The Colorado Rockies roster is looking closer to being set. That in turn would normally mean the Albuquerque Isotopes roster is nearly ready as well but it may not be the case this season.
A plethora of players worthy of promotions from Double-A, plus a handful of free-agent additions and a few players being squeezed out of the Majors has led to a logjam at Triple-A. Sorting out who goes to Albuquerque, who ends up at Double-A and who will be released will be a tough task for the Rockies.
Breaking it down, there are 10 potential starting pitchers, 15 relief pitchers, four catchers, three first basemen (each of whom can play other positions), 10 other infielders and five outfielders. That group has to be reduced to 25 by the time the season opens on April 7 at Tacoma.
Among the starting pitchers, the top prospect is right-hander Jeff Hoffman (2-2, 3.22 ERA at Double-A), who checks in at No. 4 on the Rockies’ list after being acquired from the Blue Jays in the Troy Tulowitzki trade last July. Four other starters from Double-A could make the jump in right-handers Shane Carle (14-7, 3.48 ERA) and Matt Flemer (7-11, 3.87) and lefties Ryan Carpenter (9-13, 4.04) and Harrison Musgrave (3-4, 3.18).
Right-handers David Hale (0-3, 6.66) and Eddie Butler (2-6, 5.40) both struggled in 11 starts apiece for the Isotopes. Butler was already optioned to Triple-A and seems like a lock to make the team, while Hale is still fighting for a big-league spot, possibly as a long reliever.
The Rockies will have to decide if lefty Yohan Flande (3-3, 7.11) is a starter or reliever. Lefty Tyler Anderson is still working his way back to full health after missing all of last season.
As for relievers, the list is a long mix of returnees and newcomers, either from outside the organization or promoted from Double-A. The most notable returning names could include Simon Castro (5-5, 3.79) and Nelson Gonzalez (4-3, 3.53), while Brian Schlitter (2-3, 1.61, 23 saves at Iowa) signed as a free agent and Albuquerque native Austin House (3-4, 4.13, 20 saves) could make the jump from Double-A.
Catching prospect Tom Murphy (.271/.301/.535, 7 HR) was already optioned to the Isotopes and will start behind the plate. The backup spot is still in flux between returnee Ryan Casteel (.292/.301/.415, 2 HR, 20 RBI), Jackson Williams (.228/.312/.279 at Double-A) and Jan Vazquez (.223/.325/.322, 3 HR at Double-A).
First baseman-catcher Will Swanner (.260/.343/.455, 17 HR) and first baseman-outfielder Jordan Patterson (.286/.342/.503, 7 HR) are looking to move up from Double-A. They will face competition from returning first baseman-outfielder Kyle Parker (.280/.326/.431, 9 HR).
The Rockies’ biggest remaining decision is between rookies Trevor Story (.277/.324/.504, 10 HR) and Cristhian Adames (.311/.362/.438, 11 HR) at shortstop. If Story starts, Adames will be the backup, while if Adames starts it seems more likely that Story will come back to Albuquerque to play everyday.
The other infielders vying for spots include the returning Tim Smalling (.256/.314/.343, 6 HR) and Rafael Ynoa (.286/.333/.388, HR, 11 RBI) and former Rockie Chris Nelson (.234/.291/.372, 4 HR with three Triple-A teams), who was re-signed as a free agent. Infielders looking to move up from Double-A include Juan Ciriaco (.266/.280/.316, 18 stolen bases) and Patrick Valaika (.235/.281/.361, 8 HR, 19 stolen bases).
Albuquerque’s outfield figures to feature Rockies No. 2 prospect David Dahl (.278/.304/.417, 6 HR, 22 stolen bases at Double-A) plus a former Isotope in Alex Castellanos (.314/.381/.614, 16 HR at Las Vegas). Two other candidates to move up from Double-A are Noel Cuevas (.264/.305/.355, 4 HR, 31 stolen bases) and Michael Tauchman (.294/.355/.381, 3 HR, 25 stolen bases).