Rockies Battery Problems Already Apparent

The Spring Training Cactus League season has yet to officially start for the Colorado Rockies, it begins Saturday with a split squad game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields, but some of the problems the Rockies might have this year are starting to become apparent not only to observers but to people inside the organization. 

As an observer and analyst, I have been critical of the Rockies chances to compete for a playoff spot this year and mainly that has to do with the fact that the club's pitching doesn't project to be any good at all. Sure, the Rockies have a lot of pitchers here in camp, but none of them are even close to good fits to pitch at Coors Field.

Not that most pitchers are good fits at Coors, but guys like Guillermo Moscoso and Tyler Chatwood figure to be eaten alive by their fly ball tendencies should they get to pitch there. A source within the organization said that the club is particularly concerned about Alex White given the way he pitched at the end of last season and that his stuff hasn't improved since recovering from an injury to his middle finger. 

But, enough about the club's pitching because it would be a shock to everyone in baseball if they are able to make the playoffs with this staff. The fact is there's also a problem on the other end of the battery. 

The Rockies traded Chris Iannetta this offseason mainly because of chemistry issues that would've been brought to a head with him training his future replacement in 2012 in Rockies number three prospect Wilin Rosario. The club brought in Ramon Hernandez from the Reds to be the starter signing him to a 2-year, $6.4MM deal. The deal is large enough that Hernandez is the unquestioned starter for the duration of his deal so long as he stays healthy. 

Here's where the thread starts to unravel. Hernandez has caught 82, 91, and 55 games the last three seasons in Cincinnati. His high mark for complete games caught the last three years in 67. Last time I checked the season is 162 games long and someone needs to be catching 100% of the time. Hernandez, who I've seen walk through the clubhouse with his body mummified in tape and ice after workouts and batting practice every day I've been here, is a stretch to catch 90 games for the Rockies this year. 

So, who's catching those other games?

Well, I'm not sure there's a good answer. 

Looking at the Rockies 40-man roster there is only one player listed at catcher beside Hernandez and that's the youngster Rosario, who has been especially impressive in batting practice this week lining rockets to the wall and over with regularity. Another player on the 40-man roster who has played catcher is Jordan Pacheco, who had a nice game offensively in the intrasquad game Friday. Pacheco may have a .303 batting average in nearly 2000 minor-league plate appearances, but his .099 ISO (isolated power SLG-minus-BA) at Colorado Springs last year shows that he has very little power to offer. Wil Nieves is also a catcher and in camp as a non-roster player. His career OPS+ in the majors is a surprising 49. Surprising because i thought it'd be lower. 

Based on the last paragraph, you might say it's an easy call. Let Rosario get his feet wet in the big leagues this year filling in for Hernandez when he can't play and soaking up all the juicy bits of how the sausage is made behind the plate at the major league level from the dugout. Makes sense, no? Rosario's career caught stealing percentage in the minors is 41%, so how bad could he be defensively? Pretty bad, I'm told.

A source within the organization said that Rosario's receiving skills are supremely lacking and although the bat is advanced he may have to move off the position entirely. Yep, the Rockies have their very own Jesus Montero/Mike Piazza problem, though Rosario doesn't project to hit for the same average as those guys. He has comparable power, though. 

Fortunately, given the ages of Todd Helton and Jason Giambi, Rosario isn't blocked at first base for the foreseeable future. His overall offensive value would take a hit, though, with a possible position switch. Baseball Prospectus prospect guru Kevin Goldstein believes that Rosario will stick at catcher and that he has to.  

It's early in both camp and Wilin Rosario's professional baseball career, but the early signs aren't very encouraging for the Rockies battery situation to improve anytime soon. 

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