Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
It was an interesting year to be a Rockies pitcher. An incredibly frustrating year, too, but interesting regardless. Now that we've wrapped up the reviews on position players, it's time to break down this pitching madness, and we begin with relief pitchers that existed in part-time roles this year. This article will cover our two Seth Smith trade acquisitions, Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman, each of whom spent some time starting but were mostly hybrid type relievers during the year, as well as the scattered relievers who saw limited action in the Rockies' bullpen, some of whom have moved on from the Rockies, others whose careers are just getting started.
The Rockies acquired Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso from Oakland in the offseason with the intent of having them both compete for starting spots in Spring Training. After neither player impressed, Moscoso was told he would be starting for the Sky Sox, while Outman was informed he would be making the team as a member of the bullpen. An ill-fated trip to Denny's prevented Outman from opening the year in that spot, forcing Tyler Chatwood to be sent in his stead. Chatwood will be discussed in depth in an article next week, but as a part-time reliever, his time with the Rockies can be considered "ugly".
Moscoso spent most of the year with the Sky Sox starting rotation, occasionally making bit appearances in the Rockies' rotation and out of the bullpen as the team was first adopting its four-man / hybrid reliever plan. It wasn't until the end of the year when Moscoso took over as a regular piggy-backer for a fatigued Josh Roenicke that we really saw any value in the right-hander. He seemed his most effective when bridging between the beginning or end of the game, rather than starting or finishing games.
Meanwhile, after recovering from his food poisoning related injury and a rehabilitation stint with the Sky Sox, Outman filled his place in the Rockies bullpen in mid-May, but was promoted to the starting rotation when Jeremy Guthrie joined the relief corps as Project 5183 was implemented full time. Command ineffectiveness led the lefty to a demotion to the AA Tulsa Drillers to help iron out the kinks in his control. Though he worked out of the rotation in Tulsa, Outman's September return to the Rockies put him back in the pen, where his future now seems destined.
Both pitchers ended up having strikingly similar seasons. While Moscoso had more problems with hits and Outman had more problems with walks, the two issues balanced each other out into fairly equally serious problems for each pitcher. They both brought fairly high strikeout numbers to the fold, but also couldn't contain the ball in the park, which was a quickly identified source of concern when the players were first acquired, and is obviously an especially large problem when you're already allowing too many baserunners. To be fair, this was a problem for Rockies pitching across the board last year, and ultimately their high home run rates don't seem so staggering when compared to the similarly sloppy home run rates of the rest of the team.
Having used up his bonus (and final) free option year and an ever-growing field of more controllable young starting pitching depth, there was very little room for Moscoso headed into 2013, leading the Rockies to attempt to outright the pitcher to the minors. In the process, he was claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Royals, where he will join Felipe Paulino and Jeremy Guthrie on a team beginning to fill up with failed Rockies pitching projects. With Matt Reynolds leaving the team, Outman becomes the most likely non-setup lefty out of the bullpen, greatly reducing the likelihood he will be non-tendered next week. He would be more functional than Reynolds as a lefty specialist, but if the Rockies do intend on making room for hybrid relievers next year, it's likely Outman will be expected to be able to go multiple innings if necessary.
Early in the year, longtime Rockies prospect Esmil Rogers joined the group of theoretical starter candidates to be cast into bullpen roles. Rogers, having seen ups and downs as both a starter and a reliever, projected more durably in the pen. After a good start to the season, Rogers quickly fell off the boat become one of the early-season targets for frustrated Rockies fans. Rogers became a pseudo-Tyler Matzek of sorts, putting up devastating strikeout numbers while simultaneously walking and allowing hits to everyone else. As the Rockies mixed up their roster in preparation for Project 5183, the out-of-options Rogers was designated for assignment and eventually traded to the Cleveland Indians for cash. He has since been flipped again to Toronto.
Mike Ekstrom, having signed with the Rockies on a minor league deal during the offseason, spent most of the season with the Sky Sox, but got into fifteen games right after the all star break as the Rockies continued to rotate roster spots. Ekstrom was excellent for the Sky Sox, but that success didn't translate to the majors where he struggled to get outs. Ekstrom was outrighted to the minors weeks later and accepted assignment for the rest of the season, but did not return to MLB action. He has since signed with the Athletics for 2013.
Zach Putnam, whom we acquired for Kevin Slowey in the offseason, was called up briefly as the 26th man for a double header as well as to fill the roster spot of Alex White until he was replaced with Edwar Cabrera the following day. Putnam got into exactly two games where he allowed no runs, walking one, allowing three hits and striking out none. Putnam had a good first half with the Sky Sox, where he spent essentially the entire season, but struggled to end the year. Putnam was considered among our more valuable one-inning relief prospects here on Purple Row, but that didn't stop the team from attempting to outright him earlier this month. Putnam was claimed on waivers by the Cubs.
Edgmer Escalona spent his third straight year as a bullpen filler for the Rockies, called up whenever we needed someone to fill a spot for a short period of time. Escalona dealt with two separate injuries, as well as an incident in which he was accused of attempting to doctor the ball with sunscreen, which led to a ten day suspension at Colorado Springs. The right hander saw his most significant playing time in September after recovering from injury, and also demonstrated his best play during that time, which may be one reason the team has elected to keep Escalona on their roster despite being out of options with no obvious roster spot available. Despite an ugly stat line, Escalona's peripherals were not especially poor, especially against left handed batters interestingly, as strikeouts were high and hits, walks and home runs were all relatively low.
Rob Scahill was one of two homegrown Rockies pitchers to make their debut in a bit relief role. Scahill has been a starter his entire career, but has long been considered a likely transition to the pen long term, and it's fairly likely that we may see Scahill doing hybrid relief work for the Rockies in 2013. His limited September playing time yielded some pretty unfortunate strikeout and walk rates that don't match his career style, but this is what a small sample size will do to you. He also kept his hit rate extremely low, making for a successful debut overall.
Finally, we have the mysterious Will Harris. Harris, who has struggled through his long minor league career with a variety of significant injuries that set back his development and his status as a prospect, was not on many people's radar. Fully healed after spending the past couple of years with limited play time, Harris dominated during stints with both the Drillers and Sky Sox, posting incredible strikeout numbers that counterbalanced a rough walk rate at AA, and then even managed to fix the walk rate during his short time with the Sky Sox. Harris earned his promotion in August, but the success didn't translate to the majors, at least not yet. Though his strikeout numbers remained high, he struggled with control, became hittable and got bitten by the Rockies' home run allowing bug. I had expected Harris to be outrighted off the roster, but for now, the team seems to be keeping him around. Harris would have left as a minor league free agent this offseason had he not been promoted. He is now the only player selected in the 2006 draft remaining with the organization.
Being a one inning reliever in the Rockies system is not a promising position right now, as the Rockies seem to be intent on filling at least three of the bullpen slots with converted starter types, with Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle and Rex Brothers hanging onto three of the others. Outman and Scahill seem likely candidates for more full-time roles in next year's bullpen, with Escalona now out of options and his Rockies future on the line going into Spring Training to see if he can find a spot somewhere in there. Harris' potential future as a MLB reliever remains a mystery.