Rockies have enough bats

January, 27, 2009
As Jack Etkin writes, even after trading Matt Holliday the Rockies seem to have plenty of hitters …

    Third baseman Garrett Atkins is pointing toward the 2009 season with the Rockies, something he didn't foresee happening when 2008 ended.

    "I figured they would trade either me or Matt [Holliday], going in [to the offseason]," Atkins said. "I figured it'd be harder for them to trade Matt than me, just because of the fan base that he has here in Denver and, obviously, the great years that he's had. I figured it would be me."


    Atkins provides a veteran right-handed bat, which the Rockies lost with the departure of Holliday. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, 24, and catcher Chris Iannetta, 25, are right-handed hitters, but younger, emerging ones who like outfielder Ryan Spilborghs, 29, another right-handed hitter, don't have the track record of Atkins. Indeed, in his four full seasons in the majors, Atkins annually has averaged a .301 batting mark with 37 doubles, 22 homers and 105 RBI.

    Combine the absence of Holliday, the hoped-for-but-not-yet-certain full-time return of first baseman Todd Helton and left-handed hitters like Helton, right fielder Brad Hawpe, Seth Smith and Ian Stewart, who could both see a lot of time in left field, in the lineup and Atkins' provides not only much-needed production but a vital right-handed hitting ballast in the Rockies lineup.

Ballast is good. I'm just not sure what Atkins has to do with it. Looking at the depth chart, the Rockies' (presumed) starting lineup includes five right-handed hitters and three left-handed hitters. Granted, Stewart and fourth outfielder Smith both are lefties, but would five lefties and three righties in the lineup really be so awful? Considering that most starting pitchers are right-handers?

Atkins is a pretty good player, admirably durable and suitably powerful. But he's lousy at third base and doesn't really hit enough to play first. My guess? The Rockies tried to trade him but couldn't get what they thought was fair value. So for the moment at least, they'll try to wedge 10 players into eight positions. Which can work, but Atkins may be more readily available to other teams if the Rockies find themselves a pitcher or two short this spring.



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