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Tuesday Pebble Report:

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Okay, now that the season's over it's time to shift gears and focus on the future once again.

I'm going to start to get back into the groove of things this week by focusing on key weaknesses at the Major League level, and with yesterday's filing for free agency by Jeremy Affeldt, and the escalating cost of keeping Brian Fuentes, left handed relief seems to be a looming issue.

Ready for 2008:

Josh Newman - Newman's a different kind of pitcher than Affeldt; whereas the latter was endowed with power stuff, quality breaks and movement and the ability to blow his pitches by his opponent, the former survives more on changing speeds and hitting his spots. The question is whether this is enough for your top tier MLB hitters. Are you really going to trust Newman to get out David Ortiz when you absolutely have to get Ortiz out? I've still got issues with this kind of confidence in him. I think he does a fine job of limiting the damage, but I'm still seeing too many walks to feel that he'll have the kind of effect we'd be looking for.

Possibly Late 2008:
Adam Bright - Bright's a better long term LOOGy solution than Newman for a variety of reasons (a better MLB quality out pitch, much better groundball rates) but he also has the same issue of too many walks, and the fact that right-handers hit him as hard at Tulsa as they hit Newman at Colorado Springs doesn't get him any Brownie points.

Others:
Tommy Baumgardner - Baumgardner's a real longshot, he's a year older than Bright and two levels below him, but his season in Asheville showed some promise that he could mature as an effective lefty specialist. He doesn't walk very many, which is a big plus.

Isaiah Froneberger - Froneberger's several seasons away, but he's got a lot of potential here. Behind the bloated ERA are some very good peripherals. His primary out pitch is his big curveball, which in the elevation enhanced, humidor-less Pioneer League flattened out, and his fastball didn't have enough movement or velocity to get by people. I'm told that scouts feel he could add both oomph and bite as he develops to give him a better complement to the hook.

Summary: Left handed pitching -both starters and relievers- is a definite thin spot in the system right now, but let's not go the J.P. Ricciardi route and prioritize it in the next draft (in 2005, Ricciardi and the Jays passed on Tulo to get an LHP). I think the team has been hoping Bright would develop into a pitcher capable of taking over the role someday, while Newman has exceeded everybody's expectations. Both are just under the fringe of value to a contending team, however, and without steps forward, their long term futures with the Rockies seem dubious. That said, this isn't really a position you want to spend a whole lot of money on. My guess is that rather than going after Ron Mahay or Trever Miller, we will try and stock up on southpaws again via minor league free agency and NRI's to Spring Training.

Tomorrow, I'll try and do one of these for our catchers.