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COL Rockies Outfield: Depth Chart Discussions

In the coming weeks, we’ll be covering each team’s potential depth charts in an effort to shine a spotlight on the interesting playing time battles that will be waged this spring. Obviously none of these depth charts are set in stone — rather they should function to focus your attention in the right places to find cheap fantasy value.

The Rockies’ outfield projects to provide ample fantasy value this upcoming season. In 2012, their outfield combined to compile a .286/.349/.482 slash line, and their combined .357 wOBA ranked the best in all of baseball. And with both Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler in their respective primes, it doesn’t appear fantasy owners should be shying away from the Rocky Mountain Outfield on draft day anytime soon.

Despite the fact that Dexter Fowler appears to have the center field position on lockdown, the depth chart isn’t devoid of potential movement. The Rockies still could have a handful of players jockeying for playing time at the corner outfield positions if everything breaks correctly, and as always, injuries will ultimately play a factor in how many at-bats are available to players.

Here are some storylines to which fantasy owners should be paying attention this upcoming season.

Playing Time Battles: Right Field

Michael Cuddyer should begin the 2013 season as the everyday right fielder for the Rockies, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see 27-year-old Tyler Colvin chip away at his playing time as the season progresses. It’s important to remember that Cuddyer struggled with injuries last year and didn’t even log 400 plate appearances. Although he’s reportedly healthy, he will be 34 years old by Opening Day and his past injury problems may become a nagging issue throughout the rest of his career. Outfielders with his body type don’t exactly profile to age well.

The other reason Colvin may begin to see extra at-bats in right field is that Cuddyer and Colvin could potentially platoon together. On the surface, Cuddyer doesn’t appear to be a platoon candidate because he hit .258 against lefties last year and .261 against righties. When looking a bit more closely at the numbers, though, a more clear picture emerges.

vs. LHP .929 .391 .320 12.6% 11.7% .224
vs. RHP .760 .325 .195 6.4% 23.0% .313

A .325 wOBA with a .195 ISO against right-handed pitchers shouldn’t exactly force the Rockies to platoon Cuddyer, but Colvin did have a .379 wOBA against righties last year and the organization worked to give him 452 plate appearances. If they seek to give him more regular at-bats once again — and assuming he doesn’t experience too much of a batting average regression from his .364 BABIP last year — playing him over Cuddyer against right-handers may be the most opportune time to do so.

And there’s always the chance that Colorado falls out of contention early this year and opts to trade Cuddyer for prospects before the trade deadline, which would certainly open the door for Colvin to see more playing time.

Injury Concerns: Carlos Gonzalez

Carlos Gonzalez has three-consecutive seasons in which he’s hit at least 20 home runs and swiped at least 20 bases. He’s a legitimate top-ten outfield option for fantasy owners. However, he’s also slightly injury prone and has only logged more than 600 plate appearances in a season once in his career. For comparison, Ryan Braun has eclipsed the 600 plate appearance plateau in each of the last five seasons.

In 2012, Gonzalez missed time in June with a strained knee and later was sidelined with a strained left hamstring. The year before, he injured his wrist in July and was placed on the disabled list. He only played 127 games that year.

If the 27-year-old outfielder suffers another injury this season and is forced to miss games, it appears Charlie Blackmon and Eric Young Jr. are the two candidates the Rockies would ask to fill in. Blackmon saw significant playing time late in the season and responded with a .283/.325/.407 slash line. He’s struggled to replicate his solid minor-league walk rate with the major-league club, but he showed some ability to hit for average last year. Fantasy owners shouldn’t expect elite power or stolen bases, but he’s someone to watch on the waiver wire in deeper leagues if Carlos Gonzalez misses significant time due to injury.

Eric Young Jr., on the other hand, is more of a known quantity at this point of his career. He benefitted from a lofty .367 BABIP last year, which helped him hit .316/.377/.448, but he’s largely a light-hitting utility man (career .266 hitter) who can provide 20+ stolen bases if he sees enough plate appearances. It’s unlikely the Rockies turn to Young if Carlos Gonzalez falls, but he started 28 games in the outfield last year. If you’re desperate for stolen bases and he’s going to see regular at-bats, you could do worse.

Prospect Outlook For 2013

Two prospects to track this season are Kyle Parker and Rafael Ortega. Both project to begin the season in Double-A, but both also could be pushed to the big leagues late in the year if the planets align correctly.

Parker is a former first-round pick with plus-power potential, slugging a combined 44 home runs over his first two professional seasons in low-A and high-A. That power potential in Coors Field should make fantasy owners salivate. Of course, significant questions regarding his hit tool should temper expectations, but he did increase his walk rate to 14.3% and lower his strikeout rate to 19.0% last season. Not to mention his .308/.415/.562 slash line is even impressive in the hitter-friendly California League. Referencing the Cuddyer discussion earlier in the article, if the Rockies need to fill right field due to injury or trade and Parker dominates Double-A in the first half of the season, he could get the call late in the year — even if only as a September call-up.

After hitting .283/.344/.410 as a 21-year-old outfielder in high-A ball, the Rockies called up Rafael Ortega in late September to get a taste of the big leagues. Scouting reports suggest he’s special defensively in center field, which would help his light bat play at the big league level. He only had a .336 wOBA in the hitter-friendly California League. His fantasy value, however, could lie in his stolen base numbers. He stole 36 bases last year and 32 bases the year before. Fantasy owners could see Ortega in the big leagues late in the year as a September call-up, and he could be a cheap source of steals if the Rockies want to see what he’s capable of.

Early Depth Chart

Left Field: Carlos Gonzalez / Charlie Blackmon / Eric Young Jr.
Center Field: Dexter Fowler / Tyler Colvin / Eric Young Jr.
Right Field: Michael Cuddyer / Tyler Colvin / Eric Young Jr.