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Desmond confident he'll thrive in move to CF

Blackmon shifts to LF; Black says center is 33-year-old's 'best position'
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- At an age that is generally considered to be past an athlete's prime, Ian Desmond will try to rely more on his speed as the Rockies move him to center field.

"It's humbling to be able to do this at 33 years old," said Desmond, who makes the switch as Charlie Blackmon moves to left field in a decision designed in part to decrease Blackmon's wear and tear. "God blessed me with the ability to get faster and maintain strength and all that stuff at 33. We'll see what happens."

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- At an age that is generally considered to be past an athlete's prime, Ian Desmond will try to rely more on his speed as the Rockies move him to center field.

"It's humbling to be able to do this at 33 years old," said Desmond, who makes the switch as Charlie Blackmon moves to left field in a decision designed in part to decrease Blackmon's wear and tear. "God blessed me with the ability to get faster and maintain strength and all that stuff at 33. We'll see what happens."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Blackmon, 32, has played a club-record 691 games in center field, which includes a lot of games in the middle of Coors Field's vast center field. So in center, the Rockies are turning to Desmond, who played mostly left field upon joining the club in 2017 and primarily first base last year.

In 2016, the year before he joined the Rockies for five years and $70 million, Desmond signed with the Rangers and converted from shortstop to the outfield. He played the first two games of that season in left field before he was thrown into center. Desmond's .899 OPS before the All-Star break earend him a spot in the Midsummer Classic. Defensively, though, he finished with nine errors (eight fielding, one throwing) in center field, which were tied with the Phillies' Odubel Herrera for most in the Majors.

Blackmon has noted that the flight of the ball will be an adjustment for Desmond, especially at Coors Field, where balls tend to stay truer in their flight path than on the road. But Desmond has time to prepare. Rockies manager Bud Black alerted him of the possibility of playing center field at the end of last season.

"I'm really fortunate they gave me a heads-up early in the offseason that this is something that would be a possibility," Desmond said, "so I was able to get my legs underneath me, strengthen and prepare for it.

"What Charlie has done, being able to play center field in Colorado and being able to play as many games as he does, is something that's not an easy task. I know I've got a handful in front of me."

Black believes Desmond's history as a middle-of-the-diamond player will help him handle it.

"Because of that versatility over his time as a Rockie, we knew that we could do certain things," Black said. "Primarily, you'll see him more as an outfielder, and primarily more as a center fielder. That's his best position. But he's also shown the ability to play left field, too, if that occurs."

Desmond also will take a fresh approach offensively. Last year, he had a .235/.307/.422 slash line, with the highest percentage of ground balls in the Majors. Desmond did hit 22 homers to go with 88 RBIs (a combination accomplished 53 times in Rockies history).

Desmond had a chance meeting with new Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan at a Bradenton, Fla., golf course -- around the time Magadan was hired -- during the offseason to begin communication.

"Everyone knew him when he played as a pure hitter. That's certainly not something I've ever been tabbed," Desmond said. "To be able to pick his brain and to have him keep an eye on me, be able to talk approach, it's going to be an exciting year. We hit it off, and I'm hoping the relationship can maintain throughout."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Ian Desmond

Out of options, Tapia must deliver in 2019

McMahon makes adjustments at plate; Reynolds looking for openings in starting lineup
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-handed-hitting outfielder Raimel Tapia smiled at the memory of his best 2018 moment, which occurred not far from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

On July 20, Tapia launched a grand slam in an 11-10 victory over the D-backs in downtown Phoenix. Tapia finished with a .200 batting average in 27 plate appearances over 25 games, and did not make the Rockies' postseason roster. But the clutch homer and the solid Triple-A Albuquerque numbers -- .302/.352/.495, 11 home runs, 21 steals -- gave Tapia, 25, reason to arrive at Spring Training believing he can be a greater contributor in 2019.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies left-handed-hitting outfielder Raimel Tapia smiled at the memory of his best 2018 moment, which occurred not far from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

On July 20, Tapia launched a grand slam in an 11-10 victory over the D-backs in downtown Phoenix. Tapia finished with a .200 batting average in 27 plate appearances over 25 games, and did not make the Rockies' postseason roster. But the clutch homer and the solid Triple-A Albuquerque numbers -- .302/.352/.495, 11 home runs, 21 steals -- gave Tapia, 25, reason to arrive at Spring Training believing he can be a greater contributor in 2019.

"I was very, very excited," Tapia said. "Buddy Black said, 'Hey, Tapia, go and pinch-hit,' and I said, 'OK, I'm ready.' When the ball was going, I said, 'Yeah, I like that.'"

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Tapia was a greater factor in 2017, when he batted .288/.329/.425 in 171 plate appearances with two homers, two triples and 12 doubles while earning a spot on the postseason roster. But last season, Tapia didn't grab his chance in Spring Training, and he never gained traction in the small snippets of playing time.

This time, Tapia has renewed opportunity, along with a need to deliver.

The Rockies not re-signing Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra opens playing time for Tapia, who is out of Minor League options.

Although he plays all three outfield spots, Tapia's best defensive position is center field. With Charlie Blackmon moving from center to left and David Dahl in right, right-handed-hitting Ian Desmond makes room for Daniel Murphy at first base by moving to center. That puts Tapia in position for innings as a defensive replacement, with a chance to earn more opportunities.

"The trick for him is to be a performer when he does play, even though it might not be a 600 at-bat season," Black said. "Or we'll see how he plays. Playing time might be warranted by how he performs.

"The bat-to-ball skill, the speed, his ability to be a hit collector -- those are things that he did at the higher level of the Minor Leagues that led you to believe that he can do it in the big leagues."

