For fans of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, opening day every year is one of the most special days of the season. Always sold out, many of my friends talk for days about being excited to attend the game and speculate on who is new on the team and how the season will go. The roster that was fielded this past April 6, 2012 on opening day, however, is a far cry from where the team is now. Devastated by injuries and terrible performances, the Rockies have been forced to make changes at virtually every position since that opening day. We all know how much trouble the pitching staff has been for the Rockies, but I wanted to focus on the individual position players with this article instead. Let's go position by position to see what's been happening on the team.
Todd Helton, the face of the franchise, started the season here but was being supplemented frequently by Tyler Colvin and Michael Cuddyer for the first few months of the season to give him some rest. Unfortunately Helton, who was having the worst hitting year of his career, is now on the DL for the rest of the season (scheduled to undergo surgery today) after tearing a hip labrum. Currently the position is being filled by rookie Matt McBride.
Marco Scutaro was brought in to start at second and provide a solid veteran presence. However, he never really lived up to expectations. The Rockies finally traded Scutaro to the San Francisco Giants in late July after realizing they can get the same level of production out of a much younger, cheaper player. The position is now being filled by 24-year-old DJ LeMahieu.
Troy Tulowitzki, the undisputed leader and best player on the team, only played 47 games before having surgery in June to clean up some scar tissue in his groin. His position is now being filled by rookie Josh Rutledge although there is still a chance that Tulowitzki could return to Coors Field before the end of the season.
The Rockies thought that at some point promising prospect Nolan Arenado would be called up to fill this spot but Arenado has been struggling this season in the minors. The team started the year rotating the position between Chris Nelson and Jordan Pacheco and, despite some individual issues with each player, that's the way it's stayed. However, neither guy looks like the long-term answer at third base. Don't be surprised if Arenado, despite his struggles, arrives at some point later in the month to get some big-league experience.
Carlos Gonzalez has been, by far, the best and most consistent hitter for the Rockies all year. He's played in 100 of the 109 games finished on the schedule and has batted .324 with 20 home runs and made his first All-Star team. His number are pretty remarkable considering the lack of power hitting in the lineup around him.
Dexter Fowler is another one of Colorado's most consistent performers for the entire season. He's played 103 games with a .291 batting average and an .344 OBP which are both career bests.
Veteran free agent acquisition Michael Cuddyer started off the year in right field very hot and was the most best hitter in April for the team. Unfortunately it appears that playing in right field at the age of 33 in the altitude at Coors Field wore him down a bit as the season went along. Fortunately the Rockies were still able to use him at first base to replace Helton and he would have stayed there had he not gone on the DL for a strained abdominal muscle on August 1. For now, Tyler Colvin has replaced him in right field and is likely to remain there the rest of the season.
The Rockies started off at this position with the combination of veteran Ramon Hernandez and rookie Wilin Rosario. Hernandez is most likely to be released or traded at some point in the near future as he's only played 40 games this season and batted .212. Rosario has performed well enough that he has taken more starts (60), but he's also missed some time here and there with some minor injuries. When that's happened recently, the Rockies have used Pacheco (who played catcher in the minors) to fill in occasionally but Rosario is clearly the long-term answer at this position.
While everyone wants to (rightly) blame poor pitching for the struggles of the Rockies this season, clearly the lack of stability at six of the eight fielding positions has also been cause for much of the poor play that has resulted in one of the worst seasons in franchise history. The Rockies have been pushing for more of their younger/rookie players to come up and fill these roles now which I think is a great idea. Hopefully this will help immensely with the team roster in 2013.
Julie is an avid baseball fan who grew up in a family that rooted for the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Upon moving to Colorado in 2001, she has become a Rockies fan and has attended many games at Coors Field.
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