Spring Training is in full bloom and games will already be underway by the end of next week.
With the Rockies’ pitchers and catchers reporting last Saturday and the full squad coming together Friday, we take a brief look at some storylines coming out of camp thus far.
Young Guns - Although they might not break camp with the Rockies in late March, pitching prospects RHP Jonathan Gray and RHP Eddie Butler might not have to wait too much longer to be in a Rockies uniform. Both enter their first Major League Spring Training this season.
Baseball America also just released its Top 100 Prospects list and both Gray and Butler appear on this year’s list at No. 12 and No. 24, respectively.
Also representing the Rockies on the list is SS Rosell Herrera at No. 86 and OF David Dahl at No. 94.
Herrera had an outstanding 2013 season hitting .343 with 16 homers and 76 RBI. Dahl, on the other hand, only appeared in 10 games because of a hamstring injury that kept him out for most of the season. Dahl was the team’s first round pick in 2012 and was the MVP of the Pioneer League that same season.
Here’s a video of Gray and Butler talking to Rockies.com about their first Major League Spring Training.
Rockies name closer - Possibly the biggest news so far is 41-year-old LaTroy Hawkins being named the team’s closer by manager Walt Weiss.
Hawkins might be 41 years old, but continues to be successful out of the bullpen. Over the past three seasons with Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Angels and the New York Mets, Hawkins pitched 161 innings in 172 games where he posted an ERA of 2.96. Though he wasn’t primarily a closer, he did pick up 14 saves and struck out 106 batters. Hawkins only had more than 20 saves twice in his 19 year career. He had 28 in 2001 with Minnesota and 25 in 2004 with the Chicago Cubs.
Last year, the job was split between 25-year-old Rex Brothers and 38-year-old veteran Rafael Betancourt. Betancourt, who underwent Tommy John surgery last year and is expected to miss much of 2014, had a team option for the upcoming season, but the Rockies declined the $4.25 million option.
Betancourt spent the past five seasons with the Rockies and was the team’s closer in 2012 and until he got injured in 2013. In 2012, he picked up 31 saves and had an ERA of 2.81 through the course of 57.2 innings in 60 games.
In 32 games in 2013, Betancourt pitched 28.2 innings in 32 games, had an ERA of 4.08 and picked up 16 saves.
Brothers, entering his fourth season in the big leagues, filled the role nicely last season and pitched 67.1 innings in 72 games. He had an ERA of 1.74 and 19 saves.
Who’s No. 5? - After a couple years struggling with injuries, including a fractured skull and broken neck, RHP Juan Nicasio looks to compete for the fifth spot in the Rockies’ rotation. However, Nicasio will have to fend off LHP Franklin Morales, RHP Jordan Lyles and LHP Christian Friedrich. Morales joins the Rockies again after spending the past three seasons with the Boston Red Sox. He pitched for the Rockies from 2007-2011. Lyles is in his first season in the Rockies organization after being traded along with CF Brandon Barnes in exchange for CF Dexter Fowler and a player to be named later.
Friedrich is 26 years old and is the Rockies first-round pick from 2008.
D.J. leading off - With CF Dexter Fowler being traded in December, the leadoff spot is now open. One possible option to lead off the lineup for the Rockies is former Sky Sox, 2B D.J. LeMahieu (left), writes Thomas Harding of MLB.com. LeMahieu has played parts of the past two seasons with the Sky Sox playing in 94 games, while hitting .331. He also has scored 67 runs, drove in 53 and also stole 21 bases. In 109 major league games last season, LaMahieu hit .280 with 21 doubles, and drove in 28 RBI. He also stole 18 bases.