McMahon's potentially game-changing swing
Second-base competitor Ryan McMahon, who appeared in 91 Major League games last year, hit 25 home runs in 125 Triple-A games over the last two years. In the Majors last year, he hit just five home runs, usually garnering hits going the other way.

During the offseason, McMahon worked on his swing with Rockies assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar and Albuquerque hitting coach Tom Doherty. A key improvement is making contact further in front, which could unlock some of his pull power, even though Black believes the ability to spray the ball around the field is an asset.

"He's not changing his swing," Black said. "It's a beautiful swing. It's a swing that plays in the big leagues. But there are some other components of hand position, bat path. Those are things he's trying to work on."

McMahon hit just .213 against right-handed pitchers, despite excelling against righties in the Minors. He believes those numbers can be corrected by not pressing.

"I would try to go out there and try to do more, because I knew that I could hit against righties, instead of just going up there and taking my normal swing," McMahon said.

Video: SF@COL: McMahon belts pinch-hit, game-tying HR in 7th

Reynolds, the Swiss Army knife
Right-handed-hitting veteran Mark Reynolds, signed to a Minor League deal, showed up ready for more than the bench role the Rockies envision. Reynolds knows unexpected opportunities often present themselves; for instance, in 2017, he ended up as the Rockies' starting first baseman when Desmond missed time with a broken hand.

"It was an adjustment for me last year," Reynolds said of signing with the Nationals after the season began. "I've signed, like, four or five times to do that and ended up playing a little more than they expected."

He adjusted by developing a routine of going to the batting cage during games to hit against a pitching machine dialed up to 100 mph.

Reynolds primarily plays first base, but he has an extensive history at third. Black mentioned that Reynolds could play some second as well. That could spice up camp should the group of younger infield options -- McMahon, Garrett Hampson, Pat Valaika and Brendan Rodgers -- prove not ready when Spring Training ends.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Ryan McMahon, Mark Reynolds, Raimel Tapia

Bright side: Reasons for optimism for each team

MLB.com @RichardJustice

On this opening week of Spring Training, all 30 Major League teams have one thing in common: optimism. You've read a lot about teams being all-in for 2019 and also about some teams rebuilding. Here's what's also true: When players and coaches get to work in Florida and Arizona, optimism is infectious.

That's the very nature of the sport. Every single team is excited about something. Some teams want to get a look at the new acquisitions. Others want to see prospects or returning veterans or unheralded players hoping for a new start.

On this opening week of Spring Training, all 30 Major League teams have one thing in common: optimism. You've read a lot about teams being all-in for 2019 and also about some teams rebuilding. Here's what's also true: When players and coaches get to work in Florida and Arizona, optimism is infectious.

That's the very nature of the sport. Every single team is excited about something. Some teams want to get a look at the new acquisitions. Others want to see prospects or returning veterans or unheralded players hoping for a new start.

Some of it is the warmer weather of Spring Training. Some of it is the guys seeing one another again. And some of it is simply putting the uniform on and getting back out on the field and doing the thing they love more than anything.

Here's an optimism cheat sheet for all 30 teams:

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

Braves: Josh Donaldson
To a young team that won the NL East and has a deep farm system comes a 33-year-old former American League Most Valuable Player ready to prove he's still one of the best players in the game.

Video: Donaldson thrilled to be with the Braves

Marlins: Youth
Manager Don Mattingly's Opening Day lineup probably will have at least six players in their 20s, and it's going to be fun watching those young guys grow and begin to prove themselves.

Mets: Expectations
The Mets finally have some after an offseason in which they've been upgraded all over the place while holding onto a rotation that might be baseball's best.

Nationals: Max Scherzer
His every start is a must-see event, and now he's the biggest name on a team that has had a tremendous offseason and might just be the NL's best team whether Bryce Harper returns or not.

Phillies: Anticipation
The Phillies made a string of solid acquisitions and remain in the middle of the race for Harper and/or Manny Machado. Regardless of how that plays out, the additions of J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and David Robertson have moved them closer to a postseason berth.

NL CENTRAL

Brewers: NL's best record
The Brewers were one win from going to the World Series and are bringing back the core of that 2018 team, in addition to upgrades behind the plate (signing Yasmani Grandal) and in the rotation (the return of injured ace Jimmy Nelson).

Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt
He's on the short list of baseball's best offensive players and could transform the lineup, if not the entire team. With the signing of lefty reliever Andrew Miller and a slew of young arms, the Cardinals probably could not feel better about 2019.

Video: Paul Goldschmidt gets formally introduced

Cubs: Yu Darvish
He's ready to be the ace the Cubs projected he would be in 2018, when he was limited to just eight starts in his first year with the club due to injury. If the Cubs can keep Darvish and their other core guys on the field, there may not be a better NL team.

Pirates: Youth
Don't sleep on this team. The starting rotation could be very good. If third base prospect Ke'Bryan Hayes makes his debut in the first half of the season, he'll join first baseman Josh Bell to give the Pirates a solid pair of corner infielders to go with a potentially very good outfield.

Reds: Rotation
The Reds could turn a big corner with the addition of Alex Wood, Sonny Gray and Tanner Roark to the rotation. Watching new right fielder Yasiel Puig hit in Great American Ball Park could be one of the best shows in baseball.

NL WEST

D-backs: Rotation
There are legitimate reasons to be excited about this club, thanks to a rotation that could be as good as any in the NL with Taijuan Walker back from Tommy John surgery and Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray and Zack Godley all returning.

Dodgers: Corey Seager
With six straight division championships and back-to-back NL pennants in their pocket, the Dodgers are getting potentially their best player back from Tommy John surgery.

Video: BP, throwing across diamond next on docket for Seager

Giants: Madison Bumgarner
He's healthy again after injuries limited him to 38 starts the last two seasons. Last time he pitched a full season was 2016 when he threw 226 2/3 innings, and the Giants made the playoffs. Go ahead and connect the dots.

