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Blackmon open to playing corner-OF spot

Rockies may move center fielder as they shape 2019 roster
@DKramer_
January 26, 2019

DENVER -- The Rockies are toying with the idea of some significant positional adjustments for the 2019 season, which could see a throng of players at established positions move around the diamond and outfield. Perhaps the most prominent change could be moving Charlie Blackmon to a corner-outfield spot from center.

DENVER -- The Rockies are toying with the idea of some significant positional adjustments for the 2019 season, which could see a throng of players at established positions move around the diamond and outfield.

Perhaps the most prominent change could be moving Charlie Blackmon to a corner-outfield spot from center. And in his first public remarks about the topic, Blackmon said he's open to the move.

"We had a discussion about possibly trying different outfield alignments if it meant winning more games for the Rockies, and I was all about winning more games for the Rockies," Blackmon said on Saturday at Coors Field. "I think you will see a little bit of mix and match until we figure out exactly what we like, and then you may continue to see versatility from players as the year goes on."

If Blackmon moves to a corner spot, his replacement in center could be a hybrid of Ian Desmond and David Dahl, or Dahl in a full-time role. Dahl, the club's 10th overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, has primarily been a corner outfielder when healthy the previous two seasons, and he said he's been working at all three positions this offseason.

"My best position coming up through the Minor Leagues obviously was center field, because I played that the most," Dahl said. "But as far as a corner, I think I'm way better in right field. Left field is tougher, I think -- but I can play all three."

Blackmon hasn't logged time at any position other than center field since 2015, when he played 14 games in left and seven in right. He was selected as a multi-positional outfielder in the 2008 MLB Draft, after converting from being a pitcher during his amateur career. And the Rockies' roster construction during his first four big league seasons allowed the club to use him all over before he assumed the full-time center field role in '15.

During his age-31 season in 2018, the first of a $108 million contract extension that could be worth six years if he elects player options, Blackmon ranked poorly in most advanced defensive metrics.

Blackmon's defensive ratings, 2018

Defensive Runs Saved: minus-28 (worst among 57 qualified outfielders, per FanGraphs)
Ultimate Zone Rating
: minus-12.3 (third-worst)
Outs Above Average
: minus-8 (tied for eighth-worst)

Those all represent drastic drop-offs for Blackmon compared to his first seven seasons. Blackmon did deal with a lingering left hamstring injury during the second half of 2018, which could have been a contributing factor to his defensive decline.

The outfield gaps at Coors Field are by far the widest in the Majors, and Blackmon has previously outlined that the ball has different behaviors in Denver's thin air. At one point during the '17 season, when he also accumulated an MLB-high 725 plate appearances en route to winning the National League batting title, Blackmon called himself "the tiredest guy in baseball."

The Rockies have constructed their roster to create defensive versatility. Desmond was signed two offseasons ago to play first base, but the club has used him in the outfield for 87 games. Daniel Murphy, who signed a two-year, $24 million deal in December, will play first, but Murphy also has second-base capability as Colorado fills the void left by DJ LeMahieu, who signed with the Yankees. Ryan McMahon projects to log the most innings at second, and he said on Saturday that he's spent more time working there this offseason. McMahon also can play first and third. Raimel Tapia, who will challenge for playing time, also has the speed and range to play any outfield position.

"I don't think there's one set lineup," Blackmon said. "I think that's a big strength of our team."

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.