Rockies vs. Brewers spring training preview: Juan Nicasio looks good but needs to limit homers

Juan Nicasio's great spring began to unravel a bit on Saturday against the Angels. Can he get back on track and keep the ball in the park?

Rockies starting pitcher Juan Nicasio has a firm grasp on the No. 4 spot in the rotation to start the season thanks to a strong spring, but there is some room for improvement for the 27-year-old right-hander.

Nicasio has 11 strikeouts and only two walks in 11⅓ innings spanning three Cactus League starts, but he was susceptible to the long ball in his last start, serving up three home runs in 4⅓ frames against the Angels. Considering Nicasio entered that contest having not allowed a run in two starts, the performance can perhaps be chalked to a bad day. However, serving up homers is nothing new to the fourth-year big leaguer.

The 17 long balls given up by Nicasio in 2013 represented the most by any Rockies starter. The rest of the staff did a phenomenal job of limiting homers, and compared to the rest of the league, Nicasio wasn't completely terrible, either. But his fastball is straight, and when he doesn't locate it well, the results can be rather frustrating unless you like watching rockets off the bat regardless of which team is hitting them.

Nicasio reaches an important stage of the spring today, as he'll likely be allowed to go five innings and beyond if he can stay efficient on the mound. Nicasio has had issues with that in his career -- particularly last year, when he consistently failed to pitch beyond the fifth. Nicasio has been efficient this spring, largely helped by limiting walks, and he's done it against mostly big-league-level competition, as noted by Baseball-Reference's OppQual statistic. Continuing that today would go a long way toward increasing the level of confidence the Rockies and their fans have in the often enigmatic hurler.

Behind Nicasio, the Rockies will send out a typical "day game after night game" lineup. The only player starting for the Rox today that also started on Wednesday is Michael Cuddyer, who is in need of more at-bats because of his struggles at the plate, in addition to requiring some reps at first base. On the other side, supporting Brewers starter Wei-Chung Wang is a lineup that is half MLB-quality, half backups and Triple-A guys. If Nicasio can work through the top half of Milwaukee's lineup effectively, it will say a lot about how well he is actually pitching.

Also worth noting is that Boone Logan, who has yet to pitch in a game this spring, is listed on the lineup card. Though he initially wasn't expected to pitch until Saturday, it appears Logan could very well get into the game today, depending on how it plays out.

Game time is at 2:10 p.m. MT, and for the second consecutive day, ROOT Sports will be providing TV coverage.


Lineup

COLORADO ROCKIES MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Brandon Barnes - RF Carlos Gomez - CF
Drew Stubbs - CF Rickie Weeks - 2B
Corey Dickerson - LF Jonathan Lucroy - C
Michael Cuddyer - 1B Aramis Ramirez - 3B
Charlie Culberson - 3B Lyle Overbay - 1B
Josh Rutledge - 2B Caleb Gindl - LF
Paul Janish - SS Elian Herrera - SS
Jackson Williams - C Mitch Haniger - RF
Juan Nicasio - P Wei-Chung Wang - P

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