The 2012 Colorado Rockies were a disaster. It is known. They went 64-98 and did so in embarrassing and unique fashion - most notably with the infamous Project 5183, which put the members of a four man starting rotation on a 75 pitch count. The reason I bring that up is that the 2012 Rockies used 14 starting pitchers in that disastrous year in 162 games. Their leader in innings pitched that year (with 113!), Jeff Francis, was signed as a free agent in early June.
The 2014 Rockies, a team that is 35-42 through 77 games (the 2012 team was 30-47 at this time), will use their 12th starting pitcher today when Yohan Flande, a lefty 28 year-old career minor league journeyman, takes the mound as an injury replacement to an injury replacement to an injury replacement. I don't think that Colorado's IP leader this year (knock on wood) will fail to exceed Francis's 2012 total and I think the 2014 squad (knocking furiously) will end up better off than the 2012 squad, but 77 games into the season back in 2012, the Rockies had only used (to my unscientific count) 10 starters.
In brief, here are the Dirty Dozen who, as of this afternoon, will have taken the mound for the 2014 Colorado Rockies, in order of appearance:
1. Name: Jorge De La Rosa
Code Name: Jeers Gala Odor
Skillz that Killz: Pitches well at Coors Field, multiple out pitches, great stuff, left-handed
Fatal Flaws: Emotional instability, previously had TJ surgery
Prognosis: The healthy white knight of the rotation thus far (still knocking), De La Rosa has given the Rockies 84 2/3 innings over 16 starts. Unfortunately, those innings have only been slightly above replacement level (4.78 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 89 ERA+). Still, in a healthy rotation De La Rosa has a slot reserved for him.
2. Name: Brett Anderson
Code Name: Rotted Banners
Skillz that Killz: Great profile for Coors (efficient, lots of ground balls, etc.), killer Twitter follow
Fatal Flaws: Bad at not injuring himself in bizarre ways (and regular ways for that matter), expensive
Prognosis: Anderson has made only three starts for the Rockies before breaking his finger while hitting. This was not from getting hit with a ball, mind you, but from bat vibrations. You can't make this stuff up. Anderson will be a rotation fixture any time he's healthy - we'll find out around the All-Star break if that will be the case this season.
3. Name: Jordan Lyles
Code Name: Lordly Jeans
Skillz that Killz: Effective fastball/slider/curveball combo, still just 23
Fatal Flaws: Left hand made of glass
Prognosis: Lyles, whose acquisition in exchange for Dexter Fowler was controversial in some parts, pitched brilliantly as an injury replacement in 36 2/3 April innings (2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP). Lyles cooled off somewhat after that before breaking his left hand while covering home plate, but he still remains Colorado's most valuable pitcher so far in 2014. Even so, in a fully healthy rotation, Lyles would need to fight to maintain his spot - after all, he was the seventh-ranked starter coming out of spring and the Rockies might want to keep Eddie Butler ahead of him now.
4. Name: Franklin Morales
Code Name: Llama Fork Sinner
Skillz that Killz: Has elite stuff at times, left-handed
Fatal Flaws: Pitcher injuring voodoo, doesn't know where his stuff is going, balks
Prognosis: Morales has thrown the second most innings for the Rockies this year (74 2/3) despite spending the last month or so in the bullpen. Those innings have not been great (5.91 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 72 ERA+, -0.8 rWAR), causing Colorado's sixth choice out of spring training to move to a long man role in the bullpen, where he has been more tolerable. The fact that the recent spate of injuries haven't moved Franklin back into the rotation is a pretty good indication that the Rockies would prefer to not have Morales start another game for Colorado.
5. Name: Juan Nicasio
Code Name: Ouija Sin Can
Skillz that Killz: Fastball is major league quality, freakish injury recovery
Fatal Flaws: Secondary stuff is not, inefficiency leads to high pitch counts
Prognosis: Nicasio is number three in innings pitched for Colorado this year with 73, but like Morales those innings have been below replacement level (5.92 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 72 ERA+, -0.7 rWAR). La Violencia fits the profile of a AAAA pitcher to a T - he's able to get minor league hitters out very consistently with his fastball/slider arsenal, but his pitches aren't effective enough at the big league level to fool major league hitters. In a healthy rotation, Nicasio doesn't make the cut, but he's good injury insurance if nothing else.
6. Name: Tyler Chatwood
Code Name: Wealthy Doctor
Skillz that Killz: Ability to induce ground balls, good fastball velocity, is quite a looker
Fatal Flaws: Injures hamstring running the bases in spring training, has had TJ surgery and was sidelined for elbow pain
Prognosis: Chatwood was a revelation for the Rockies in 2013, but a hamstring injury in spring training and the elbow injury that has him on the shelf now have limited him to just four starts and 24 innings this year for Colorado. Chatwood's 2013 performance gets him in the healthy five man rotation, but his minor league options and lack of track record make him more fungible. Of the Colorado pitchers on the DL now, I fear for Chatwood the most.
