Blackmon: First to Third, No Problem
The answer to the question of whether Charlie Blackmon will move from the leadoff spot in the Rockies lineup to hitting third won’t be answered by Blackmon.
There is no doubt that Blackmon can handle either role.
The determination rests on the likes of a Raimel Tapia, Ian Desmond or David Dahl showing that can provide the needed skills at the top of the lineup to allow manager Bud Black to drop Blackmon into a 3-4 combo with Nolan Arenado.
Rockies pitchers and catchers held their first official workout of the spring on Wednesday, but manager Bud Black took time to admit he will experiment with dropping Blackmon down in the lineup during Cactus League games. The idea wasn’t given serious consideration in the past because of the presence of Carlos Gonzalez.
Gonzalez, currently a free agent, could still re-sign with the Rockies. He has indicated he would welcome a chance to return, but he has been held up in an off-season free agent market that has been held up by Scott Boras’ reluctance to sign any of his 15 clients, which includes Gonzalez.
“We’ve talked about it a lot, in earnest," Black said. "I've spoken to Charlie about it, as well. And it might make sense, based on who makes our team and how guys are playing at the end of spring and what our roster looks like. It might very well make sense for our lineup."
Blackmon certainly has proven he can hit lead off. He led the NL with a .331 average last year, and 103 of his 104 RBI came out of the leadoff spot, a major-league record. He also led the NL with 14 triples, and had 35 doubles and 37 home runs.
Blackmon is flexible.
“I trust Buddy to put the best lineup on the field, and I told him I was receptive to moving around if he thinks that gives us the best chance to win,” Blackmon told MLB.com writer Thomas Harding. "If you look around the league, most of the guys that hit really well are trying to hit with runners on base, so most of those guys hit somewhere in the middle of the order. That's traditionally how lineups are structured. I'm sure there was a reason behind that."
Desmond, signed as a free agent a year ago because of his versatility, was on the disabled list three times in his Rockies debut last season – the first three times in his career – but still had a .326 on-base percentage. He also has been successful on 77 percent of his career stolen base attempts.
Desmond's .317 career on-base percentage is not ideal, but he has been as high as .335 as recently as 2016, and he logged a .326 OBP in an injury-filled '17. Additionally, Desmond has succeeded in more than 77 percent of his career stolen-base attempts 158 of 205). 7
Tapia and Dahl are the prime candidates for the left field job.
Tapia bounced between Triple-A Albuquerque and the Rockies last season. He had only two hits in his first 18 at-bats, but in his final 151 plate appearances with the Rockies he hit .310 with a .347 on-base percentage.
Dahl was sidelined with a rib injury last spring and never appeared in the big leagues last season, but in 63 games with the Rockies in 2016 the former first-round draft choice hit .315 with seven home runs, 12 doubles and four triples in 63 games.
Hitting third between DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado could be a bonus for Blackmon.
"Nolan's such a good hitter,” said Blackmon. “You don't want to walk either of us two guys in front of Nolan. DJ hits for such a high average that you assume he's going to be on base a lot. That's something we should try out, at least in Spring Training."