Tomorrow marks a very special day in the lives of baseball fans who not only obsess over every MLB box score, but also every box score from the Pioneer League and on up. The day when the Pebble Reports come to life. A magical day when the MLB roster expands from 25 to 40, and many near-MLB prospects for all 30 teams get the call up to the show to begin an early audition for a roster spot on next year's team.
Yes, Rockies fans, we'll be treated to a plethora of prospects finally hitting the majors.
We'll be getting our first look at Tulsa SS Josh Rutledge, who after his excellent 2011 campaign in Modesto and team-leading numbers with the Drillers is practically a lock to complement Troy Tulowitzki up the middle.
We'll get to finally watch 2008 1st round pick Christian Friedrich, whose minor league career has been all but derailed by injury.
Should we be lucky, we might even get to see some oddballs like young SS Troy Tulowitzki or LHP Jorge De La Rosa.
I think you all get the point by now. This September is really going to be just filling out the major league squad with a few of the guys who have been demoted almost entirely due to the fact that they have remaining options, such as Guillermo Moscoso or Edgmer Escalona. We've been watching about 2 months of what we'd expect September to look like already.
As far as I see it, there are 2 main narratives to watch this September:
1. How well does Josh Rutledge play at 2B, and how well does he gel with Troy Tulowitzki?
Thus far in MLB, Josh Rutledge has only played at SS, and rightly so. Not having Tulo there means there's no reason to push Rutledge to 2B until it's absolutely necessary. This has also given DJ Lemahieu the opportunity to get more playing time, and he's rewarded the Rockies by batting just shy of .300 (albeit, a very empty average). The point is, though, that Rutledge will be moving to 2B, a position at which he has played all of 22 professional games. The first concern is will he be able to field it (which I'm sincerely not concerned about), and the second is how well will Tulo and Rutledge communicate on the double play (and given the guy's work ethic, I'm not terribly concerned about this, either).
2. Where does Jorge De La Rosa fit into the paired pitching system?
Given that DLR may only make a start or two in the month of September, this might not even be much of a story to watch this season. Obviously, he's a starting pitcher, but over the course of his career, longevity has been a concern. Being more prone to wildness than others on the staff, getting into and through the 6th inning has been a weakness of DLR's. While his likely $20M remaining would suggest the Rockies maximize his output as a starter, there's not really a guarantee that anything is going to make sense on who pitches where any longer.
Looking at DLR's splits by pitch count, we can see that DLR actually gets better after his first 25 pitches. If you expand that to his entire career (that link only looks at his last healthy season, 2010), the numbers get a bit worse (he was pretty bad before Colorado) but the trend remains the same. That alone suggests that the 75-pitch starter role would probably suit DLR best. Then again, it's hard to even try and predict what Jorge will look like when he returns from the DL.
So, in conclusion, it's going to be roughly "more of the same" this September. We might see some surprises in the form of guys who were "starters" pitching as "piggybackers", but it's going to be a similar cycling of youth around the not-nailed-down positions and kind of just gearing up for position battles in Spring Training 2013.