The Rockies announced on Tuesday that they’ve designated first baseman Ben Paulsen and infielder Rafael Ynoa for assignment. Their 40-man roster spots will go to infielder Pat Valaika and first baseman/outfielder Jordan Patterson, whose contracts have been selected from Triple-A Albuquerque. The Rox recalled catcher Dustin Garneau and righties Eddie Butler and German Marquez from the minors as well.
Paulsen, 28, entered the 2016 season with an opportunity to emerge as a platoon partner for Mark Reynolds, having slashed .284/.329/.479 with 15 homers in 420 plate appearances between the 2014-15 seasons in Colorado. Paulsen OPSed better than .800 with the Rockies in those two seasons, but he struggled to a .202/.247/.286 in 89 plate appearances at right-handed pitching this year. His work at the Triple-A level was solid but didn’t stand out as much as it did in previous seasons, as he slashed .278/.331/.434 in 78 games at Albuquerque.
Ynoa, meanwhile, tallied just five plate appearances with the Rockies in 2016 and went hitless. He’s appeared in the Majors with the Rockies in each of the past three years, batting .281/.306/.372 over the life of 207 PAs — numbers that are roughly in line with his lifetime .280/.339/.386 slash at the Triple-A level. Neither Ynoa nor Paulsen has received much prospect fanfare over the seasons, though Paulsen did crack Baseball America’s list of Top 30 Rockies prospects prior to the 2011 and 2012 campaigns.
Patterson, meanwhile, rated as Colorado’s No. 20 prospect this winter, per BA, and is currently 18th on MLB.com’s list of top Rockies prospects. The 24-year-old hit .293/.376/.480 with 14 homers in 119 games with Albuquerque this year, and he draws praise from both BA and MLB.com for his plus raw power and strong arm. While both reports feel that he can handle an outfield corner due to his athleticism, arm and average speed, the Rockies already have four left-handed-hitting outfielders on the roster in Gerardo Parra, Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and David Dahl. As such, Patterson could get a look at first base down the stretch as the Rox attempt to evaluate internal options in advance of the 2017 season.
The 23-year-old Valaika — the younger brother of former big league infielder Chris Valaika — has split the season between Double-A and Triple-A, batting a combined .257/.297/.425 with 14 homers, 41 doubles, four triples and 10 stolen bases. He’s seen time at shortstop, second base and third base in each of the past three minor league campaigns but has spent the bulk of his time at shortstop.