Spring Training 2019 is in full swing at Salt River Fields in Arizona!
After two weeks, these three questions stand out for some of the Colorado Rockies prospects:
1. Will any of the Rockies’ prospects open the season as the starting second baseman?
Maybe. Incumbent DJ LeMahieu signed this off-season as a free agent with the New York Yankees, leaving the field wide open. The Rox are looking at former prospect Ryan McMahon, who failed to hold down a starting job last season but saw enough time in reserve to lose rookie status; Garrett Hampson, our #2 prospect whose speed and fielding acumen make him the leading candidate; and Brendan Rodgers, the team’s top prospect who is expected to land this job eventually. Rodgers performed well at AA Hartford in 2018 but stumbled at AAA Albuquerque and had his season cut short by a hamstring injury. Expect him to start the season in AAA but win a promotion later this summer. Hampson rose quickly through the system in 2018 and has spent little time at Albuquerque; if he doesn’t win the job out of spring training he could be kept as a utility player because of his speed or he could be sent to AAA to hone his skills. McMahon can win the job outright this spring but he has to hit much better and field much better than he did last year. He’s more likely to win a reserve job.
2. Who’s the fourth outfielder on this team?
The starters appear to be Charlie Blackmon in right, David Dahl in left and Ian Desmond in center. Former prospect Raimel Tapia is out of options so is the leading candidate for the fourth outfielder job, but his lack of focus at the plate and in the field could lead to the team giving up on him. Noel Cuevas performed well enough in Denver last summer to lose rookie status but he has options and could be sent back to AAA. Mike Tauchman is still ostensibly a candidate, but his failure to win this job in recent seasons despite strong performances at Albuquerque mean he’s likely headed back to AAA or released. Sam Hilliard, #9 on our prospects list, hasn’t played above AA so he will start the season at Albuquerque but he has really impressed this spring with a sweet swing at the plate. He has a major-league future.
3. Will any prospect pitchers go north with the team?
Probably not, but a couple have looked good so far this spring. Peter Lambert, our #6 prospect, has pitched well. He had a great 2018 at Hartford but a dismal second half at Albuquerque. He’s probably headed back to AAA but he’s likely first on the list for a promotion if there are any injuries to the major league rotation. The Rockies have a handful of relief pitchers, all potential closers, who have looked good this spring. But Justin Lawrence, our #13 prospect, has really opened eyes. AAA closer DJ Johnson is most likely to make the team for the first time, especially since Lawrence has yet to pitch above High-A, but don’t be surprised if Lawrence is in Denver before summer’s end. He’s got the stuff to eventually anchor the back end.