Last season saw the arrival of several new faces from our minor league system, but whether due to injury (Charlie Blackmon), limited opportunity (Cole Garner) or simply being limited to a September cup of coffee, Rex Brothers was essentially the only Rockies 2011 rookie that managed to stick while simultaneously making a positive overall impact for the team (Juan Nicasio is the only one who really comes close in addition to Brothers, and we all know his season was cut short as well).
The young left-handed reliever was purchased and recalled to the MLB club on June 4th to replace an injured Matt Daley in the bullpen. The supplemental pick became the first (and thus far only) Rockies 2009 draft signee to reach the majors, though Nolan Arenado, Tim Wheeler, Rob Scahill and Kent Matthes all have great to moderate chances at catching MLB time in the near future. Beginning as a low-pressure roleplayer in a deep Rockies bullpen, it wasn't long before Brothers demonstrated that he was ready to face major league talent and his name was added to the seventh and eighth inning pool not long after. Through the final 3/5ths of the season, Brothers was considered the high-leverage left handed alternative to Matt Belisle, Matt Lindstrom and Rafael Betancourt in setup roles.
Though Brothers did experience some down periods, I would make the case that his overall progress was overwhelmingly positive. Brothers ended up with a reasonable 40 and two thirds inning sample in which he struck out opponents at just over 13 per 9, the largest such rate in team history for a player with over ten innings pitched in a season. Some of this of course can be attributed to the adjustment period that comes attached to most rookie pitchers with high upside, but it is an impressive resume note nonetheless. The walk rate was high but ultimately not an excitement killer when it comes to his future potential. Despite a high BABIP, his xFIP was a very solid 2.65, a .01 difference Rafael Betancourt for best on the 2011 team. The only really ugly dark spot on Brothers' 2011 report is the 1/3 fielding chances successfully converted, but the general lack of significance there should be obvious.
Betancourt is sure to be a significant determinant factor of Brothers' future, as how long the 36 year old remains a competent closer could be the figure that will inform when Brothers will get a crack at it. There is nothing to suggest this outright, and Brothers may go into Spring Training with a shot at the 9th inning, but I have to think that the veteran will be given every opportunity to retain the spot, particularly with Huston Street now entirely out of the mix. Betancourt's 2011 appeared comparatively weak to an absolutely stellar 2010 on the surface (I'll be writing a review of Betancourt next week where I can elaborate further), but after his excellent success in the closer role, Brothers' emergence plus an age-related regression is really all that's standing in his way for continuing on as the Rockies' closer.
For a final grade, I'll award Brothers a B+: an largely successful quick transition to the majors with some room still left to develop.