It's that time of year again! Time to start getting hyped about the MLB Draft. The Colorado Rockies have the 8th overall pick in the draft and today we are taking a survey of the system's starting pitching depth in an effort to begin putting together the picture of what this organization might do (not just with the first rounder but with all their picks) on June 5th.
During the off season I argued that Jhoulys Chacin was the most indispensable member of the Colorado Rockies because:
"Based on fWAR, Chacin was the most valuable member of the Rockies in 2013, but more importantly than that, Chacin represents a rare breed of human being; a young, team-controlled, elite level pitcher with proven success at Coors Field. Jhoulys is still only 25 and is arguably one of the top three pitchers the Rockies have ever had. If he has reasonable approximations of his healthy production for two or three more seasons as a Rockie, it won't even be an argument anymore and he could challenge for the top spot."
He is off to a late start in 2014, missing the first month due to injury and has only made one mostly forgettable start on the season. Still, Chacin's track record is such that he is this team's ace until a long stretch of being outperformed by one of his peers.
Jorge de la Rosa
When Chacin is not around, the defacto staff ace becomes Jorge de la Rosa. Jorgy has been an enigma for most of his career but - like Chacin - has shown an uncanny ability to pitch effectively at Coors Field and even to respond well after rough outings.
His start to this season was uninspiring to say the least, but he has shown he can still be effective with a stellar outing in Los Angeles. De la Rosa is in a contract year, so he is as motivated as he is going to get to pitch well and if he does the Rockies should seriously consider resigning if the price is right. Despite frustrating moments here and there, Jorge has stuff that plays well almost anywhere when he is on.
Anderson has had a tough career. It was sad, if not altogether predictable, to see him land on the 60-day DL with a broken finger. While not dominant, Anderson showed flashes of effectiveness in three starts for the Rockies inducing 59% ground balls.
At this point, it is not wise to count on or expect anything from Brett Anderson moving forward but the possibility still remains that he returns from yet another fluke injury not related to any of his past and cements himself into the rotation going into the most important part of the season.
Anderson only has this year and next on his contract with the Rockies and, as we are about to see, the Rox have some decent talent coming through the pipeline so he needs to find a way to stay healthy and give the Rockies some production if he doesn't want to get pushed aside.
Tyler Chatwood is starting to assemble a resume eerily similar to Brett Anderson's. He gets a ton of ground balls and shows potential ace stuff at times, but he can't seem to stay on the field. Chatwood only pitched in four games before going back on the DL for the second time this season. This time he is likely out until July.
There is a ton of potential in Tyler Chatwood but it is hard to make decisions about his future - and therefore to some degree the future of the pitching staff - without him showing what he actually does (or doesn't) have. The Rockies are firmly in the wait-and-see realm here.
It turns out that Juan Nicasio may just be who we thought he was. Occasionally he shows a dominance that makes you think he has figured things out and occasionally he shows the maddening inconsistency he has become known for.
He is the perfect proverbial 4th rotation guy who is constantly being forced into more active duty. Coming into the season, some of us has expectations that he may end up in the bullpen since his numbers first time through the batting order are so good. But the injuries to Chacin, Anderson, and Chatwood have made that an unlikely scenario.
Still, Nicasio stands as a great chip for the Rockies as you never know when he is going to come out and pitch a stellar game and he usually doesn't completely implode. He should be an important member of this team moving forward whether in the insurance role he is playing now, as an above average back-end rotation guy, or maybe still eventually as a set-up man or closer.
Jordan Lyles has been the story of the season so far for the Colorado Rockies pitching staff. In seven starts he has a 2.62 ERA and is inducing ground balls at a 56.3% rate. Shortly after the Rockies acquired him in the controversial trade of Dexter Fowler I wrote:
"It should of course be noted that Lyles fWAR of .4 in 2013 in 141.2 IP would be better than what the Rockies got out of any single 5th rotation starter last season. Fangraph's "Steamer" projection system predicts a 4.55 ERA and a .7 fWAR for Lyles in 2013. Their "Oliver" system projects ironically the exact same fWAR output for both Chatwood and Lyles; 1.5.
If Lyles surpasses that number, a lot of people will be surprised. But it wouldn't even be going the whole Chatwood (from 0.3 to 2.0) so I'm using the 1.5 fWAR mark as the reasonable place for optimists to quietly drink our purple kool-aid."
Lyles currently sits at .9 fWAR. He is only 44 innings into his career with the Rockies so no one should expect him to continue this dominance. However, we shouldn't necessarily expect him to revert to the pitcher he was in Houston either. We forget sometimes when saying things like "he was the worst pitcher in MLB!" that he was 21 (exactly as old as Jon Gray is now) and pitching in the MLB to begin with. The truth is, we don't know who Jordan Lyles is yet. Jordan Lyles doesn't know who Jordan Lyles is yet. But we are all paying very close attention now.
