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01/15/10 8:00 PM EST

Inbox: How will the outfield shake up?

Beat reporter Thomas Harding answers fans' questions

The outfield is looking crowded with Brad Hawpe as the only sure everyday starter, but clearly Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Ryan Spilborghs and Seth Smith are capable of more than platoon play. What are your thoughts on the shakeout?
-- Alex C., Virginia Beach

There's nothing better than having such a crowd. The more options manager Jim Tracy has, the better position he is in to cover for inevitable slumps and injuries that occur during the season.

My thought is Hawpe, in right field, and Gonzalez, in left, will play most regularly, mainly because of their top-shelf power. Gonzalez can move to center when Fowler rests and the team doesn't lose much defensively, and Smith -- who has shown more power than many thought he would -- can get playing time in left.

I see Spilborghs as the X-factor. Until last season, he hit for high average. He also runs the bases well and can make plays in both outfield corners. He also has done respectable work as a pinch-hitter. If he doesn't try to step outside of his skills and hit for power, he'll force his way into playing time, whether it's as a starter, a pinch-hitter or in double-switch situations.

Do you think catcher Miguel Olivo is going to do better this year in hitting stats than he did last year, and maybe help out Chris Iannetta when he gets into a slump?
-- Emilio M., California

The Rockies are going to let Iannetta and Olivo compete in Spring Training to see how the division of playing time falls.

Olivo has been a high-risk, high-reward swinger offensively, while Iannetta has shown greater on-base performance. Both could give the Rockies uncommon power from the catching position.

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I'm most intrigued with Olivo's defense. It hasn't been his calling card, and his 10 passed balls last season and 16 the previous year raise concerns. But Olivo was the regular catcher for American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke of the Royals last season, his game-calling skills have improved, and he threw out 28 percent of potential basestealers.

Do you think any midseason trades will occur due to contract issues and/or productivity?
-- Brandan G., Littleton, Colo.

There were no such deals last year. The team acquired righty reliever Rafael Betancourt and lefty reliever Joe Beimel to improve weak spots, rather than to deal with budget or non-performance problems.

If the Rockies do not sign closer Huston Street to a multiyear deal this offseason and fall out of the race, he could be a candidate to be dealt. Righty Manuel Corpas, the one-time closer, and lefty Franklin Morales could step into the closer role. However, if the Rockies are in the race, having three power arms and Betancourt at the back of the bullpen presents a challenge for opponents.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.