Sitting at a solid 14-11 so far in Cactus League play, the Colorado Rockies have gotten off to a quick start in 2010. Throughout Cactus League play, the Rockies have been near the top of league standings, mixing in big league talent with up-and-coming prospects.
Now just eight days removed from the start of the regular season, the team is beginning to come together. The younger players, having received a taste of major league competition, are being widdled out, and the 25-man roster is beginning to emerge.
Many Rockies have had stellar spring trainings, some of whom are expected to be major league contributors, others who are taking advantage of an extended showcase with the big club.
Obviously, spring training statistics are only a glimpse into a player’s potential, but a good spring (or a bad one for that matter) can certainly gain the attention of some very important people at the major league level.
Here are the top five spring training performances so far in Cactus League Play for the Colorado Rockies:
5. Carlos Gonzalez
Coming off the 2009 playoffs in which he hit .588 with 10 hits and two stolen bases, Rockies fans have been salivating over what Gonzalez could do over a full season.
So far this spring, Gonzalez has been very impressive and sits among the team’s leaders in nearly every offensive category. His four stolen bases and 11 RBI lead the team.
Perhaps most impressive about Gonzalez’ spring is the patience he’s shown at the plate. Always prone to striking out, the left fielder has only four in 42 at bats this spring, having also picked up three walks.
4. Chris Iannetta
After a disappointing 2009 campaign that saw Iannetta lose playing time to Yorvit Torrealba in September and October, the 2010 season is an important one for the 26-year old catcher.
Known for his ability to reach base and hit for power, Iannetta is yet to capitalize on his immense potential. In 2009 he hit 16 home runs drove in 52 runs, but his .228 batting average and inconsistent play prevented him from firmly planting himself as the Rockies starting catcher.
This spring, Iannetta has once again shown flashes of brilliance. His five extra base hits in just 31 at bats have led to a .613 slugging percentage this spring, second only to Troy Tulowitzki on the team.
He’s also picked up seven walks to go with 11 total hits, and is second on the team with an (almost outrageous) on base percentage of .474.
If he puts those kinds of numbers on the board in the regular season, there will be no question as to who the Rockies starting catcher will be in 2010 . Iannetta may just blossom into the power hitting right-handed bat that Colorado desperately needs in the middle of its lineup.
3. Jonathan Herrera
Now 26 years old and in his ninth season in the Rockies system, Jonathan Herrera is no longer considered much of a prospect. His major league resume consists of 61 at bats and a .230 batting average back in 2008.
That said, he’s been spectacular this spring, making it clear both that he wants a chance to make the majors again and that he’s talented enough to do it.
Among players with significant playing time this spring, Herrera leads the Rockies with a .419 batting average and .500 on base percentage. He also paces the team with 18 hits and five doubles this spring.
A player in the Omar Quintanilla vein, it’s unlikely that Herrera would ever be much more than a defensive replacement for the Rockies, but if he keeps this up, he may push his way into a larger role.
2. Greg Smith
The forgotten piece of the Matt Holliday trade, Smith is only a year removed from a season in which he held a solid ERA of 4.16 starting 32 games for the Oakland A’s.
This spring, Smith has been an integral part of the Rockies’ six-man rotation, taking full advantage of the opportunity. In four appearances (three starts), Smith has given up just three runs, striking out 14 and walking six. His ERA ranks second among Rockies’ starters.
Perhaps most encouraging about Smith’s spring is the fact that the Rockies have trusted him to take on such a large role. With a substantial cache of starting pitching depth, the sixth-man could have been any number of pitchers.
But the Rockies’ brass chose Smith, suggesting that they see quite a bit more value in the pitcher than many fans might expect. If one of the Rockies’ starters falters early in the season, don’t be shocked if it’s Smith that takes his place.
1. Jorge De La Rosa
Coming into a contract year in which many analysts have suggested that De La Rosa could be looking forward to a major payday, the lefty has been nothing short of outstanding this spring.
De La Rosa has easily been Colorado’s best pitcher, making four starts and piecing together a 1.86 ERA. His 16 strikeouts lead the team, but his tally of just four walks may be even more impressive.
After coming from Kansas City in 2008, no one expected De La Rosa to be a major contributor in Colorado. But in 2009, he emerged as an irreplaceable member of the team’s rotation.
There’s a lot to prove for De La Rosa this year. If he can put it all together, it may pay dividends for both him and his team.
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