|Jordan Pacheco is quietly having a great rookie year.|
Three weeks ago, when Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd addressed season ticket holders, there was a question about Pacheco from the audience. The man asking the question acknowledged that he was from New Mexico, where Pacheco is from, and therefore was biased towards him. However, he wanted to see how impressed O'Dowd was with the third baseman.
The fan didn't get the answer he was hoping for, as O'Dowd was very quick to say that if Pacheco wants to be a regular, he needs to hit for more power.
At this rate, O'Dowd might have a hard time convincing anyone that Pacheco shouldn't be in the everyday lineup somewhere.
The Rockies third basemen, a stop-gap for Nolan Arenado, who is being groomed in Double-A, has done nothing but hit the ball. The rookie has done far more hitting than anyone expected and has done what every player in his situation tries to do, force the team into a tough decision.
On Saturday night in San Diego, Pacheco did it again, going 3-for-6 at the plate, including four RBIs, one of which was the game-winner in the top of the 12th inning.
The knock against Pacheco has been his defense. He was originally selected as a second baseman, but moved to catcher when his range was deemed not good enough. With no place for him as a catcher, he was moved back to the infield and has been forced to be a third baseman at the big league level.
There is no doubt that he has struggled at the new position, but anyone who watches regularly knows that Pacheco has made huge strides at the position. In April he seemed tentative throwing to first base. Now he seems confident. Ground balls seem like less of an issue, and the comfort looks to be coming along quickly.
With only one home run, his power is well below what is typically expected from a corner position. However, should that really be the decision maker? The 26-year-old is older than most rookies, but that doesn't mean he should have less rope to work with. Many players hit for far less power in their first couple of years in the big leagues because of the talent difference in pitching. Breaking balls break more, change ups are more deceptive, fastballs have more late-life to them. It takes time to recognize that and hit those balls into the seats.
On the other side, Pacheco isn't getting nearly the credit he deserves for hitting as well as he is. Consider how much slack a catcher gets on the offensive side. Most backstops get the free pass of having so much to think through mentally that they can't be expected to hit for average, and that is a fair argument. So what about Pacheco? He is also learning a new position, and third base is no cake walk. Mentally he cannot take any plays off, and has to constantly be thinking.
Being a big leaguer is hard enough as a rookie. It is tough to hit. It is even more difficult when there are so many other things to learn. Pacheco has done extremely well playing the cards that he has been dealt. Saturday night was a prime example of that. His three hits upped his batting average to .306, well above what nearly everyone would have predicted.
Pacheco may not be in consideration for long-term third base duty for the Rockies with Arenado around the corner. However, he is certainly going to make it difficult to leave him on the bench when he has proven that he can not only hit, but hit well at the big league level. If his power develops, he could turn into a star.
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