Ryan Spilborghs (shown homering off of Yovani Gallardo last year) had issues in matchups against left handed pitching in 2011. The Rockies claimed Andrew Brown to address those issues. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Rockies claimed corner infielder/outfielder Andrew Brown off of waivers from the Cardinals, who designated Brown for assignment three days ago so they could have Lance Lynn available for the NLCS. Lynn showed again last night (by pitching a scoreless inning in a tight 4-3 win over the Brewers) that this was probably a smart move for St. Louis, we'll have to wait a while to see if picking up Brown proves equally wise for the Rockies.
Brown had some interesting batting splits for AAA Memphis in the PCL in 2011, notably an inability to hit at home (not surprising, since pitching friendly Memphis is almost totally opposite the extreme hitters' paradises in much of the rest of the PCL,) a hot start (he was a PCL All-Star) and cold finish (.224/.335/.371 post ASB) and a distinct L/R split. The right handed Brown follows the typical platoon pattern of hitting much better against LHP's (.343/.461/.520) than RHP's, save for one category: he had a 17/3 reverse split on the 20 home runs he hit. This would suggest that he seems to swing for the fences against right handers, but takes what he's given against southpaws. He seems to have very good pitch selection, particularly against left handers.
Is Brown going to be relevant to the Rockies 2012 team and/or chances? At 27 years old with only a moderately successful minor league career, It would be easy to write him off. SB Nation Denver says that he's "AAAA" and the Denver Post uses similar code words in stating the move is "for depth," but considering that the Rockies are utilizing a scarce 40 man roster spot for him suggests the organization thinks he could contribute to the MLB club next season. It's pretty easy to see where: Ryan Spilborghs hit .207/.264/.341 in 82 AB's vs left handers in 2011, Eric Young Jr. hit .234/.306/.312 in 77 AB's. That pair had the 5th and 6th most plate appearances against left handed pitching for the Rockies in 2011. Equally abysmal subs Jonathan Herrera (.615 OPS,) Chris Nelson (.655) and Jose Lopez (.519) were all in the top 10. Those five players accounted for 20% of the Rockies plate appearances against LHP's in 2011 and only Young cracked a .300 OBP.
Giving many of those wasted bench AB's to hitters actually capable of hitting left handers would go a long way to improving the Rockies overall offensive performance next season. Brown will likely be competing in the Spring with Jordan Pacheco and others for a chance to show that he's capable of this, and clearly the Rockies will likely obtain a couple more familiar hitters between now and then, but even if he gets assigned to AAA to start the season, I would expect to see Andrew Brown get some opportunity in a Rockies uniform in 2012.
Wilin Rosario has been named the starting catcher for the Cibao Eagles this winter, at least to start the VWL season, which should ensure him plenty of AB's to continue to refine his offensive game, and plenty of wild pitchers to catch and improve his pitch blocking. Rosario could still be playing developmental catch-up for time lost from last year's ACL injury and subsequent surgery. The flip side to the negative as a catcher would be from the added wear and tear, but at his age and development stage, I see this as a positive.
Tri-City's Darrel Ebert was named the NWL's executive of the year.
Matt Muzia has been keeping tabs of Rockies prospects in Baseball America's league top 20 rankings. Yesterday, the magazine compiled their lists and the Rox proved to have as many mentions as any team in the majors, which is obviously pretty good news for the future of the team.