Padres: Youth
The Padres have 10 of MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects, a record. Even better is that at least four of them, including shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (No. 2 overall), are projected to play in the big leagues this season.

Rockies: Nolan Arenado
Both sides are publicly optimistic he'll be signed to an extension before reaching free agency after the season. Meanwhile, his team is positioned for a third straight postseason appearance, thanks to what should be the best rotation in franchise history.

AL EAST

Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
He's the top prospect in the sport and one of the best hitting prospects ever, according to MLB Pipeline, and will be playing third base for the Blue Jays at some point this season. He's the face of a wave of kids that will usher in a new chapter of baseball in Toronto.

Video: Top Prospects: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B, Blue Jays

Orioles: The future
The Orioles are being rebuilt by two of the men -- Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal -- who helped make the Astros a powerhouse. This season will be devoted to throwing young kids on the field and giving them a chance to show they belong, much the way Houston did a few years before winning a World Series.

Rays: Front office
Smartest in baseball? It's in the conversation. Same thing with manager Kevin Cash. Last season's 90-win team reinforced both those notions. They've gotten better this offseason with depth and flexibility up and down the roster.

Red Sox: Trophy case
Why would the Red Sox be optimistic? Other than winning the World Series four times in 15 seasons. Other than having the reigning AL MVP (Mookie Betts) and an offense and rotation that could be baseball's best.

Yankees: Bullpen
General manager Brian Cashman upgraded his team all over the place, especially in the bullpen, which has a chance to be one of the best ever. No division has three teams as good as the top three in the AL East.

AL CENTRAL

Indians: Rotation
There may not be one better, and that's why the front office resisted the temptation to trade a starter for a hitter. The Indians are solid favorites to win the AL Central again, and that rotation could make them a formidable October opponent.

Royals: Kyle Zimmer
What a story. He is a former top pitching prospect whose career appeared to be over after four surgeries. He was sent to the Driveline Baseball program in Seattle as sort of a last-chance saloon. Now at 27, he's throwing hard and without pain and should make his Major League debut in 2019.

Video: Kyle Zimmer on returning to form going into 2019

Tigers: Miguel Cabrera
His 2018 season ended after 38 games when he underwent biceps surgery. Now 35 years old, he's ready to continue building on a Hall of Fame resume.

Twins: Byron Buxton
He has added 21 pounds of muscle and seems confident he'll get his career back on track after a tough 2018 season that was mostly spent in the Minor Leagues. He's still only 25, and the Twins are hopeful he can be the electrifying presence he was once projected to be.

White Sox: Eloy Jimenez
He's the crown jewel of a very good farm system and ranked No. 3 overall by MLB Pipeline. Injuries delayed his debut last summer, and now that he's healthy again, he'll be the most-watched player at Sox camp.

AL WEST

Angels: Mike Trout
OK, this is stating the obvious. We could be watching one of baseball's 10 greatest players ever at his peak, and the Angels may have constructed a team that'll help put Trout on display in October.

Astros: Alex Bregman
He did more than emerge as a great player in 2018. He also became a huge presence in his community, giving of his time and money and making himself a role model for every other professional athlete.

Athletics: Matt Chapman
If you're not completely familiar with his game, you soon will be. He's a generational defensive player at third and on his way to becoming one of the players every other is compared to.

Mariners: Yusei Kikuchi
He was the most interesting addition in an offseason of change for the Mariners and will slot between Marco Gonzales and Mike Leake in a rotation that will give Seattle a chance to be competitive.

Video: Yusei Kikuchi discusses his first bullpen session

Rangers: Joey Gallo
There's a buzz the moment he steps into the batter's box. His 81 home runs the last two seasons are the fourth most in the Majors. His 93.9 mph average exit velocity is third highest.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Dahl, Rox have confidence in 2019 breakout

Left-handed-hitting slugger has dealt with injuries early in MLB career
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfielder David Dahl spent last September showing off his home runs by confidently sashaying his way around the bases. He did it then, he'll do it again in 2019.

"There's a natural smile that happens, in dugouts or when he's greeting the guys after doing something great," Colorado manager Bud Black said. "It's sort of like, 'Hey, what do you expect? That's what I do. You shouldn't be surprised.'"

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfielder David Dahl spent last September showing off his home runs by confidently sashaying his way around the bases. He did it then, he'll do it again in 2019.

"There's a natural smile that happens, in dugouts or when he's greeting the guys after doing something great," Colorado manager Bud Black said. "It's sort of like, 'Hey, what do you expect? That's what I do. You shouldn't be surprised.'"

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Dahl, who turns 25 on April 1, has to shake a freakish and frustrating injury history. If he can, his preparation, production and panache scream "I'm next" to a club that has introduced a lineage of top Rockies hitters.

Dahl's 63-game debut campaign in 2016 and 77 games in '18 produced a .293/.341/.518 slash line, 23 home runs and 72 RBIs. The rub is his early career was interrupted by injuries -- rib and back issues that cost him all of '17 and early '18, and a broken right foot that sidelined him in June and July of last year.

But compare his first 140 games to those of others who became stars in purple pinstripes:

• Todd Helton -- .291/.349/.511, .860 OPS with 23 HRs and 70 RBIs
Matt Holliday -- .295/.351/.494, .854 OPS, 14 HR, 71 RBIs
Carlos Gonzalez -- .258/.303/.425,.728 OPS, 12 HR, 45 RBIs
Troy Tulowitzki -- .278/.349/.399, .748 OPS, 16 HR, 71 RBIs
Trevor Story -- .253/.332/.472, .804 OPS, 35 HR, 92 RBIs
Nolan Arenado -- .265/.298/.409, .707 OPS, 12 HR, 58 RBIs
Charlie Blackmon -- .277/.308/.394 SLG, .702 OPS, 7 HR, 34 RBIs

Story, who fulfilled a similar rise to stardom last year, answered the same question about Dahl with, "I don't see why not."

