The Colorado Rockies have been busy on the minor-league free agent market of late, adding several players who will compete for roles with the Albuquerque Isotopes in 2015. Adding those players to a strong crop of in-house players ready to move up from Double-A and it is already possible to project an entire Isotopes roster even this far away from the season.
Catcher: Free agent Audry Perez (.292/.298/.419, 6 HR, 33 RBI) comes over from Memphis (Cardinals), where he always had a reputation as a plus defender with a questionable bat. Right now Perez would slot in alongside holdover Dustin Garneau (.216/.297/.405, 5 HR, 22 RBI), a Cal State Fullerton product who likewise has received far more praise for his defense than his hitting.
The wild card here is Ryan Casteel (.280/.341/.445, 16 HR, 56 RBI), who played roughly one-third of his games at Double-A Tulsa behind the plate, the remainder at first base. Casteel just played in the Arizona Fall League, so the Rockies clearly think highly of him, and he seems ready to move up to Triple-A.
In the end, it may come down to which of Perez or Garneau can win the backup job behind Casteel. That largely stems from the fact the Rockies already have two plus options to fill the Isotopes’ first base need.
Infield: First baseman Ben Paulsen (.294/.378/.533, 20 HR, 76 RBI) had a strong year at Colorado Springs this past season and is currently on the Rockies’ 40-man roster. He hit .317 (20-for-63) with four home runs in his Major League debut.
Another option at first base is prospect Kyle Parker (.289/.336/.450, 15 HR, 72 RBI), who also resides on the 40-man after a solid year with the Sky Sox. Parker, a former Clemson quarterback, can also play both outfield corners and figures to shift about as needed with the Isotopes.
Albuquerque should be strong up the middle with Taylor Featherston (.260/.322/.439, 16 HR, 57 RBI, 14 stolen bases) ready to move up from Double-A and Cristhian Adames (.288/.345/.368, 3 HR, 52 RBI, 12 stolen bases) is back after splitting 2014 between Colorado Springs and Tulsa. Adames is also on the Rockies’ 40-man roster and went 1-for-15 in his debut with Colorado.
Featherston, who has played in Albuquerque before while with the TCU Horned Frogs, seems more likely to play second base though he can also play shortstop. Adames is considered the best defensive infielder in the Rockies’ farm system and will primarily play shortstop.
The hot corner is the one mystery position. Jayson Langfels (.277/.377/.362, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 14 stolen bases) was the primary third baseman at Double-A but does not profile as a traditional player at the position due to his lack of power.
Returning utility players Tim Smalling (.265/.331/.419, 4 HR, 22 RBI) and Rafael Ynoa (.297/.356/.419, 5 HR, 32 RBI) can both play third if necessary. Ynoa is on the 40-man and could enter spring training in competition for a backup role in Colorado.
Outfield: The Rockies re-signed minor-league veteran Jason Pridie (.278/.341/.434, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 28 stolen bases) last week to hold down center field for Albuquerque. A former second-round draft pick by Tampa Bay, Pridie has hit .225/.298/.364 in 127 major-league games with the Twins, Mets, Phillies, Orioles and Rockies from 2008 to 2014.
Pridie will likely be flanked by Parker in one corner and returning player Tim Wheeler (.233/.313/.387, 11 HR, 45 RBI) in the other. Wheeler was once a top prospect — he hit 33 home runs at Tulsa in 2011 — but a wrist injury in 2012 sapped his power and he has never recovered his swing.
Candidates to move up from Double-A include Brian Humphries (.276/.299/.378, 4 HR, 45 RBI), Tyler Massey (.260/.309/.373, 8 HR, 47 RBI, 28 stolen bases) and Jared Simon (.222/.229/.382, 11 HR, 43 RBI). Massey can play all three positions, so he likely has the leg up on the others.
Check back later this week for a look at the pitchers.