Friday Rockpile: Juan Nicasio's Quest for the Right Stuff

Christian Petersen

In Juan Nicasio's MLB career, he has shown above average velocity, control, and strikeout ability. What is he missing to become a rotation anchor?

Radar guns are a big deal to young pitchers. They accompany any scout to a game and can vault a prospect from unknown to landing on a lot of radar screens with a few extra digits. Reports of Eddie Butler hitting 99 in Grand Junction proliferate and automatically breed hope for big things. There is a lot of distance between Butler and Coors Field right now, but there is not a lot of difference between Nicasio and Coors.

Yesterday, Nicasio hit 98mph in a dominating outing against the Reds. Oddly, that doesn't carry the luster of a young unproven prospect throwing heat, but it is significant. Starting pitchers don't often reach that level. Injury and a late call up have kept Nicasio off qualifying leaderboards, but if he did rank,he would have ranked 7th in MLB in each of the last two years in fastball velocity. The names ahead of him are all fearsome, quality pitchers: David Price, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore, Justin Verlander, Jordan Zimmerman, Max Scherzer.

Nicasio also carries the uncharacteristic ability to locate that blazing fastball. His control, while regressing a bit in 2012, is above average for an NL pitcher throughout his career, and his strikeout rate is above average. With superb velocity, control and strikeout stuff, why does Nicasio have a 4.65 career ERA?

If OOTP rankings were accurate, he would rate highly on velocity and control, middling on stuff and low on movement. His heat is vulnerable when straight and consistently in the zone. His goal is to develop his secondary stuff, and if he does, he could vault to another level. He knows that's the idea:

"I've been working a lot on my slider. The slider is good right now, but I'm still working on my changeup." -Juan Nicasio (Denver Post)

As he showed yesterday, putting those elements together makes him doubly tough. He allowed hits on 37.6% of batted balls in 2012. Rick Porcello led all MLB qualified pitchers at 34.4%. Nicasio has survived despite being completely incapable of keeping hitters guessing. I am eager to watch him more than any other pitcher in 2013 to see if he can take that step with secondary stuff.

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Links

Arenado's quick thinking leads to triple play | Rockies.com: News He's not staying quiet. A homer, RBI double and triple play in three days. Atta kid.

2013 Prospect Watch: Colorado Rockies - CBSSports.com Jack Moore writes up three noteworthy prospect names in the Rockies' system - Arenado, Dahl and Matzek. It's a fair write-up, though it fails to illustrate just how big of an improvement 2012 was over 2011 for Matzek, even if the season-ending ERA rode high.

Colorado Rockies pitching coach uses the Wright way to teach - The Denver Post Wright isn't saving bullets for the season.

Weiss pranks Helton with leadoff role vs. Chapman | Rockies.com: News - Okay, this is pretty hilarious.

Baseball Prospectus | Pebble Hunting: Watching the Worst Game of 2012 - Baseball is an awesome sport to watch, but even as a baseball enthusiast, you know some games are just flat terrible. Sam Miller takes us through his journey of one such game, trying to find silver linings anywhere. I mean anywhere.

Baseball Prospectus | Out of Left Field: Revisiting a Blockbuster With Hanley Ramirez, Anibal Sanchez, Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell all gone from Boston/Miami, that blockbuster deal is closed, at least on the initial level. The Marlins got more value out of the trade, though Boston did win a World Series, led chiefly by Beckett/Lowell. Matt Kory notes that the verdict isn't totally done, as the Marlins have turned Ramirez/Sanchez over into Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly and Nathan Eovaldi while the Red Sox turned over Beckett in part for Rubby de la Rosa and Allan Webster.

BaseballAmerica.com has a piece on the main page called "Where to Find Pitchers." They've looked at the data to find where the best big-league pitchers come from. It would be a particular interest to the Rockies, but one needs a BA subscription to find the answers.

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