Two weeks ago the Sky Sox wrote an article that highlighted several of the notable players who are attending spring training with the Rockies. Some of the better known non-roster invitees who were featured are pitchers Tyler Anderson, Miguel Batista, Chad Bettis, Manuel Corpas, Nick Schmidt, Chris Volstad and position players Nolan Arenado, Kyle Parker, and Yorvit Torrealba. This week the Sox will take a look at some of the lesser known players who are competing for a spot on the Rockies' opening day roster.
Rockies' minor league outfielder Corey Dickerson is one step closer to achieving his goal of reaching the majors. For the first time in his four-year career Dickerson was invited to Major League Spring Training. The 23-year old outfielder is one of the 24 non-roster invitees who received an invite from the Colorado Rockies to join the team for spring training at Salt River Fields in Arizona.
Corey Dickerson began his path to his first spring training when he was drafted by the Rockies, from Meridian Community College in Mississippi, in the 8th round of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft. He then had a successful year with the Rockies' Rookie League team the Casper Ghosts, now known as the Grand Junction Rockies, hitting .348 and 13 home runs in only 69 games. Dickerson continued to hit for power when he slammed 32 home runs for the Single-A Asheville Tourists. A year later the young power hitter hit 23 home runs between the Class-A Advanced team the Modesto Nuts and the Drillers.
Dickerson is not the only non-roster invitee who is attending their first Major League camp. Pitcher Parker Frazier may have lost 14 games last year for the Drillers, but earned his spring training invite with a 3.88 ERA in 27 starts. Frazier is the son of former Major League reliever and current Rockies' television commentator George Frazier and has been in Colorado's farm system since 2007. In his six seasons with the organization the righty has pitched with every Rockies' minor league affiliate except the Sox.
Daniel Houston was drafted a year later than Frazier, but has already spent two years with Tulsa. In his career with the Drillers, Houston has 14 wins in 40 starts. In 2012, he had a 3.74 ERA and struck out 96 batters.
Also attending their first spring training are infielders Ben Paulsen, Henry Wrigley and catcher Jose Gonzalez. In his first two years after being drafted Paulsen did not bat below .280. Since being promoted to Tulsa in 2011, Paulsen has struggled at the plate only hitting .241 and .255 in his last two seasons. Despite his struggles he does have some pop in his bat, knocking out a combined 32 home runs in 256 games.
Utility-man Henry Wrigley is a career minor leaguer who finally reached Triple-A last year after seven years in the minors. Wrigley spent the 2012 season with the Rays' organization and hit .285 in 354 at-bats with the Triple-A Durham Bulls. Like Wrigley, Gonzalez has also spent seven years in the minors. Unlike Wrigley, however, the 25-year old catcher has never reached Triple-A. Last year, the backstop played for the Drillers, but only played in 51 games.
Besides being a chance for minor leaguers to break into the Majors, spring training also gives players with Major League experience a chance to showcase their skills for a new team.
Pitchers Logan Kensing, Jeff Manship, Mike Mclendon and Erick Threets have each spent time in the majors. Kensing is a right-handed relief pitcher who has played in 134 Major League games and has a career 5.81 ERA. The reliever spent last season in the Pirates' farm system and ended the season with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. Competing with Kensing for a spot in the bullpen is Manship. The former Minnesota Twin pitched in 21 innings for Minnesota, but posted a 7.86 ERA. Manship found much better success with the Twins' Triple-A affiliate the Rochester Red Wings. While with the Red Wings the righty spilt time between being a starter and a reliever. Last year he started 11 out of 22 games and had a sub-three ERA at 2.91.
Mike McLendon is another reliever the Rockies brought in to potentially bolster their bullpen. In 2010 and 2011, McLendon pitched in 26 games for the Milwaukee Brewers and played quite well, only allowing 11 runs in 34.2 innings. 2012 was a different story for the 27-year old right hander. In nine big league games he allowed 10 earned runs in 14 innings.
In his rookie season Erick Threets started in 14 games for the Single-A Hagerstown Suns. Since then Threets has only started in seven more games over his 10-year career. The journeyman spent last year with two PCL teams, the Sacramento River Cats and the Albuquerque Isotopes. If Threets joined the Sky Sox it would mark his fifth season with a PCL team.
Besides bolstering their bullpen the Rockies are also hoping to add some depth to their bench. In 2010 shortstop Tommy Manzella started in 75 games for the Houston Astros. In those 75 contests, Manzella only hit .225 with one home run. Since then the infielder has bounced around the minors and has spent time with several PCL teams including the Oklahoma City Redhawks and most recently the Reno Aces.
Outfielder Kent Matthes is attending the second spring training of his four-year career. Matthes has shown some power in his career, hitting 40 home runs in two years with Modesto and Tulsa. The former University of Alabama star will have to improve his average if he wants to join the Sky Sox in 2013. After hitting .334 with the Nuts in 2011, his average dropped to .214 in 336 at-bats with the Drillers in 2012.
Perhaps the most contested position battle in spring training is catcher. Veterans Lars Davis and Gustavo Molina will compete with each other to earn a spot on the Rockies roster. Davis has spent all six of his seasons with the Rockies. Last year Davis hit .287 with nine home runs in 307 at-bats for Tulsa. Molina joins Colorado after spending last year in the Yankees' organization. The Rockies will be the seventh team he has played for in his 13 seasons.
The competition for a spot on the Rockies 40-man roster has already begun, but the real test begins on Saturday, February 23, when Colorado faces Arizona in their first spring training game. The game kicks off a stretch of 12 straight pre-season games for the Rockies including an exhibition against Team USA on March 6.
For updates during spring training regarding your favorite Sky Sox players, follow our PR department on twitter at @SkySoxGameDay or check out our blog at http://coloradospringsskysox.mlblogs.com/.