DENVER -- The Rockies' trade of center fielder Dexter Fowler to the Astros this week should allow for more at-bats for Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson, who both showed promise during last season, to fill the vacant leadoff spot.
It also has the Rockies and manager Walt Weiss considering various options, including two-time All-Star Carlos Gonzalez.
The decision will be a key one as the Rockies, who will have a new left fielder in Blackmon or Dickerson and a new first baseman once the club and Justin Morneau wrap up the two-year, $12.5 million deal with a 2016 club option that they've been discussing.
Top of the mountain
The leadoff spot has often been a volatile one in the 21 years of Rockies baseball. Fowler was the primary leadoff man 2009-13, and one of only three players in Rockies history -- recently hired first-base coach Eric Young being one, Juan Pierre the other -- to bat in the No. 1 spot in more than 300 games.
Weiss certainly knows the importance: his .381 on-base percentage in 154 games at leadoff (1994-97) is tied for tops in Rockies history with Darryl Hamilton (108 leadoff games '98-99) among players with 100 or more games.
With snow all over the ground in the Denver area, Weiss said he is already making out lineup cards and thinking of leadoff options.
And with the Winter Meetings set to begin Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., there's always the outside possibility that the roster could change with a major move. But for now, Blackmon, who hit .309 with six home runs and a .336 OBP last year, and Dickerson, who finished at .263 with a .316 OBP, are the top competitors for left field and the top spot in the order.
"The leadoff spot, as we're sitting here, we're looking at Dickerson and Blackmon getting a crack at that," Weiss said. "What happens with this [Fowler trade] is those guys end up getting more at-bats."
Then there's Gonzalez. Former manager Jim Tracy used him at the top of the order in 2009, and Gonzalez has a .310 batting average and .363 on-base percentage in 110 appearances at leadoff, including 104 starts. Those numbers, which came when he was establishing himself and had yet to develop into a star, aren't forgotten by the Rockies.
"It's something he's done before," Weiss said. "I haven't talked at this point with him or any of the players. But it's something that comes up in conversations when I talk to the staff and we project our lineup, put it that way.
"Of course, he's a great player. Whether we bat him first and possibly get an extra at-bat in a game and some extra ones over the course of the season, or we hit him third or fourth, he's an important piece of our club."
Weiss said he is not ruling out other options.
Second basemen DJ LeMahieu has hit for average and been an efficient base stealer in two seasons with the Rockies, but he needs to improve upon a .314 career on-base percentage. Josh Rutledge, who began 2013 as the starting second baseman but lost the job to LeMahieu, finished with a .235 batting average. Brandon Barnes, an outfielder who came in the Fowler trade, had a .354 OBP vs. lefties last season with the Astros. Charlie Culberson, who saw action in the Colorado outfield last year, could earn leadoff opportunities.