The Rockies have searched for a player to take over third base since Garrett Atkins lost his hitting stroke.Â Three players received the opportunity so far this year with one pulling ahead in May.Â Chris Nelson and Jordan Pacheco each have twenty starts at third, but Pacheco owns the last fifteen.Â He is the current frontrunner.Â Jonathan Herrera has nine starts at third along with seven at second base.Â Nolan Arenado is the great prospect hope, he is working his way through Double-A.
Nelson earned the job out of Spring Training and started fourteen of the first seventeen games.Â The former top ten pick was primarily a middle infielder but third represented the best opportunity for playing time after Marco Scutaro came aboard.Â He hit .256/.333/.326 through April 21, before Herrera entered the mix.Â By May 14 he was down to .219/.313/.288.Â That day he went on the DL for a wrist injury that he is currently rehabbing.
Despite the poor numbers there are signs that he is improving some offensive skills.Â His walk rate shot up from 3.7% to 12.0%.Â Still, his contact is inconsistent.Â He owns a 3.09 GB/FB ratio and 27.3% of his flys are caught by infielders.Â Slugging under .300 is no way to stay in a lineup, on a strong team Nelson is a utility player.
Herrera is also a middle infielder trying his hand at third.Â He too is off the active roster, forced there by a strained hamstring on May 23.Â He collected 718 plate appearances with Colorado starting way back in 2008, compiling a .255/.320/.320 line.Â Power is not his best tool either.Â This yearâ€™s .134 ISO is easily a career high, but his walks and strikeouts are disappearing.Â His ground ball rate is steadily declining, but at 5â€™9â€, 150 lbs attempting to become a power hitter is not the best strategy.Â He used to show good speed, stealing 134 bags in the minors.Â Once reaching the majors he only has seven, with seven unsuccessful attempts as well.Â He offers some versatility as a switch hitter with very even splits.Â If he does not go crazy trying to hit big flys he makes enough contact to hit for a solid average.
Pacheco entrenched himself as the starter with an eleven game hit streak that ran from May 15 through May 26.Â At 26 he is old for a rookie, but an attempted conversion to catcher slowed his climb through the minors.Â He is putting the ball in play enough to have a .287 average but his walk rate is a mere 2.2%.Â It is under 10% at every level above High-A.Â That is Dee Gordon territory but Gordon will steal more bases in a week than Pacheco will in a year.
Pacheco has been the most productive, expect him to hold onto the job even when the others return to health.Â Until he displays more patience he could go through a deep slump or two, jeopardizing his status atop the depth chart.Â Arenado is the best hope for a prototypical third baseman in the organization.Â Baseball America ranked him above Boston phenom Will Middlebrooks before 2012, but he is likely a calendar year away from reaching Colorado.Â Fantasy owners in NL leagues can use Pacheco now to fill a need but he should be watched closely.Â He is not a permanent answer.
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