The Colorado Rockies have already made it through on of their toughest stretches on the schedule — a stretch that saw them play 14 games in 14 days and take on the Los Angeles Dodgers twice — and have come out the other side tied with the best record in the National League.
They have accomplishes this while being without several key players, arguably the most notable of which being offseason acquisition (to the tune of five years, $70 million) Ian Desmond.
Desmond was slated to begin the year as the Rockies primary first baseman before being hit by a pitch in spring training, needling to be sidelined for over a month with a broken hand.
In the meantime, Mark Reynolds, who was signed to a minor league contract just before spring training started, has shown yet again that he still has plenty left in the tank. While some were unsure that Reynolds would even make the team, many now are clamoring for him to take over the first base job full time.
And it’s easy to see why. Reynolds is pacing the team with 12 RBI, is second behind just Nolan Arenado with four home runs, and second (also behind Arenado) in OPS. Reynolds has also gotten it done with the glove, making a few spectacular plays at first and saving the star third baseman from committing his first error of the season.
Now with Desmond’s return inching closer and closer, Rockies fans are asking themselves whether or not he should automatically take Reynolds’ spot, relegating the Rockies second-most valuable position player so far in 2017 to a bench role. But it doesn’t have to play out exactly like that.
As has been pointed out many times, one of the main draws for acquiring Desmond in the first place was his positional versatility. Had the two-time All-Star been available last night, for example, he likely would have gotten the start in the outfield for Carlos Gonzalez who has been slumping; and a date with Clayton Kershaw does no good for slumping left-handed power hitters.
With the much-discussed sophomore slump going on with Trevor Story, Desmond could step in over at shortstop a few times a week to give the young man some rest, both physically and mentally. Gerardo Parra, like Reynolds, has been very good early on in the season, but also not so good that his play demands he stay in the lineup against lefties. Other than Kershaw, who Parra handles quite well, it would be easy to swap Desmond in for the left-fielder whenever a southpaw takes the mound for the opposition.
Even Charlie Blackmon could use a day off here and there, and anytime a Rockies player experiences a minor injury (like CarGo’s bruised hand) the Rockies have the luxury of not having to put that player on the DL or rush him back.
Also, Reynolds can even move around the diamond a bit, though clearly the Rockies would rather have Desmond do that. While Nolan Arenado has stated publicly that he wants to play in all 162 games this season, that seems unlikely to be in the best interest of the Rockies and giving Reynolds a few starts over at third could help keep the team’s biggest star fresh.
When Desmond returns to the Rockies, he will be inserted into the everyday starting lineup one way or the other and it almost certainly will cost Reynolds a few starts here and there, especially if the health of the rest of the squad holds up. But there will still be plenty of at-bats to go around and the Rockies won’t be forced to use Parra (or any other emergency option) at first base anymore.
Ultimately, it will be on manger Bud Black to make sure the bats that are performing the best find their way into the lineup each and every day. And if done right, nobody has to be left out in the cold. It may be a tough balancing act, but having too many talented position players is a good problem to have.