Dahl's 2017 injury was a factor in the Rockies re-signing Gonzalez last spring. Gonzalez, a three-time All-Star, is a free agent again, but the Rockies are planning on Dahl grabbing the right-field torch.

"I can, but I'm not really thinking about that," Dahl said. "I'm thinking about performing and helping the team win, because at the end of the day, we want to get back to the playoffs and win a World Series. If I play to my potential, I think we have a good shot for that."

In September, the Rockies won nine of their last 10 games to make the postseason. Dahl homered in five straight, and six of the final seven games of that streak. According to Statcast™, Dahl had a 16.3-degree launch angle, and the nine homers brought a 100.6 mph average exit speed.

To poke analytical holes, his expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) in September, which is based on contact measurements, was a less-than-elite .306. His actual wOBA was .404, which mathematically suggests luck was a factor in his late-season success.

Having none of that, veteran catcher Chris Iannetta said, "It doesn't matter what Statcast™ says. … [It's] just that natural swing, being able to hit with power to all fields, being able to hit pitches anywhere -- up, down, in, out,"

Video: WSH@COL: Dahl goes the other way for 3-run home run

Blackmon, who sat beside Dahl on team flights last year and gave advice about health and maintenance, noted Dahl is 20 pounds more muscular than when he was drafted (10th overall in 2012) and is "addressing some of the issues that were holding him back in the past."

Dahl overcame Minor League injuries like a severe hamstring injury in 2013 and a freak spleen rupture in 2015, and he arrived in the Majors with complete baseball skills. No wonder he moves confidently.

"Those are good character builders in terms of hopefully being a Major League regular and being counted on to help this team get back into the playoffs and get further in the playoffs than the last two years," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said.

Video: Dahl, McMahon, Black on building on postseason run

Opposing scouts wondered at times last year if Dahl held back defensively because of the injury history. Dahl said he didn't want to take risks in big games. But after Black encouraged him not to cut loose, by September the sashay was back to stay.

"I need to show it every day," he said.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, David Dahl

Anderson hopes to build off healthy 2018

Lefty set career high for innings in a season last year; Dunn feels good after shoulder procedure
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Given a difficult injury history, one of Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson's biggest accomplishments in 2018 was his wire-to-wire availability.

In 2016, a strained oblique sustained in Spring Training delayed his Major League debut and held him to 19 starts. His 2017 saw him out from late June to early September because of left knee surgery.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Given a difficult injury history, one of Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson's biggest accomplishments in 2018 was his wire-to-wire availability.

In 2016, a strained oblique sustained in Spring Training delayed his Major League debut and held him to 19 starts. His 2017 saw him out from late June to early September because of left knee surgery.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

But in 2018, Anderson made 32 regular-season starts (7-9, 4.55 ERA) while setting a new high for innings in his professional career (176) and pitching in a postseason race. Anderson also held the Brewers to one run over six innings in his first postseason start, a loss in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.

Injuries have been an issue for Anderson, 29, since he was taken in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Oregon. He sustained an elbow injury while in Double-A late in 2014 that cost him all of '15. But it wasn't for a lack of trying that he missed that entire year. In fact, going too hard may have been the cause.

"As an athlete, your mentality is, when things get tough, you like to push through and push a little harder," Anderson said. "At times when I got pretty sore, I would just try to throw through it. If my legs were sore, I thought maybe I need to work a little longer in the weight room instead of just cutting back."

Video: COL@MIL Gm2: Anderson strikes out 5 in 1-run outing

Last year, Anderson learned when to "really listen to my body," as well as trainers, strength and conditioning personnel and teammates. The result was 32 starts.

"Where he is now should be right in those years that he has experience, he's done it," manager Bud Black said. "It's just a matter of continuing to gain on that."

Anderson averaged 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings. His three walks per nine innings were elevated over 2.2 and 2.7 in his first two years, respectively. He also gave up an NL-leading 30 homers. The information gained from the homers helped set Anderson's priorities.

"If I consistently have control of my delivery and have good command, I can be OK," he said. "There were times last year I threw a lot of balls in the middle of the plate. I'm somebody that likes to compete in the strike zone. If I'm doing that, I want to keep in the strike zone in quality locations."

Dunn just getting started
Lefty reliever Mike Dunn, who underwent a cleanup procedure on his left shoulder last September, said he will be about two appearances behind other relievers but expects to be ready for Opening Day.

The strategy, Dunn said, was to make sure he didn't push himself too hard during Spring Training. He registered a 4.47 ERA over a team-leading 68 appearances in 2017, the first year of a three-year, $19 million contract. In '18, Dunn was limited to 25 games and a 9.00 ERA.

"Now that my shoulder is feeling really good, I can tell I've probably been fighting this for a couple years," said Dunn, who said doctors shaved off part of his collar bone to alleviate bone-on-bone friction. "'So it was a relief to get the shoulder fixed and get the AC joint, specifically, fixed. I'm looking forward to this year and getting back to my old self."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Tyler Anderson

Here's Story on Rockies' 2B candidates

SS breaks down talents of McMahon, Hampson, Rodgers and Valaika
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies shortstop Trevor Story knows a standout fielding second baseman when he plays alongside one.

So Story is a good resource to assess the younger players who are trying to replace three-time Gold Glove Award-winning DJ LeMahieu, who signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Yankees this winter.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies shortstop Trevor Story knows a standout fielding second baseman when he plays alongside one.

