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Colorado Rockies Spring Training Preview: No Real Frontrunner At Second Base

With the Colorado Rockies’ offseason trade of second baseman Clint Barmes to the Houston Astros for pitcher Felipe Paulino, they officially declared that the starting position at second base was officially up for grabs. And there are a plethora of candidates vying for that starting role.

Infielder Jose Lopez is the most likely player currently on the roster to take over that position in 2011. Acquired via trade with the Seattle Mariners for 2005 first round sandwich pick pitcher Chaz Roe, Lopez is a 27 year old infielder who has experience at first base, second base, and third base. He has a power bat, hitting 25 homeruns in 2009, and rarely strikes out. Last season, Lopez struggled in all facets of the game while hitting .239 with a 71 OPS+. The Rockies acquired Lopez as a bounceback candidate — banking on his age, experience, and a change of location — and will likely give him the chance to prove himself at second base to start the season.

After Lopez, the most likely candidate at second base is Eric Young, Jr. Young finished off the 2010 season as the starter, but his performance did little to impress the organization. In the second half of the season, Young hit .243 with a dismal .574 OPS. Furthermore, he produced an on-base percentage of .303, completely unacceptable from the leadoff spot in the lineup. Even with this poor performance, Young will still be given an audition this season for the starting job at second base, or at least a bench spot as a utility player.

2004 first round pick Chris Nelson, originally drafted as a shortstop, will try and lay claim to the second base position. After suffering multiple injuries throughout his minor league career, Nelson finally stayed healthy enough in 2010 to begin showing his potential, performing extremely well at AAA Colorado Springs and forcing a promotion. While in Denver, Nelson saw limited play — though he was responsible for perhaps the most exciting play of the 2010 season (when he stole home for the winning run against the Cincinnati Reds on September 9) and never saw much starting time at second base. His pedigree and ceiling will give him a chance at the second base role during the season, but he is likely to be the starter for the Sky Sox on opening day.

Utility infielder Jonathan Herrera is the last candidate for the second base starting role, and that is because he has essentially locked up the utility bench role. Herrera’s ability to play anywhere on the infield and provide defensive value makes him invaluable to the roster construction. Though he won’t light up the boxscore, Herrera’s glove will find plenty of use as a defensive replacement and injury substitute.

Absent from these rankings is current Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young, who has been connected to the Rockies throughout this offseason. If the Rockies do acquire Young, he would default as the club’s starting second baseman.