Rockies' talented outfield is tough to top
CarGo, Fowler, Cuddyer compose one of game's best units
LOS ANGELES -- There are Major League outfields that command more attention and significantly more income, but it would be hard to find a trio as productive as the Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer over the opening month of the 2013 season.
"I think it's the best [outfield] in the game," Fowler, the athletic center fielder, said on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, where his spectacular catch robbing the Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez of a three-run homer was the highlight of the Rockies' 7-3 win. "I know that's a strong statement. You see a lot of good outfields in the big leagues. But I like ours, with CarGo and Cuddy -- even when Eric Young is out there."
Young Jr., a near replica of his versatile father, was in right field for the series finale with Cuddyer playing first base. With Young leading off, Fowler slid down into the No. 2 spot in front of Gonzalez. CarGo was followed by Troy Tulowitzki, Cuddyer and Wilin Rosario in a formidable lineup that has surprising Colorado leading the National League West as May gets under way.
"It's all about winning for us this year," said Gonzalez, who doubled twice and drove in two runs in the series finale against the Dodgers. "I think we're as good as any outfield in the game. Cuddyer is a proven player. Dexter is getting better and better every year. All I've got to do is continue to play the game free, have fun, make my teammates relax. At the end of the year, I'm going to put up numbers. But it's all about winning, not numbers."
If it was your mission to create the perfect outfield for spacious Coors Field in mile-high Denver, you'd start with a swift center fielder and flank him with experienced corner men with power, the ability to cover space and strong, accurate arms.
Fowler, Gonzalez and Cuddyer fit the profile, with the ultra-swift Young backing them up.
"These guys are really good players," Walt Weiss, the Rockies' first-year manager, said. "I put them up there with the best in the game. It's a really good outfield.
"I'm focused on what we do every day, but I know there are some dynamic outfields. Ours is kind of unique, because CarGo is not a prototypical left fielder. The place we play, it's so demanding. A guy with his arm and skills really plays well in our park."
The Rockies' blast out of the starting gate has been powered in no small measure by the three outfielders combining quality defense with power production.
In April, Gonzalez, Fowler and Cuddyer combined for 18 homers -- one fewer than the Dodgers' team -- and 46 RBIs, with Fowler producing eight bombs, Gonzalez and Cuddyer five apiece. Fowler had a career-high 13 homers last year but, at 27, has come out swinging like his favorite player as a kid, Ken Griffey Jr.
"It's a matter of going out and trusting my ability," said Fowler, who wears Griffey's No. 24. "Junior's my guy. I was a Mariners fan, and Griffey was my idol growing up. I've talked to him about that."
A switch-hitter, Fowler flies around on a Griffey-like frame at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds.
"We've just been waiting for that click with Dexter, when he starts to realize he belongs in the league," Gonzalez said. "He can do damage at the plate, and someday he can be a Gold Glove player. All it takes is one big season in the Major Leagues; that's when you realize you're here for a reason."
The top six hitters in Weiss' lineup confronting Dodgers veteran Josh Beckett were all hitting above .300. When it was over, Cuddyer was at .320, Gonzalez .317 and Fowler .303.
Fowler has driven home 15 runs while scoring 21. Gonzalez is the club leader in runs scored with 23 and has driven in 15. Cuddyer, with a double and single Wednesday night, has 20 RBIs, third on the club, with 15 runs scored.
While Gonzalez, with power, speed and two Gold Gloves, is the acknowledged star and Fowler is in ascent, Cuddyer, at 34, has been an accomplished, respected player for a decade. He broke in with the Twins in 2001 and signed with the Rockies as a free agent after an All-Star 2011 season.
"The way we're playing is not a surprise to us," Cuddyer said. "Obviously, CarGo has established himself as one of the better players in the league. Dexter is coming off a breakout year. For me, it's a matter of playing the game the right way, the way it's meant to be played."
Dodgers infielder Nick Punto, a former Twin, is close with Cuddyer.
"It's definitely a talented group," Punto said of the Rockies' outfield. "Michael Cuddyer is not slowing down by any means. I was fortunate to play with him for seven years. He's one of my favorite teammates and competitors. He has a great arm and does everything right.
"Fowler is coming into his own. I've been a fan of the way he plays the game -- hard. Cargo is just a phenomenal talent. We've all seen what he can do."
It's a fine blend of personalities to go with the mix of outfield talents made for the expansive layouts across the NL West.
"In our park, big as it is, playing left field is the same as playing center field," Gonzalez said. "We've got two center fielders in our outfield."
Fowler runs down everything he can reach.
"We've played with each other two years now," Fowler said. "We know each other's tendencies. They know how and where I play -- and that I'll grab everything I can get."
Adrian Gonzalez can attest to that.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.