Frankie-Mo has been pushed back into a starting role and has responded better than most people (myself very much included) thought he would. I still think this team would be at its best with Frankie in the pen but I no longer sweat bullets every time he takes the mound. Sure, sometimes it isn't pretty but if your fifth starter can give you a decent chance to win in half of his starts, he won't kill your team.
This has been pretty much where Morales has sat this season (being aided by a good offense) and he now has a chance to prove his worth to this team moving forward.
Since it is hard to skyrocket when you are already at the top, I would say that the pitcher whose stock is rising the fastest right now is Tyler Matzek. He still struggles with the wildness that has become synonymous with his name, but is posting overall the best numbers of his career this season at AAA Colorado Springs.
In 31.2 innings pitched Matzek has struck out 33 batters and walked 15. His ERA got blown up a bit in his last start in which he gave up eight earned runs, but he has shown enough of an ability to miss bats that he remains an intriguing candidate to be the first call-up should the Rockies decide to dip into the farm for starting pitching solutions
If Matzek's stock isn't the most bearish, Dan Winkler's is. Drafted in the 20th round and pitching on a team featuring Jon Gray and Eddie Butler, Winkler is often overlooked. He doesn't care though, as he told our good friend Tyler Maun over at the Purple Dino Podcast, and it shows in his numbers.
Bryan Kilpatrick made the case for Winkler today:
"The 24-year-old right-hander has whiffed 9.5 batters per nine innings in 396⅔ career frames and has continued the trend this year in a Tulsa rotation that features three other future big leaguers. Winkler arguably outperformed all of them last season, and he's definitively doing so in 2014."
I have only seen Winkler pitch a few innings in person but was struck by his deceptive delivery and odd arm angle. Even Bill Geivett reminded the ROOT broadcast during a recent game not to forget Winkler who is older, more experienced, and putting up better numbers than either Jon Gray or Eddie Butler.
Before the season started, many assumed Eddie Butler would be first in line to get a call-up. It's complicated though. It would be best to allow him further development and while he is pitching very well this season, he isn't setting the world on fire. I would expect to see him in some capacity on the MLB roster before the season ends, but it would be nice if it was out of hope and not desperation.
He still represents an incredibly promising option for the Rockies rotation for the next several years.
Everything I just said about Eddie Butler, but more and on a later timeline. We all know what these guys could be at this point. Like oven-cooking a turkey dinner, we just need to wait a little while longer and see how everything comes out.
GrayandButler is essentially one word now and it represent the greatest hope for the future of the Colorado Rockies starting rotation.
If you feel that Dan Winkler is the lost man, you must really feel for Tyler Anderson. With all this love flying around, many are forgetting the pedigree that Anderson was drafted with. Slowed over the course of his career by injuries, Anderson is putting together a nice 2014 season in Tulsa.
In six starts he has a 2.40 ERA, is striking out 6.30 batter per nine innings while walking only 2.70. He is doing a great job keeping the ball in the park, allowing only .3% HR/FB.
Anderson was originally drafted with some thought of his proximity to the big leagues. If he can stay healthy and continue to produce like he has, the Rockies may have yet another late-blooming first round pick (Matzek) on their hands. Anderson's wicked lefty stuff could even potentially be useful late this season in the bullpen or in case of catastrophic injury issues in the rotation.
Most likely, T.A. will look to make his debut next season, but keep an eye on him.
Friedrich's stock is plummeting after a promising first start. He has shown an ability to miss bats, but when he doesn't hitter have shown a consistent propensity to drive his pitches with authority. You can get away with that to some degree in the minors but it can kill MLB pitchers.
Friedrich finds himself on the outside looking in mostly due to having the best pitching depth the Rockies have had in a long time.
The next crop of pitchers includes Jayson Aquino, a lefty with great strike out stuff who hasn't been able to translate that into a low ERA yet in Modesto. At this point he profiles similarly to Christian Friedrich.
A group of young guys in low-A Asheville - Johendi Jiminian, Alex Balog, Antonio Senzatela, and Zach Jemiola - all provide some hope for the more distant future. Jiminian especially is having a breakout season, posting a 1.62 ERA over 33.1 innings and striking out nearly six batters per nine.
So should the Rockies be looking for pitching in the draft? The easy answer is yes. Every team should be looking for pitching in the draft. As has been mentioned to death, the Rockies have better starting pitching than they have had in a long time but they are also likely graduating much of that depth before too long.
It also remains to be seen what will come of Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa's time with the Rockies. There are a few other positions that I would perhaps prioritize (especially if catcher Alex Jackson somehow falls to us), especially in the first round.
We will be diving into all the available prospects with great detail in the near future so stay tuned to Purple Row for all your Rockies draft needs.