7. Name: Jhoulys Chacin
Code Name: Conic July Hash
Skillz that Killz: 26 year-old with four above average pitching years, groundball inducer
Fatal Flaws: Dropping velocity, high walk rate/low strikeout rate
Prognosis: The Machine is nominally Colorado's best pitcher (he was their best player overall last year), but he hasn't been that guy this year after starting the year on the DL with an arm injury, throwing 57 2/3 innings of 4.84 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 88 ERA+, 0.5 rWAR ball. That's good enough for second best in the starting rotation, mind you, but it's a level of production far below Chacin's historical performance. Chacin is in the five man rotation if healthy, but this season isn't going to convince the Rockies to pony up for a rich multi-year extension.
8. Name: Eddie Butler
Code Name: Diluted Beer
Skillz that Killz: Multiple elite pitches, has dominated the minor leagues
Fatal Flaws: On the DL after MLB debut - not a great precedent to set
Prognosis: Butler, a 23 year-old fireballer who was a consensus top 25 prospect in baseball, is the future for the Rockies. Still, many fans (myself included) were uncertain if he should be the present when he was called up, seemingly for good, in early June. Butler hadn't been tested at AAA yet and there were concerns about whether he'd developed into a major league-ready pitcher yet. One start and one rotator cuff injury later, we still don't know what to expect from Butler at the major league level. If I were running the Rockies, I'd send Butler to AAA when he comes off the DL to get a little experience there.
9. Name: Christian Bergman
Code Name: Training Chambers
Skillz that Killz: Minor league success at every level, good command
Fatal Flaws: Lacks prototypical major league stuff, is one of many Rockies with a hand injury
Prognosis: It's a real shame for Bergman that his hand was broken by a line drive. Butler will have plenty of opportunities in a big league rotation, but for Bergman (who I've rooted for every step of the way) this might be a confluence of events that might not ever occur again with the Rockies. After all, Bergman is a lightly regarded prospect with fringe MLB stuff who has several more highly regarded pitchers ahead of him in Colorado's future depth chart. Bergman put up two quality starts and one dreadful outing for the Rockies before his injury - and now he'll just have to keep proving people wrong when he gets healthy
10. Name: Tyler Matzek
Code Name: Lazy Met Trek
Skillz that Killz: First round stuff, has induced weak contact at every step, left-handed
Fatal Flaws: Walks - so many walks
Prognosis: Five years and two days after being drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft, the 23 year-old Matzek dazzled in his major league debut, striking out seven over seven innings, allowing five hits and no walks - this from a pitcher who has a career 6.0 BB/9 rate in the minor leagues. That walk rate has slowed Matzek's progression through the minor leagues, even as he flummoxed minor league hitters with his first round stuff. Though Matzek's two follow up starts were not as impressive, it was excellent to see that Matzek had the ability to get major league hitters out and keep the hope alive that he might be a decent rotation presence for the Rockies in the future. In the present, Matzek is not part of a healthy five man rotation, but it would behoove him to impress now while he has the chance to do so.
11. Name: Christian Friedrich
Code Name: Dirtier Finch Chairs
Skillz that Killz: First round pedigree, decent K/BB rates, left-handed
Fatal Flaws: A general lack of effectiveness
Prognosis: The fact that Friedrich, a 26 year-old lefty who had a 7.89 ERA in his third year in AAA, was called up to the major leagues is an indictment of just how bad the situation has gotten for the Rockies. Friedrich actually dominated AAA his first go-round on his way to the Rockies in 2012, but after he fractured his back with the big league squad Friedrich has largely struggled. Colorado's 2008 first round pick probably has a bullpen future, but for now he's auditioning for another major league start every time he takes the mound.
12. Name: Yohan Flande
Code Name: Half Annoyed
Skillz that Killz: Former Futures Game participant, left-handed
Fatal Flaws: Is a 28 year-old pitcher who is making his MLB debut today
Prognosis: Flande's story is one of being not quite good enough for the Show - he's been at the AAA level since 2011 and has just been one or two spots away from MLB since then with the Atlanta Braves system. I'm always glad to hear about players who have toiled for so long get rewarded with a big league cup of coffee. Here's hoping that Flande can give the Rockies some good innings before the host of injured starters return.
*yes, the code names are anagrams
I hope that the Rockies will stop the bleeding at 12 men, that some of the injured starters will return and send this minor league detritus back to AA and AAA, that Colorado will keep Jon Gray as far from Franklin Morales and his injury voodoo as possible, and that we'll at some point this year see the five man rotation that was promised entering spring training. I'm just not holding my breath.