see zero concerns for 2010 for the Rockies here, unless Fowler and Gonzalez both take significant steps backwards. If just one of them stumbles then Smith can step in and replace their production without missing a beat. An occasional day off for Hawpe should help him level out his production as well.

Waiting for his chance to help: Matt Miller. The Sky Sox LF swings a solid bat from the right side and posted .319/.380/.476 in 133 G (523 AB) for the Sox in 2009 with 9 HR and a team-leading 98 RBI.

A source of strength for the Rockies in 2009, the outfield appears to be well set for 2010 at this point with no apparent needs.