In the Rockpile: Colorado outfield preview for 2012

The Colorado Rockies expect the same stellar defense from Carlos Gonzalez in 2012, as well as a return to his 2010 offense numbers.(Frank Franklin II/AP)

The Colorado Rockies outfield has top-tier talent, defensively, that has produced ESPN highlight plays by CarGo and Dex. What they don’t have are players with true proven consistency at the plate, which is their Achilles heel.

Let’s take a look at the outfield, as it stands now, for 2012:

Left Field: Carlos Gonzalez (.295 AVG, 92 RBI, 26 HR) — CarGo’s numbers looked good at season’s end, but were not reflective of his overall batting performance, which was spotty after receiving an $80 million contract following his Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and NL Batting Champion 2010 season. He was statistically down across the board in all major categories from 2010 to 2011. There were plenty of times you could tell he was swinging for the fences, and he was trying to get a hold of more than he could handle. Once he settled down, the hits and home runs started to accumulate. Defensively, he is one of the best and should have been a finalist for a Gold Glove. I’m looking for a rebound year now that he will be a year removed from signing the big payday.

Center Field: Dexter Fowler (.266 AVG, 45 RBI, 5 HR) — Throw in a kick step on a swing and all of a sudden the defensively inclined center fielder can hit again. Fowler is one of the Rockies more up-and-down players, but is easily one of the best center fielders in the game due to his height and his speed. Fowler won’t produce home runs, but he can easily turn a double into a triple with his legs, as he produced 50 extra base hits (35 doubles and 15 triples).

Right Field: Ryan Spilborghs (.210 AVG, 22 RBI, 3 HR) — Spilly has been a mainstay in the dugout. He sits plenty of games as he platoons with Seth Smith in right field. He has big-play ability as he does well hitting at night and can produce walk-off home runs. The 2011 season was nothing for him to be proud of as he received considerably less work than he is accustomed to. His numbers plummeted, but I put the blame on manager Jim Tracy’s lineup card and not so much on him. His work went from 388 plate appearances in 2010 to 223 in 2011.

Right Field: Seth Smith (.284 AVG, 59 RBI, 15 HR) — The better half of the right field rotation, Smith’s game skills are part of the reason he’s the subject of trade rumors. Another longtime Rockie, Smith had as good of a season as he usually does, and he has remained dependable. The dependable consistency is the reason why he is on the trade table. He is due for a real MLB contract and that may be part of the reason why Charlie Blackmon will be filling in his roster spot when Smith is traded.

Outfield: Charlie Blackmon (.255 BA, 8 RBI, 1 HR) — A welcomed addition to the lineup during this past season, Blackmon is moving up in the organization and should be on the opening-day roster, though he may not take the field for it. He is a player who will grow into the role of a MLB batter at the plate, but had his best work in the outfield. His pursuit to the ball is unorthodoxed, but he didn’t commit any errors and has crazy good hustle. I like what I’ve seen and want to see more, and the fans should get it if Smith is traded.

The outfield has remained good defensively, but there is always more to be desired as some key outs have been lost in the outfield, notably in right field. I expect Smith to be traded if a deal can be struck with Atlanta for Martin Prado; ultimately, I don’t see Smith playing in the purple pinstripes in 2012.

Some of the minor-league-system guys may get more looks, like Cole Garner and Andrew Brown, but that would only be in the event of injuries and/or bad play. The outfield is a fairly locked down crew unless Fowler can’t swing his way out of a paper bag or CarGo caves his face in with the outfield wall.

Follow me on Twitter @CoryWhitmer

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