Thursday, February 24, 2011

Colorado Rockies biggest concern? Catcher

The Colorado Rockies and their fans have plenty to be excited about in 2011.

Despite the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants residing in their division, many believe that the Rockies have as good of shot as anyone to take home their first-ever National League West crown.

The offseason was busy for the Rockies. Not just because they signed Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to long-term deals, but also because they strengthened their club with the signing of Ty Wigginton and completing a trade for Jose Lopez.

Wigginton brings versatility to the club. He can spell Todd Helton at first base and he can play third base against lefties if need be. He is even willing to move to the outfield if he needs to.

Lopez is coming off of a horrible 2010 season, but many people believe that his bad season was an aberration. They believe that once he is in Coors Field and with a team that has a chance to win, he will perk up from the doldrums of Safeco Field.

Those two additions, plus a healthy Tulowitzki and Jorge De La Rosa, there is no reason to think that the Rockies shouldn't at least be in the race in late September.

However, one area where the Rockies have decided to take a chance is behind the plate.

Chris Iannetta, the catcher who has been handed the job in each of the last four seasons, only to relinquish that job to a journeyman backup catcher due to poor play, has once again been dubbed the starter. The difference in 2011? This time there is no solid option behind him.

Iannetta fans suggest that he is better than his numbers say he is. They point to his 2008 season in which he posted a .895 OBP. His fans also say that the club has been quick to give up on him and give the job to a backup catcher that was on fire at the plate. The problem is, since that '08 season, that same Iannetta has been nowhere to be found. Instead, it has been replaced by a hitter who pops out and strikes out way too much.

The problem with that line of thinking is that this is not tee-ball. This is not junior varsity baseball where the kid with all the talent in the world is given as much time as he needs to figure it out. This is Major League Baseball.

Iannetta is lucky to be in Colorado. If he were to have put up numbers like he has in the past two seasons in New York or Boston, the media would have been ten times as difficult as they have been in Colorado. However, fans of Iannetta still suggest that his struggles have been because the organization hasn't been patient enough with him.

The hope from the Rockies is that reuniting Iannetta with hitting coach Carney Lansford, who helped repair his swing in 2007, will infuse enough confidence into the catcher that he will be able to make a full 180 degree turn around.

If Iannetta struggles, the Rockies are in a difficult spot. Instead of having proven backups like Yorvit Torrealba or Miguel Olivo, the club is relying on Jose Morales, who was acquired from the Minnesota Twins in the offseason. The 28 year-old has all of 181 plate appearances in the big leagues and has never played more than 54 games in a big league uniform.

There is reason for a good amount of optimism for Rockies fans, but the biggest wild card for the club this season is the one that has fallen well below expectations in three of his four seasons in the big leagues.

For more on the Rockies visit RockiesReview.com

This article is also featured on INDenverTimes.com

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