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Who will win the Rockies utility infielder spot?

The spot of a utility infielder isn’t exactly the most important role for a Major League team. Often this player is essentially a backup plan that is capable of playing both middle infield spots and third base as needed. Defense is their main calling card, but an ability to add some offense in spot starts is a helpful trait. Still, an infield contingency is essential for teams and for a rebuilding team like the Colorado Rockies, it becomes a spot that garners the most attention in Spring Training. Three players are essentially lobbying for the utility position in the final weeks of spring. Alan Trejo, Aaron Schunk, and Coco Montes have varying degrees of experience, but all have been putting together a case to crack the Opening Day roster.

Alan Trejo

The incumbent for the Rockies is none other than Trejo. In order to make room on the 40-man roster this offseason, the Rockies decided to designate him for assignment and outright him to Triple-A. At the time it seemed merely a formality until the Rockies would be able to move players to the 60-day injured list and open space for Trejo to return. Trejo is perhaps the best defender of the three in the middle infield. After dazzling at shortstop in the World Baseball Classic for Team Mexico last year, Trejo would appear in 82 games for the Rockies, often at short, second, and third. There is no question about his defensive capabilities but what about his offense? 2023 wasn’t the best year at the plate for him. In those 82 games, including 59 starts, Trejo finished the season hitting .232/.288/.343 with 11 doubles and four home runs and drove in 26 runs. In the hitter-friendly PCL however, he slashed .370/.463/.565 in just 12 games. He has enjoyed a nice spring, batting .308/.375/.577 in 13 games with a pair of home runs. Even more interesting is that he has four walks to just two strikeouts, showing an emphasis on plate discipline. He’s likely to win the job out of camp, but it’s still not set in stone thanks to the others on this list.

Coco Montes

A brief cup of coffee was all that Montes got with the Rockies in 2023 before he was outrighted from the roster after 18 games played. After a stellar debut that saw him go 2-for-3 with a home run, Montes struggled to a .184/.244/.560 slash line with 12 strikeouts in 41 plate appearances. Those numbers pale in comparison to his production in Triple-A Albuquerque where he boasted a .950 OPS with 22 home runs and 89 RBI. Not to mention he has proven quite capable as a middle infielder, especially at second base where he has spent a lot of time. While the power production is tantalizing, the strikeouts are cause for concern if not tamed. He’s proven in Triple-A what can happen when the production follows, but 130 strikeouts in 107 games isn’t exactly a great ratio and something that needs work. In 15 games this spring he has six strikeouts against three walks in 25 plate appearances, which is a trend in the right direction. He has one home run and a decent .775 OPS, but I’m not sure he’s done enough to overtake Trejo.

Aaron Schunk

Finally, a surprise contender that has forced the issue is Schunk. Drafted in the second round in 2019, he’s slowly made his way up through the Rockies system and is potentially knocking on the door to the big leagues. Over the last two seasons, Schunk has grown into his own as a hitter, finding a power stroke and expanding his defensive versatility. A season ago in Triple-A, he sported a .811 OPS with 14 home runs and 77 RBI. In Spring Training he’s batted .308/.357/.742 with a pair of doubles and six RBI in 16 games. He’s put the ball in play and the Rockies appear impressed with his offensive developments. Much like Montes, strikeouts have been abundant, but his ability to make contact has offset some of those negative trends this spring, unlike the other two, he has yet to make his big league debut it becomes a matter of the team feeling confident that his success can translate to more sporadic playing time in a utility role. To broaden his horizons, Schunk has played shortstop a few times in Spring Training. He already has experience at second and third, but to give him a better chance at breaking camp with the Rockies, they want him to learn shortstop a bit more. In a small sample size, he’s proven a capable defender wherever he is placed.

Who wins the job? 

As mentioned, Trejo appears the favorite to reclaim his spot on the big league roster. He has shown glimpses of success and his defensive skills make him a valuable player. Montes and Schunk have more power and offensive upside but are still lacking in some areas that could keep them from breaking camp. This isn’t to say they won’t get a chance this season. Injuries may occur, or the team will just want to give another player a different look and if both are in Triple-A, it will be an extended version of the inner competition. Having quality depth is important, and all three players will provide that.


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