"I told him this morning that he's our starting opening-day second baseman," manager Clint Hurdle said this afternoon after the Rockies beat Milwaukee 6-5 in a Cactus League game. "He's coming off a very good finish in Triple-A last year and a very good winter campaign. He had maybe a one-week or 10-day period when he was trying to find his way, and since then he's done nothing but pick up momentum."
Nix, 25, hit .292/.342/.451 in 483 plate appearances last year with Triple-A Colorado Springs, one year after hitting just .251/.317/.313 in 397 plate appearances at the same level. Nix has credited his offensive improvement last year to some mechanical changes that Colorado Springs hitting coach Carney Lansford helped him make in the middle of last season. Since June, Nix's OPS rose from .665 to .793. Nix went on to have a fantastic winter, helping Team USA win the gold medal at the World Cup in Taiwan and being named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player and USA Baseball's Athlete of the Year.
"Defensively and offensively he was outstanding," Team USA manager Davey Johnson said after the World Cup. "He's very much a leader; there wasn't anything I didn't like about him . . . Jayson runs well and he turns double plays that nobody else can. The only thing I would like to tell Clint Hurdle is to find a place on that club, because he can play."
Even if Nix ends up being a below-average hitter, he should have value as key component in the Rockies' run prevention. Nix is an above-average defender—Lansford called his fielding "the best I've ever seen at second base, hands down"— which is an important factor for the Rockies, whose pitching staff last year was second in baseball in groundball percentage. With Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop, the Rockies should have one of the top defensive middle infields in baseball.