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Rockies Second Base Battle is One to Watch

Jose Lopez had been hearing for a while that he was going to become the Colorado Rockies new second baseman.  But, it never happened during the 2010 season and Lopez remained with the Mariners past the trading deadline.

Jose Lopez will battle Eric Young Jr. for Rockies 2B job.

Jose Lopez will battle Eric Young Jr. for Rockies 2B job.

In the off-season, however, the two clubs made the deal and Lopez became the eighth Venezuelan on the Colorado roster.  The question is:  which Jose Lopez did the Rockies obtain?  Did they get the Lopez who was the solid run producer he was in 2009, when he hit .272 with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs for the Mariners? Did they obtain the guy who was an all star in 2006?  Or will he struggle through another season like 2010, when he slumped to .239-10-58?

So, what happened to Lopez last year?  If hitting is contagious, so is not hitting.  Seattle finished last in the major leagues in batting average, hits, runs, home runs, doubles, RBIs and on-base percentage.  Of course, playing in cavernous Safeco Field doesn’t help any player’s power numbers.  At a ballpark index ratio of 68, Safeco is the second hardest ballpark in MLB to hit a home run in.

It is unknown where Lopez will hit in the Rockies order, but one thing is clear; Lopez will definitely move from third base where he played most of last year with the Mariners to second base with the Rockies.  Lopez looks like the starting second baseman for Colorado this year, but it’s not a sure thing.  He is expected to be pushed by Eric Young Jr. who stole 17 bases in just 51 games for the Rockies in 2010.  Playing full time, Young Jr. is a guy who could lead the league in stolen bases.  Projecting out to a 162 game season, Young Jr. is capable of 84 steals per year!

The Jose Lopez versus Eric Young Jr. battle is one that you’ll want to watch closely in Spring Training, but there are two others in the mix as well.  Jonathan Herrera and Chris Nelson are also in the mix for the crowded Colorado second base job.  Of the candidates, Nelson has the most to prove and will likely start the season at Triple-A.  Herrera hit .284 in 222 at bats with the Rockies last year and is the likely utility infielder. Jonathan Herrera had 4 stolen bases last year, but is capable of 10 or more and that makes him worth a buck in deep NL only leagues.

If Young Jr. wins the job, he is the obvious leadoff hitter.  That changes the role that outfielder Dexter Fowler will play for the Rockies.  Young Jr. would likely bump Fowler out of the leadoff spot and perhaps hurt his stolen base numbers.  As a leadoff hitter, Fowler projects to be a 30 stolen base guy.  He certainly has wheels.  Fowler led the league in triples last year with 14 despite being demoted to the Bush Leagues for 27 games during mid-season.

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