So Story is a good resource to assess the younger players who are trying to replace three-time Gold Glove Award-winning DJ LeMahieu, who signed a two-year, $24 million contract with the Yankees this winter.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Left-handed-hitting Ryan McMahon, right-handed-hitting prospects Garrett Hampson (No. 4 Rockies, per MLB Pipeline) and Brendan Rodgers (No. 1 Rockies, No. 10 overall), and righty-hitting utility man Pat Valaika bring different attributes and experience levels. But whether it's one player or a combination, it will take a lot to replace LeMahieu.

Here are the competitors, along with Story's thoughts:

McMahon: McMahon was drafted as a third baseman and spent most of his 72 defensive appearances at first base (38 games) and third base (20 games). McMahon's listed height of 6-foot-2 is a couple of inches shorter than LeMahieu's, but his lanky body type is such a match that observers sometimes did a double-take during the 14 games McMahon played second base.

"They can be very similar -- that's pretty high praise for Mac," Story said. "They're very similar builds, very athletic guys. They both played other positions growing up. It's going to bode well for Mac. He probably won't right off the bat be like DJ, but he has the potential."

Video: CIN@COL: McMahon robs Cruz of a hit with sliding stop

Opportunity will knock for 3 key Rockies in '19

Hampson: In the Minors, Hampson stood out because of his speed. That carries over to defense, as Story saw during some of the 24 games (seven defensively at second) Hampson played last season. Hampson also took over shortstop for eight games while Story was dealing with a late-season elbow injury.

"He's very solid -- he has a very quick first step, and he gets to a lot of balls," Story said. "He's a big-range guy -- just from playing with him last year, I saw him make some pretty amazing plays, some diving plays, and get up and finish it. He has really quick hands, too."

Video: COL@ARI: Hampson dives to make the out at second

Hampson among MLB's 30 fastest prospects

Rodgers: Rodgers enters 2019 as MLB Pipeline's No. 3 shortstop. But that position isn't available because of Story, selected by MLB Network as the No. 3 shortstop on the Top 10 Right Now list and the No. 30 overall player. Rodgers made it to Triple-A late last season, and likely will begin at Albuquerque if he doesn't dominate the Spring Training competition, but he has the physical tools to be a standout second baseman, Story said.

Video: Trevor Story is the No. 3 shortstop right now

"He's super-talented -- one of the most I've ever seen," Story said. "He throws it hard. He's fast. He hits it hard. He's just one of those guys where you can tell he's going to be one of the better players on the field. He's putting in a lot of work over there, and you can tell he's getting pretty comfortable."

Video: Top Prospects: Brendan Rodgers, SS, Rockies

Valaika: Last year's .156 batting average pushed Valaika, 26, into the background in this competition. The Rockies hope he can return to his 2017 form, when he drove in 16 of his 40 runs and hit four of his 13 homers as a pinch-hitter. Story knows what Valaika can do defensively.

Video: OAK@COL: Valaika makes diving stop and nabs Lowrie

"We were shortstop-second base for a couple years in the Minor Leagues -- he's the guy I had the most experience with," Story said. "Anytime he comes over there to second, we never miss a beat. I feel like I've never seen him make an error, especially out there when we're doing our work. He's very solid, has good footwork, and the ball's always where it's supposed to be."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Garrett Hampson, Ryan McMahon, Brendan Rodgers, Trevor Story, Pat Valaika

Projected 2019 lineups, rotations for every team

MLB.com

Spring Training is here, so now is a good time to project what each club's Opening Day lineup and rotation would look like if the season began today. Of course, rosters are still fluid at this point, but with help from all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might turn out.

Spring Training is here, so now is a good time to project what each club's Opening Day lineup and rotation would look like if the season began today. Of course, rosters are still fluid at this point, but with help from all 30 MLB.com beat writers, here's a roundup of how they might turn out.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

BLUE JAYS
Lineup:
1. Devon Travis, 2B
2. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., SS
3. Justin Smoak, 1B
4. Kendrys Morales, DH
5. Randal Grichuk, RF
6. Teoscar Hernandez, LF
7. Kevin Pillar, CF
8. Brandon Drury, 3B
9. Danny Jansen, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Marcus Stroman, RHP
2. Aaron Sanchez, RHP
3. Ryan Borucki, LHP
4. Matt Shoemaker, RHP
5. Clayton Richard, LHP
Closer: Ken Giles, RHP

ORIOLES
Lineup:
1. Cedric Mullins, CF
2. Jonathan Villar, 2B
3. Trey Mancini, LF
4. Mark Trumbo, DH
5. Chris Davis, 1B
6. Renato Nunez, 3B
7. DJ Stewart, RF
8. Richie Martin, SS
9. Chance Sisco, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Dylan Bundy, RHP
2. Andrew Cashner, RHP
3. Alex Cobb, RHP
4. David Hess, RHP
5. Nate Karns, RHP
Closer: Mychal Givens, RHP

RAYS
Lineup:
1. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
2. Matt Duffy, 3B
3. Tommy Pham, LF
4. Ji-Man Choi, DH
5. Willy Adames, SS
6. Yandy Diaz, 1B
7. Austin Meadows, RF
8. Mike Zunino, C
9. Joey Wendle, 2B

Rotation and closer:
1. Blake Snell, LHP
2. Charlie Morton, RHP
3. Opener
4. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
5. Opener
Closer: Jose Alvarado, LHP

RED SOX
Lineup:
1. Andrew Benintendi, LF
2. Mookie Betts, RF
3. J.D. Martinez, DH
4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
5. Mitch Moreland, 1B
6. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
7. Rafael Devers, 3B
8. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
9. Christian Vazquez, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Chris Sale, LHP
2. David Price, LHP
3. Rick Porcello, RHP
4. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
5. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
Closer: Matt Barnes, RHP 

