Black may hit Blackmon 3rd in Cactus games

Tapia, Desmond, Dahl among Rockies' potential leadoff hitters

February 14th, 2018

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies manager Bud Black will experiment with dropping standout leadoff man Charlie Blackmon in the order, most likely to third, during Cactus League games.
Wednesday was the first official workout for pitchers and catchers, but the big news was that Black is entertaining moving Blackmon -- who led the National League with a .331 average, set a record with 103 (of his 104) RBIs from the leadoff position, led the league in triples with 14, had 35 doubles and hit 37 home runs in 2017. Blackmon said three weeks ago he is open to the move if it helped make the lineup more effective. Black said the move is a possibility.
"I'm going to go a little deeper than contemplated; 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, in camp well ahead of official workouts for position players, said, "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.
"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."
There are alternative leadoff options. Black acknowledged that left-handed-hitting and right-handed-hitting have leadoff tools because they run well.
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Tapia was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque six times last season. After his 2-for-18 start through 11 games, Tapia batted .310 and had a .347 on-base percentage in 151 plate appearances in his final 59 regular-season games (28 starts). According to Statcast™, Tapia tied for seventh fastest in the Majors and tops on the Rockies in terms of Sprint Speed at 29.5 feet per second.
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). Black went into last season hoping Blackmon could revisit the stolen base as part of his game, but Blackmon made up for that with power.

Black also acknowledged that left-handed-hitting -- who didn't play in the Majors last season because of a rib injury but hit .315 with seven home runs, 12 doubles and four triples in 63 games in 2016 -- could be a Blackmon-like option.
The key, however, is Blackmon's flexible attitude.
"The beautiful part about this is Charlie's open, because he's an extremely team-first guy," Black said. "He'll do whatever is best for the team and not have any mental hangups with this. You run into some players where you do something out of the norm, and they freak out. He's not one of those guys. He's so mentally stable that he can handle that."
If Blackmon ends up hitting third, he'll be between 2016 NL batting champ DJ LeMahieu and star third baseman , which for him, would not be a bad trade-off for giving up the top of the order.

"That makes sense -- that gives us a right-left-right situation," the left-handed-hitting Blackmon said. "Nolan's such a good hitter. 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."
Dropping Blackmon is, of course, dependent on roster makeup, especially if Tapia and Dahl make the team. A move involving Blackmon was difficult last year because of the presence of in the No. 3 slot. The Rockies, by the way, are considering re-signing either Gonzalez or first baseman , both of whom became free agents at the end of last season.