Rockies Prospects: Pitching depth no longer a weakness

Dustin Bradford

Over the past year the Rockies have gone from one of the worst rotations in history to having solid pitching depth throughout the organization. While the addition of Jonathan Gray is the biggest contributing factor, other pitchers have stepped up as well.

A year ago the pitching side of the Rockies organization was considered its weakness. With Chad Bettis losing a year to injury and Tyler Matzek's continuing command struggles there was concerns that the cupboard was getting bare for Colorado's pitching prospects. Add in the fact that Drew Pomeranz and Christian Friedrich had just contributed to one of the worst starting pitching rotations in baseball history and many Rockies fans were getting nervous about who would take the mound at Coors Field.

The table below shows how nearly all of the Rockies pitching prospects fell outside the organization's list of top five players among prospect experts before the season began:

PuRPs

Keith Law

Baseball America

John Sickels

6. Chad Bettis

4. Eddie Butler

5. Chad Bettis

5. Edwar Cabrera

8. Tyler Anderson

6. Edwar Cabrera

6. Eddie Butler

6. Eddie Butler

10. Tyler Matzek

7. Chad Bettis

7. Tyler Anderson

7. Tyler Anderson

11. Edwar Cabrera

8. Tyler Anderson

8. Tyler Matzek

9. Tyler Matzek

13. Eddie Butler

10. Tyler Matzek

9. Jayson Aquino

11. Chad Bettis

Fast forward to June and the Rockies just drafted the player who many pundits claimed was the best pitcher in the draft. Jonathan Gray will most likely appear on everyone's Top 100 list as well as provide an added boost to the organization's pitching ceiling. With his ability to touch triple digits, and an array of off-speed pitches, Gray instantly gives the Rockies a top-of-the-rotation prospect that they haven't had since Tyler Matzek was drafted into the organization.

Add in Eddie Butler's performance and early promotion to Modesto and suddenly there's life in the system. While in Asheville, Eddie used his sinking fastball to work late into games and avoid hits. As a Tourist, Butler produced five shutout games of two hits or less. Since being added to the Nuts squad, Butler has adapted well with a 3.41 ERA and a 8.01 K/9.

"The 22-year-old is now one of the top prospects in the Rockies system and has a chance to reach the Double-A level in his first full season of work." As noted by Jason Parks in Baseball Prosepctus.

Guys like Drew Pomeranz and Dan Winkler are also dominating hitters as each approach 100 strikeouts on the season. Pomeranz is the pitcher everyone keeps waiting on for things to click. He's still allowing too many base runners and picks too much around the plate, but he's shown an ability to miss bats as he leads the PCL with 93 strikeouts.

Meanwhile Dan Winkler just flirted with a no-hitter that wasn't broken up until the seventh inning. He was then named the CAL pitcher of the week and over the course of the year he leads the minor leagues with 98 strikeouts.

The Rockies have a wealth of talented young pitchers in the system and a few of them have already reached the major leagues. Reflect on the youth of the pitchers and some of their accomplishments so far:

Pitcher

Age

Accomplishment

Christian Friedrich

26

No. 25 overall pick in 2008 draft. Career 9.1 K/9 in MiLB. Injured, hasn't pitched since 4-21-13.

Edwar Cabrera

25

Lead MiLB in strikeouts in 2011, 3.41 ERA in PCL last year. Injured, hasn't pitched in 2013.

Jhoulys Chacin

25

Has 80 major league starts and a career 3.77 ERA.

Chad Bettis

24

2011 CAL Pitcher of the year. His 7.4 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season is incredible.

Drew Pomeranz

24

No. 5 overall pick in 2010. Leads the PCL in strikeouts with 93.

Tyler Chatwood

23

Has 44 career MLB starts, finally putting it together this season with a 2.33 ERA.

Dan Winkler

23

Leads MiLB in strikeouts. Has posted a K/9 above 10 in two of his three MiLB seasons.

Tyler Anderson

23

No. 20 overall pick in 2011 draft. Career 2.82 MiLB ERA.

Eddie Butler

22

First round supp choice in 2012 draft. Career 2.21 MiLB ERA, earned mid-season promotion from Asheville to Modesto.

Tyler Matzek

22

No. 11 overall pick in 2011. Lowered his walks, but also his strikeouts this year.

Jonathan Gray

21

No. 3 overall pick led Oklahoma to Super Regionals and a 1.64 ERA and 147 strikeouts.

Jayson Aquino

20

Earned mid-season promotion from DSL to GJ last year and holds a career 1.43 MiLB ERA.

One of the most exciting parts of the season has to be the return of Chad Bettis from injury and the maturation of Tyler Chatwood. The buildup for Chad Bettis last year was enormous and left many of us with high expectations. Then when his season was lost, it left a huge question mark on if he would ever approach the talent level he presented in Modesto.

The former CAL league Pitcher of the Year has returned and pitched well in Tulsa. Reports have his velocity down a tad from two years ago, but in some ways he's pitching better as he's inducing more ground balls and walking fewer batters. The results are represented in his SIERA score which factors strikeouts and groundball rates to predict a park adjusted ERA of 2.73 for Bettis.

This season has been Tyler Chatwood's Eureka! year as he's finally learned to harness his enigmatic fastball. Chatwood is walking fewer and striking out more batters than he ever has before. Add his performance to the injury returns of Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa and the Rockies suddenly have pitching depth at the major league level.

Other pitchers who are keeping the Rockies cupboard full include: Chris Jensen, Antonio Senzatala and Helmis Rodriguez. A year younger than Winkler, Jensen has contributed to Modesto being one of the top pitching rotations in the California league and has a 3.74 ERA to go along with 74 strikeouts. Senzatela and Rodriguez were both selected, along with Jayson Aquino, to Baseball America's Top 20 DSL Prospects list by Ben Badler. Senzatela recently struck out 11 in a one hit shutout for the DSL Rockies and Helmis will be making his 2013 debut for the Grand Junction Rockies this weekend.

Between Nolan Arenado graduating, Eddie Butler rising in the system and the addition of Jonathan Gray among others, the Rockies suddenly have more pitching depth at the top of the prospect list. We haven't even begun to talk about the newly drafted pitchers and I can't wait to see where they fit into this picture.

Tweet of the Week

It's nice to see the new guys excited about their debuts. There was also a good tweet by Zach Jemiola after his first win as a Grand Junction Rockie in 2013.

Twitter Pic of the Week

Almost went with one of these pics by Jordan Ribera or by Jaron Shepherd, except both are probably NSFW, although for different reasons.

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