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Colorado Rockies Spring Training Preview: Chris Iannetta's Year To Put It All Together

Entering the 2011 season, Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta has a hold on being the team's starting catcher. Miguel Olivo was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays at the start of the offseason and no significant player was brought in to challenge Iannetta for the job. But this doesn't mean that he has nothing to worry about this season.

Iannetta has started Opening Day for the Rockies each of the last two seasons, but Yorvit Torrealba eventually displaced him in 2009 and then Miguel Olivo in 2010. As a result, he has been unable to build on his 2008 season when he hit .264/.390/.505 with 18 home runs and a 125 OPS+. After a brutal start to the season, Iannetta received a demotion to Triple-A Colorado Springs for 17 games in 2010 in order to get regular playing time and to work things out. He did pass a decent catcher in 21 games in June and July, but by the end of the season his overall numbers were not pretty to look at: .197/.318/.383, 78 OPS+.

One factor that we can consider in Iannetta's decline the last two seasons has been his drop in Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). To generalize, an average BABIP is .300. Iannetta dropped all the way to .212 in 2010. He was really unlucky and could be due for a rise in that category this season. If he can display decent power at the plate again and find more balls dropping for hits, there's no reason he shouldn't approach his 2008 season stats.

His backup is expected to be Jose Morales. The Rockies acquired him in December for minor league pitcher Paul Bargas. He played in 19 games for the Twins in 2010, but saw action in 54 games in 2009, hitting .311/.381/.361. A switch hitter, Morales may have been Joe Mauer's backup in 2010 had a wrist injury in March not curtailed his season.

Michael McKenry will compete with Morales for the backup position, but a return to Triple-A is his next stop after spring training. McKenry is still looking for his first major league hit, having zero in eight at-bats in 2010. Chad Moeller and Matt Pagnozzi are spring training fodder and headed back to the minors.

Wilin Rosario could have made a strong case to join the Rockies in 2011 had he not suffered a season-ending ACL tear in August. Rosario, who turns 22 on Feb. 23, had an .894 OPS with 19 homers before he was shut down. A late season call-up is a possibility if his return is successful. Chris Iannetta will have serious competition eventually with Rosario.

Jordan Pacheco split time between Hi-A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa in 2010, hitting .323/.405/.442 for the season. While he has made strides behind the plate, his future could be a super-utility player as he was a converted infielder.