YANKEES
Lineup:
1. Brett Gardner, LF
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Aaron Hicks, CF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Gary Sanchez, C
6. Miguel Andujar, 3B
7. Gleyber Torres, 2B
8. Luke Voit, 1B
9. Troy Tulowitzki, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Luis Severino, RHP
2. James Paxton, LHP
3. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP
4. J.A. Happ, LHP
5. CC Sabathia, LHP
Closer: Aroldis Chapman, LHP

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

INDIANS
Lineup:
1. Leonys Martin, CF
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
3. Jose Ramirez, 3B
4. Carlos Santana, DH
5. Jake Bauers, 1B
6. Tyler Naquin, RF
7. Jordan Luplow, LF
8. Roberto Perez, C
9. Yu Chang, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Corey Kluber, RHP
2. Trevor Bauer, RHP
3. Carlos Carrasco, RHP
4. Mike Clevinger, RHP
5. Shane Bieber, RHP
Closer: Brad Hand, LHP

ROYALS
Lineup:
1. Whit Merrifield, 2B
2. Adalberto Mondesi, SS
3. Alex Gordon, LF
4. Jorge Soler, DH
5. Salvador Perez, C
6. Ryan O'Hearn,1B
7. Hunter Dozier, 3B
8. Brett Phillips, RF
9. Billy Hamilton, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Danny Duffy, LHP
2. Brad Keller, RHP
3. Jakob Junis, RHP
4. Ian Kennedy, RHP
5. Jorge Lopez, RHP
Closer: Brad Boxberger, RHP

TIGERS
Lineup:
1. Jeimer Candelario, 3B
2. Christin Stewart, LF
3. Nicholas Castellanos, RF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Niko Goodrum, 2B
6. John Hicks, DH
7. Grayson Greiner, C
8. JaCoby Jones, CF
9. Jordy Mercer, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Matthew Boyd, LHP
2. Michael Fulmer, RHP
3. Jordan Zimmermann, RHP
4. Matt Moore, LHP
5. Tyson Ross, RHP
Closer: Shane Greene, RHP

TWINS
Lineup:
1. Jorge Polanco, SS
2. Eddie Rosario, LF
3. Miguel Sano, 3B
4. Nelson Cruz, DH
5. C.J. Cron, 1B
6. Max Kepler, RF
7. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
8. Jason Castro, C
9. Byron Buxton, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Jose Berrios, RHP
2. Kyle Gibson, RHP
3. Michael Pineda, RHP
4. Jake Odorizzi, RHP
5. Martin Perez, LHP
Closer: Trevor May, RHP

WHITE SOX
Lineup:
1. Jon Jay, RF
2. Yoan Moncada, 2B
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Yonder Alonso, DH
5. Welington Castillo, C
6. Daniel Palka, LF
7. Tim Anderson, SS
8. Yolmer Sanchez, 3B
9. Adam Engel, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Carlos Rodon, LHP
2. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
3. Ivan Nova, RHP
4. Lucas Giolito, RHP
5. Manny Banuelos, LHP
Closer: Alex Colome, RHP

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

ANGELS
Lineup:
1. Zack Cozart, 3B
2. Mike Trout, CF
3. Justin Upton, LF
4. Justin Bour, 1B
5. Albert Pujols, DH
6. Andrelton Simmons, SS
7. Kole Calhoun, RF
8. David Fletcher, 2B
9. Jonathan Lucroy, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
2. Andrew Heaney, LHP
3. Matt Harvey, RHP
4. Trevor Cahill, RHP
5. Jaime Barria, RHP
Closer: Cody Allen, RHP

ASTROS
Lineup:
1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Michael Brantley, LF
6. Yuli Gurriel, 1B
7. Josh Reddick, RF
8. Tyler White, DH
9. Robinson Chirinos, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Justin Verlander, RHP
2. Gerrit Cole, RHP
3. Wade Miley, LHP
4. Collin McHugh, RHP
5. Josh James, RHP
Closer: Roberto Osuna, RHP

ATHLETICS
Lineup:
1. Nick Martini, LF
2. Matt Chapman, 3B
3. Matt Olson, 1B
4. Khris Davis, DH
5. Stephen Piscotty, RF
6. Jurickson Profar, 2B
7. Ramon Laureano, CF
8. Marcus Semien, SS
9. Chris Herrmann, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Mike Fiers, RHP
2. Marco Estrada, RHP
3. Brett Anderson, LHP
4. Daniel Mengden, RHP
5. Paul Blackburn, RHP
Closer: Blake Treinen, RHP

MARINERS
Lineup:
1. Mallex Smith, CF
2. Mitch Haniger, RF
3. Edwin Encarnacion, DH
4. Kyle Seager, 3B
5. Domingo Santana, LF
6. Ryon Healy, 1B
7. Omar Narvaez, C
8. Tim Beckham, SS
9. Dee Gordon, 2B

Rotation and closer:
1. Marco Gonzales, LHP
2. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP
3. Mike Leake, RHP
4. Wade LeBlanc, LHP
5. Felix Hernandez, RHP
Closer: Hunter Strickland, RHP

RANGERS
Lineup:
1. Delino DeShields, CF
2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Shin-Soo Choo, DH
4. Nomar Mazara, RF
5. Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B
6. Joey Gallo, LF
7. Rougned Odor, 2B
8. Ronald Guzman, 1B
9. Jeff Mathis, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Mike Minor, LHP 
2. Lance Lynn, RHP
3. Drew Smyly, LHP
4. Edinson Volquez, RHP
5. Shelby Miller, RHP
Closer: Jose Leclerc, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

