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Position Battles: Rockies Second Base

The Rockies were reportedly in talks with the Rangers to acquire Michael Young on two different occasions this offseason but the teams couldn't agree on a deal. Had the Rockies acquired him, the 34 year-old would've been the starting second baseman. The talks appear to have cooled off, although they can always be rekindled over the next few weeks. For now, the Rockies must decide between five players for the everyday job. I'll be keeping a close eye on this competition, along with over 50 other position battles that I've identified, over at MLBDepthCharts.com

Jose Lopez vs Eric Young, Jr. vs Chris Nelson vs Jonathan Herrera vs Ty Wigginton

Tale of the Tape

Lopez: 27 years old, $3.6MM salary 2010 stats: .239 BA, 10 HR, 58 RBI, 29 2B, 23 BB, 66 K, 3 SB in 593 ABs 2011 Outlook: Favorite to win starting job

Acquired from Seattle in early December, Lopez will be looking to get his career back on track after a terrible 2010 season in which he set career lows in OBP (.270) and SLG (.339). During the 2008-09 seasons, he averaged 21 HRs, 93 RBIs, and 42 doubles as the Mariners' starting second baseman before he was moved to third base prior to last season. A move back to second base and a move into Coors Field sounds like a pretty good prescription for whatever the problem was. 

Young: 25 years old, est. $425K salary 2010 stats: .244 BA, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 5 2B, 3B, 17 BB, 32 K, 17 SB in 172 ABs 2011 Outlook: Underdog to win starting job, more likely to serve as utility man (2B/OF) on big league bench or play regularly in Triple-A

The switch-hitter has the ability to wreak havoc on the base paths, stealing as many as 87 bases in a season while in the minors. In limited big league action, however, he hasn't shown an ability to reach base often enough to take advantage of his speed. He's also not a great defender and has spent some time in the outfield during the past few seasons. If he can provide average defense at second base and reach base at a clip a bit closer to his career minor league .382 OBP rather than his .308 big league OBP, he could be a great weapon to have at the top of the Rockies' lineup. 

Nelson: 25 years old, est. $414K salary 2010 stats: .313 BA, 12 HR, 55 RBI, 15 2B, 3 3B, 29 BB, 53 K, 7 SB in 319 ABs (AAA) 2011 Outlook: Underdog to win starting job, more likely to play regularly in Triple-A

The former first round pick is a bit of a dark-horse candidate but he might be the most well-rounded player on this list. Primarily a shortstop throughout his career, he played 27 games at second base and 11 games at third base in what turned out to be a breakthrough 2010 season that put him back on the Rockies' radar after two injury-plagued seasons. Prior to the '08 season, Baseball America ranked him as the #7 prospect in the organization and compared him to Gary Sheffield because of his excellent bat speed and rated his speed and arm as plus tools. If he can still flash those abilities and show that he's capable of playing a solid second base, he could make this a very interesting competition. 

Herrera: 26 years old, est. $425K salary 2010 stats: .284 BA, HR, 21 RBI, 6 2B, 2 3B, 25 BB, 36 K, 2 SB in 222 ABs 2011 Outlook: Long shot to win starting job, more likely to win bench spot as backup at 2B, SS, and 3B

Despite starting 47 games at second base last season and posting a .352 OBP, Herrera simply does not have the power or speed that is going to make him stand out in this group. He is a very good defender, though, and his ability to play shortstop makes him the leading candidate to backup Troy Tulowitzki and serve as a late-inning defensive replacement for Lopez or Young, if they were to win the starting second base job.

Wigginton: 33 years old, $4MM salary 2010 stats: .248 BA, 22 HR, 76 RBI, 29 2B, 50 BB, 116 K 2011 Outlook: Long shot to win starting job, more likely to serve as backup at 1B, 2B, and 3B

There's no mistaking Wigginton can provide 20+ home runs. He's done it in four of the last five seasons. He's just not going to do it as an everyday second baseman. His primary role will be to back up Todd Helton at first base and Ian Stewart at third base. Whether he gets more than an occasional start at second base will have more to do with how the others are playing. Sticking him out there on a regular basis is an unlikely scenario unless the others aren't producing or injuries factor into the equation. Look for him to bounce around the infield and get 350-450 ABs. 

Final Word

Lopez is capable of playing 1B, 2B, and 3B, but he wasn't acquired with that role in mind for him. That's the role Wigginton is likely to fill. The Rockies are counting on Lopez bouncing back and solidifying the position while the others (Young, Nelson, Herrera) battle for the last spot on the bench. But Lopez rebounding is no sure thing, especially considering how bad he was last season. They wouldn't be interested in Michael Young if that was the case. Still, I expect Lopez to do enough to win the job although Nelson and Young are talented prospects that are capable of making some noise in Spring Training. Don't count either one of them out. 

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