02/24/2013 8:28 PM ET
Rockies' young outfielders turning heads early
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The power potential of Rockies outfield prospects was on display Sunday, for the second time in as many Spring Training games.
Sunday's 8-6 loss to the D-backs featured a laser-like home run from left-handed hitting Corey Dickerson, who hit a combined .304 with 40 doubles, seven triples and 22 homers at Class A Modesto and Double-A Tulsa last season. He then posted a .364 average in the Arizona Fall League, good for eighth-best in the AFL. Also, Kyle Parker, the team's top Draft pick in 2010, added a two-run single.
Add that to the home runs hit by Tim Wheeler and Kent Matthes in Saturday's opener, and it has been a strong early showing for Rockies outfield hopefuls.
Dickerson (eighth round in 2010), Wheeler (supplemental first round, 2009) and Matthes (fourth round, 2009) all have legitimate reason to dream of appearing in the Majors before the end of this season -- although there is depth at the positions already. Parker put up strong numbers in Class A ball last year.
"They did a nice job," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "Dickerson, that was a laser. I didn't think that ball was going to get out of the park. But he's hit his whole life, one of those guys that can flat-out hit. Matthes and Wheeler had the home runs yesterday. Those guys have shown up well."
Wheeler suffered an injury to the hamate bone of his right hand last year at Triple-A Colorado Springs, and spent the year hitting for average (.303) rather than run production (two home runs, 37 RBIs), but is in better position to show his power this year. Wheeler also is making a case for his defensive versatility.
He has been playing center field, but talk has been that he would project defensively in a corner position. But Saturday he sprinted deep into the left-center gap to snag a deep Adam Eaton line drive. Sunday, a liner by Martin Prado turned him around, but he kept his movements controlled and caught the ball low.
"This is the first I've ever seen him," Weiss said. "It's tough to say right now, but the reports on him are that yes, he can play center field. That doesn't mean he may not end up as a corner guy, but it looks to me like he runs around pretty well out there."
Young back in mix at second, third base
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Saturday morning was kind of like old times for Eric Young Jr. There he was, taking groundballs at second base with his dad -- former Rockies second baseman Eric Young Sr. -- observing intently. At the end, the advice from his dad boiled down to get the fundamentals ingrained, then use your athletic ability.
The return to infield play, after playing seven Major League games at second in 2011 and none last year, is a way for Young to have more opportunities to use that athletic ability. Former Rockies manager Jim Tracy made Young exclusively an outfielder, but new manager Walt Weiss -- realizing the outfield is crowded and Young is out of Minor League options -- wants to expand his role.
Young, who turns 28 on May 25, hit .316 in 98 games last season, with most of his action coming when Michael Cuddyer was out with an oblique strain. Young, whose own season ended with an oblique strain, is happy for new ways to make it onto the field.
"You never know what the situation is going to bring that particular day, plus you might want to switch up the lineup," Young said. "I'm able to bring different options."
Young provides an option if regular leadoff man Dexter Fowler is not available. The increased versatility -- Young could play some third base, as well -- could open some possibilities for Young should the Rockies or another club suddenly need a leadoff man.
"I always think I could be a leadoff hitter anywhere, but being able to play a lot of positions will give our team more options, or give other teams more options," Young said. "I've always said it's a business. You never know what's said behind closed doors. You prepare yourself for any position. You never know who's going to like you where."
It looks as if the Rockies like Young a little bit in a lot of places.
Blackmon aims to make mark in crowded outfield
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Once again, the Rockies' Charlie Blackmon is trying to break out of the crowd of outfielders and draw attention.
Blackmon succeeded in 2011, when he hit .314 in 19 Cactus League games, and the Rockies remembered it and promoted him in June. He hit .255 in 27 games before suffering a right foot injury that ended his season. Blackmon was impressive early in camp last year, but turf toe in the same right foot knocked him out of competition for a job and kept him out of the big leagues until the end of the season.
The injury last year prevented him from competing for a roster spot with Tyler Colvin, who had a solid season. Blackmon, 26, performed well in his late-season callup (.283, .325 on-base percentage, nine RBIs). But the big-league picture is crowded, and the Rockies have an impressive set of young outfielders attempting to make their big-league mark.
"Anytime you go from the offseason to any type of game, there's an extra level of competitiveness," Blackmon said. "There are a lot of outfielders in camp, and they're all good. You want to show everybody what you can do."
Blackmon made a nice first impression in Saturday's 11-2 spring opening victory over the D-backs, with a blistering line-drive single, while going 1-for-2 with an RBI. He was to come off the bench Sunday against the D-backs.
Blackmon spent the winter working, first by hitting .323 with a home run, six doubles and a triple for Toros Del Este in the Dominican Winter League, then by working on strength and speed. Blackmon's above-average speed was one of the reasons the Rockies selected him in the second round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
"Last year, I was in a good position and then I got hurt -- but that's part of the game, staying healthy," Blackmon said. "I'm not going to tell you that's anybody's fault. That's something I've got to overcome."
• Rockies manager Walt Weiss said that the original plan was to keep first baseman Todd Helton out of action the first week of Spring Training games, since he is 39 years old and coming off of right hip surgery. "But we talked about it, and we'll revisit that, see what he feels around midweek and go from there," Weiss said. "We're not in any hurry."
• Left-hander Josh Outman has started for most of his career, but Weiss said the Rockies have told him they see him more as a reliever. Outman struck out two and walked one in a scoreless seventh inning on Sunday.
• Veteran lefty Jeff Francis gave up two hits, but no runs in his start Sunday. "Two quiet innings and very efficient --- great job by Jeff," Weiss said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.