BRAVES
Lineup:
1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Josh Donaldson, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Ronald Acuna Jr., LF
5. Nick Markakis, RF
6. Tyler Flowers, C
7. Ozzie Albies, 2B
8. Dansby Swanson, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Mike Foltynewicz, RHP
2. Sean Newcomb, LHP
3. Kevin Gausman, RHP
4. Julio Teheran, RHP
5. Touki Toussaint, RHP
Closer: Arodys Vizcaino, RHP

MARLINS
Lineup:
1. Lewis Brinson, CF
2. Curtis Granderson, LF
3. Starlin Castro, 2B
4. Brian Anderson, 3B
5. Peter O'Brien, RF
6. Neil Walker, 1B
7. Jorge Alfaro, C
8. JT Riddle, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jose Urena, RHP
2. Dan Straily, RHP
3. Wei-Yin Chen, LHP
4. Sandy Alcantara, RHP
5. Trevor Richards, RHP
Closer: Drew Steckenrider, RHP

METS
Lineup:
1. Brandon Nimmo, RF
2. Jed Lowrie, 3B
3. Robinson Cano, 2B
4. Wilson Ramos, C
5. Michael Conforto, LF
6. Todd Frazier, 1B
7. Juan Lagares, CF
8. Amed Rosario, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jacob deGrom, RHP
2. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
3. Zack Wheeler, RHP
4. Steven Matz, LHP
5. Jason Vargas, LHP
Closer: Edwin Diaz, RHP

NATIONALS
Lineup:
1. Adam Eaton, RF
2. Trea Turner, SS
3. Anthony Rendon, 3B
4. Juan Soto, LF
5. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
6. Brian Dozier, 2B
7. Victor Robles, CF
8. Yan Gomes, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Max Scherzer, RHP
2. Stephen Strasburg, RHP
3. Patrick Corbin, LHP
4. Anibal Sanchez, RHP
5. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP
Closer: Sean Doolittle, LHP

PHILLIES
Lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Jean Segura, SS
3. J.T. Realmuto, C
4. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
5. Andrew McCutchen, LF
6. Odubel Herrera, CF
7. Maikel Franco, 3B
8. Nick Williams, RF

Rotation and closer:
1. Aaron Nola, RHP
2. Jake Arrieta, RHP
3. Nick Pivetta, RHP
4. Zach Eflin, RHP
5. Vince Velasquez, RHP
Closer: David Robertson, RHP, or Seranthony Dominguez, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

BREWERS
Lineup:
1. Lorenzo Cain, CF
2. Christian Yelich, RF
3. Ryan Braun, LF
4. Travis Shaw, 3B
5. Jesus Aguilar, 1B
6. Yasmani Grandal, C
7. Cory Spangenberg, 2B
8. Orlando Arcia, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jhoulys Chacin, RHP
2. Chase Anderson, RHP
3. Zach Davies, RHP
4. Jimmy Nelson, RHP
5. Brandon Woodruff, RHP
Closer: Corey Knebel, RHP

CARDINALS
Lineup:
1. Matt Carpenter, 3B
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
3. Paul DeJong, SS
4. Marcell Ozuna, LF
5. Dexter Fowler, RF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. Kolten Wong, 2B
8. Harrison Bader, CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Miles Mikolas, RHP
2. Carlos Martinez, RHP
3. Jack Flaherty, RHP
4. Michael Wacha, RHP
5. Adam Wainwright, RHP
Closer: Andrew Miller, LHP

CUBS
Lineup:
1. Ben Zobrist, 2B
2. Kris Bryant, 3B
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Javier Baez, SS
5. Kyle Schwarber, LF
6. Willson Contreras, C
7. Jason Heyward, RF
8. Albert Almora Jr., CF

Rotation and closer:
1. Jon Lester, LHP
2. Kyle Hendricks, RHP
3. Cole Hamels, LHP
4. Yu Darvish, RHP
5. Jose Quintana, LHP
Closer: Pedro Strop, RHP

PIRATES
Lineup:
1. Adam Frazier, 2B
2. Starling Marte, CF
3. Corey Dickerson, LF
4. Josh Bell, 1B
5. Francisco Cervelli, C
6. Colin Moran, 3B
7. Lonnie Chisenhall, RF
8. Erik Gonzalez, SS

Rotation and closer:
1. Jameson Taillon, RHP
2. Chris Archer, RHP
3. Trevor Williams, RHP
4. Joe Musgrove, RHP
5. Jordan Lyles, RHP
Closer: Felipe Vazquez, LHP

REDS
Lineup:
1. Jesse Winker, LF
2. Jose Peraza, SS
3. Joey Votto, 1B
4. Eugenio Suarez, 3B
5. Scooter Gennett, 2B
6. Yasiel Puig, RF
7. Scott Schebler, CF
8. Tucker Barnhart, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Sonny Gray, RHP
2. Tanner Roark, RHP
3. Alex Wood, LHP
4. Luis Castillo, RHP
5. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
Closer: Raisel Iglesias, RHP

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

D-BACKS
Lineup:
1. Ketel Marte, CF
2. Eduardo Escobar, 3B
3. David Peralta, LF
4. Steven Souza Jr., RF
5. Jake Lamb, 1B
6. Wilmer Flores, 2B
7. Nick Ahmed, SS
8. Alex Avila, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Zack Greinke, RHP
2. Robbie Ray, LHP
3. Zack Godley, RHP
4. Luke Weaver, RHP
5. Merrill Kelly, RHP
Closer: Archie Bradley, RHP

DODGERS
Lineup:
1. A.J. Pollock, CF
2. Corey Seager, SS
3. Justin Turner, 3B
4. Cody Bellinger, RF
5. Max Muncy, 1B
6. Chris Taylor, 2B
7. Joc Pederson, LF
8. Austin Barnes, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
2. Walker Buehler, RHP
3. Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP
4. Rich Hill, LHP
5. Kenta Maeda, RHP
Closer: Kenley Jansen, RHP

