Colorado Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart is one of, if not the most, talked about players on team. Will this be his year? For how long can he be a candidate for a breakout season before he turns into an "unfulfilled potential" major leaguer? Our own Dan Lucero finds Stewart to be on the border of being in the team's long-term plans or on the way out. And over at Purple Row, Andrew T. Fisher has done a magisterial breakdown of Stewart's 2010 season (Parts 1, 2, 3), concluding that there is still hope for Stewart going forward.
With new hitting coach Carney Lansford helping Stewart (as well as Chris Iannetta and Seth Smith), 2011 really does appear to be the make or break year. All eyes will be on Stewart.
Stewart doesn't have a true backup behind him. Most of the candidates are the same suspects who are battling it out to be the starter at second base. Jose Lopez would hold that role should he not win the second base job in March. Jonathan Herrera is the best bet to play third when Stewart is out of the lineup, because he is the favorite to be the utility infielder. Prospect Chris Nelson isn't a serious contender, but he did play third base for four games in 2010. And in a pinch, Ty Wigginton could also hold down the hot corner.
Joe Crede had been a candidate for a bench role, but on Thursday it was reported that he would not show up to spring training. He is a free agent once again.
Down on the farm, third base is a bit thin. The best prospect is Nolan Arenado, but his future could be at first base. However, if Stewart doesn't make that leap to the next level, Arenado could stay at the hot corner.