Rockin’ in the Infield

You cannot help but be impressed by the Colorado Rockies’ middle infield depth. The Major League club has infielders Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes, as well as the likes of Omar Quintanilla, Jeff Baker and Ian Stewart (the latter two profile better as corner infielders, though) serving as back-ups.

At the minor league level, the club has Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson, Eric Young Jr., and Hector Gomez – all of whom are currently on the 40-man roster. The Rockies also lost speedy A-ball infielder Everth Cabrera to the San Diego Padres in the recent Rule 5 draft (although he could be returned if he is unable to stick in the Majors for all of 2009). Two more interesting minor league infielders were also left unprotected during the Rule 5 draft – Corey Wimberly and Daniel Mayora – mainly due to the overwhelming depth in the organization.

Of the six players who do not have (all but) guaranteed roles in the Majors in 2009, Herrera is the closest to helping out at the Major League level. He made his MLB debut in 2008 and appeared in 28 games for Colorado, while posting a line of .230/.277/.279. The 24-year-old spent the majority of 2008 in Triple-A, where he managed a batting average of .310 and stole 15 bases.

Young is not far behind Herrera. Although he has yet to appear in the Majors, Young had a solid 2008 season in Double-A where he hit .290/.384/.392 with 46 stolen bases in 105 games. He broke out in a big way in the Arizona Fall League after the regular season concluded. Young hit .430/.504/.640 with another 20 stolen bases (in 21 attempts) in 31 games.

Nelson was the club’s first-round draft pick in 2004 and he realized his potential in 2007 with an excellent offensive season in High-A ball. Unfortunately, he struggled with injuries in 2008 and hit just .237/.321/.346 in 283 Double-A at-bats. He should return to that level in 2009, but could move quickly if he is fully healthy.

Wimberly has almost zero power but he can run like the wind and has stolen 181 bases in 354 career games. He hit .291 in Double-A last season and showed a willingness to get on base via the walk – at least more so than in other seasons. Daniel Mayora will likely begin 2009 in Double-A with Nelson, while Hector Gomez should visit High-A ball.

Every single one of those minor league middle infielders has enough potential to be considered amongst the organization’s top 25-30 prospects. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call depth.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

6 Responses to “Rockin’ in the Infield”

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  1. David Foy says:

    Is it considered a good thing to have that many players in your minor league system at one area? I’m of the mind that you should stock up on as much talent as you can get regardless of position and then just trade it away once you need to create space for the prospect you feel deserves the major league playing time. However, it seems to me that there is nothing positive to having this much talent in one area. None of them seem to be blow you out of the water talents and yet they are all talented enough to be considered to play in the majors at some point. Seems more headache than anything else. But maybe i’m seeing this all wrong.

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  2. Helpful Harry says:

    You are.

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  3. David Foy says:

    Thanks for extremely informative post “Helpful” Harry

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  4. bablue says:

    To add on to what David Foy said, it’d be nice to have this kind of depth if you were the Red Sox and you could stash it for emergencies and use it for midseason trades to improve your club, but I’d rather just have a couple of really good guys then a bunch of decent talents (Utley/Rollins or Hanley/Uggla). Those are extreme examples but if I’m not mistaken Tulowitzki is the only guy here with potential to be more than average, Barmes really isn’t very good. On a team with as many needs as the Rockies (Corner OF’s and IF’s if they trade Atkins, SP, 2B) having a bunch of decent guys at one position doesn’t really help much.

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  5. Marc says:

    With middle infielders, though, you have depth at two positions: SS and 2B… three if you count utility infielder. You also know a few will flame out – and the Rockies non-tendered Herrera last night, which was surprising. They also serve as trading chips. Depth is never a negative.

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  6. Rox Girl says:

    The Rockies were able to hang onto Herrera with a minor league contract and an invite to the big league camp after non-tendering him.

    I like how the team is starting to expand this depth to all the up the middle positions. At catcher this season Mike McKenry and Wilin Rosario had years big enough to draw attention, and while Dexter Fowler will probably be safe for a couple of seasons, the center field depth at the two short-season clubs was impressive with Charlie Blackmon, Delta Cleary, Scott Robinson, Leonardo Reyes all flashing quality tools, plus David Kandilas drawing some raves from Australian scouts, all bodes well that the team will have a steady supply of talent at the premium positions.

    Now if they could only do something about getting some legit corners.

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