GIANTS
Lineup:
1. Steven Duggar, CF
2. Joe Panik, 2B
3. Buster Posey, C
4. Brandon Belt, 1B
5. Evan Longoria, 3B
6. Brandon Crawford, SS
7. Gerardo Parra, LF
8. Mac Williamson, RF

Rotation and closer:
1. Madison Bumgarner, LHP
2. Derek Holland, LHP
3. Dereck Rodriguez, RHP
4. Drew Pomeranz, LHP
5. Jeff Samardzija, RHP
Closer: Will Smith, LHP

PADRES
Lineup:
1. Manuel Margot, CF
2. Luis Urias, SS
3. Eric Hosmer, 1B
4. Franmil Reyes, RF
5. Wil Myers, LF
6. Ian Kinsler, 2B
7. Austin Hedges, C
8. Ty France, 3B

Rotation and closer:
1. Joey Lucchesi, LHP
2. Eric Lauer, LHP
3. Robbie Erlin, LHP
4. Bryan Mitchell, RHP
5. Matt Strahm, LHP
Closer: Kirby Yates, RHP

ROCKIES
Lineup:
1. Charlie Blackmon, LF
2. David Dahl, RF
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
4. Trevor Story, SS
5. Daniel Murphy, 1B
6. Ian Desmond, CF
7. Ryan McMahon, 2B
8. Chris Iannetta, C

Rotation and closer:
1. Kyle Freeland, LHP
2. German Marquez, RHP
3. Tyler Anderson, LHP
4. Jon Gray, RHP
5. Chad Bettis, RHP
Closer: Wade Davis, RHP

Black likes Blackmon in role of leading man

Rockies skipper also seeking dedicated 8th-inning arm to set up Davis
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A year after looking for ways to move Charlie Blackmon out of the leadoff spot, Rockies manager Bud Black is counting the reasons to keep him up top.

"With Charlie, there's danger right out of the gate with a potential home run, extra-base hit," Black said. "It's a quality at-bat the first at-bat of the game -- the pitcher is on guard, man.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A year after looking for ways to move Charlie Blackmon out of the leadoff spot, Rockies manager Bud Black is counting the reasons to keep him up top.

"With Charlie, there's danger right out of the gate with a potential home run, extra-base hit," Black said. "It's a quality at-bat the first at-bat of the game -- the pitcher is on guard, man.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"And I like the fact that one of our better players gets the extra at-bats when we get toward the end of the game."

Early last spring, Black experimented with Raimel Tapia hitting leadoff and Blackmon third. The project, at least as a primary strategy, was scrapped when the Rockies signed Carlos Gonzalez during Spring Training and restored Blackmon to the first spot.

Blackmon ended up hitting first in 95 games, with a .291/.366/.513 slash line in those 436 plate appearances. But at times to jump-start the offense, the Rockies went with DJ LeMahieu first. Blackmon produced the same .291 average in the No. 2 hole, although he saw drops in on-base percentage (.344) and slugging (.466).

It's possible Blackmon, who also started eight games in the No. 3 hole, could have hit out of the top spot in more games. But LeMahieu, who signed a two-year contract with the Yankees this winter, went on the injured list three times.

Interestingly, new Rockies first baseman Daniel Murphy, after missing the early part of last season with the Nationals, produced a .317/.341/.516 slash line in 31 games leading off last season with the Nats and Cubs. However, Black said Murphy would hit high in the order but not necessarily at the top.

Two younger competitors for roster spots and playing time, Tapia and second-base hopeful Garrett Hampson, have the speed and hitting style of a traditional leadoff man, but Black noted that those players have not yet done it in the Majors.

Here's Story on Rockies' 2B candidates

Blackmon is proven. In 2017, he led the National League with a .331 batting average, set a record with 103 (of his 104) RBIs from the top spot and hit 37 home runs. He didn't fight the strategies last year.

Video: LAD@COL: Blackmon launches a massive two-run homer

"I don't think it was hard for me to move out of the leadoff spot," Blackmon said. "I think it's more difficult for someone to move into the leadoff spot. But we have a lot of capable hitters in the lineup that can do it. I don't think they'll have any trouble making that adjustment."

The experienced Murphy isn't wed to any spot in the order.

"Wherever Buddy sticks me," Murphy said. "I have no problems where I hit. I have no preferences where I hit. Between Buddy and the front office and Jeff [Bridich, the general manager], they're going to get together and construct a lineup they think works the best for us to win ballgames. It doesn't necessarily mean we'll have the same lineup every single day."

The eighth wonder
With former Rockies primary righty setup man Adam Ottavino plying his trade with the Yankees, Black will need to fill the eighth inning. While he likes to mix and match at other points of the game, he believes bullpens work best with a dedicated closer (Wade Davis, in Colorado's case) and an eighth-inning guy.

Tweet from @harding_at_mlb: As light as 212 pounds last year, #Rockies closer Wade Davis is 230 -- a nod to Colorado's atmosphere. "You've got to have a little bit higher calorie intake when you're in Colorado to maintain that weight, because you are burning it a little faster with less oxygen," he says. pic.twitter.com/GnPsL9gEMO

"That is advantageous if you have those two pitchers at the end that can wipe out left-, right-handed hitters, it doesn't matter," Black said. "They have weapons. They have performance."

Righties Scott Oberg and Seunghwan Oh finished last season solidly and are candidates for the role, but Black said he'll let Spring Training performance guide his decision. Bounce-back candidates such as lefty Jake McGee and righty Bryan Shaw could also work into the role.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Charlie Blackmon, Daniel Murphy