Troy Tulowitzki has signed on to play in Colorado for the next decade. The Rockies have advanced the idea of a seven-year extension to Carlos Gonzalez, and ace Ubaldo Jimenez has been the subject of a long-term extension. It has been a busy and potentially lucrative offseason for Colorado's young superstars.
Their rise to stardom has not been that surprising. Gonzalez was Arizona's #4 prospect five years ago (at least I think that's the same one - the name is spelled differently). That same offseason, Baseball America ranked Tulowitzki and Jimenez 2nd and 5th respectively in the Rockies' organization.
That report was posted five years ago yesterday. Sometimes top prospects work out exactly as they are expected to, years after elite forecasts were made. As Rox Girl pointed out yesterday in the rockpile, oftentimes they do not. Check that Rockies' prospect list from 2005, and you will see Franklin Morales rated two slots higher than Ubaldo Jimenez. And that wasn't a one time occurence.
Morales bested Jimenez by four slots four solar revolutions ago, peaking as the Rockies' top prospect just three years and two days ago. His filthy stuff, mid-90's fastball from the left side and wicked pickoff move was sure to take him to ace status. Remember those days? If only he continued to keep Ubaldo and Troy company.
|2010 - Franklin Morales||0-4||35||0||0||0||3||3||28.2||28||22||20||5||24||27||6.28||1.81|
Instead, Morales has posted just 1.0 career fWAR in parts of four seasons. And that is the good Morales. In 2010, the Venezuelan hit rock bottom, finishing as the Rockies' least valuable player via Fangraphs. In 28.2 IP, Morales was worth a half win less than a replacement level pitcher (-0.5fWAR). He walked a ridiculous 7.53 batters per nine innings in 2010 on his way to a 6.28 ERA and 6.29 FIP.
With Huston Street on the disabled list to start 2010, Morales was pushed into the closer role, where he completely failed. Half of his six save opportunities resulted in blown saves, and the loss column in his 2010 line has a higher number than his save column. That's about all you need to know.
Many Rockies fans like to tab Morales as "someone else's Jorge de la Rosa," and the comparison holds plenty of water. Both are talented lefties with good stuff, control issues and confidence problems. As it stands now, Morales has accumulated a career fWAR of 1.0 in parts of four seasons. When he came to Colorado, de la Rosa had also pitched in parts of four seasons to the value of....1.0 fWAR. JDLR even walked 8.08 batters per nine innings in 2006.
However, de la Rosa's floor was notably higher than what we have seen with Morales. Only once in four seasons before coming to Colorado was de la Rosa below replacement value (2006 at -0.2 WAR), and he has never finished a season with a FIP over six.
Morales has been riddled with control problems throughout his major league career, and they have shown zero improvement over the past three seasons. The result has been a demonstrably opposite fan reaction to that of the other young starting pitcher from that special 2007 team. Should he finally gain hold of that control issue, he could be a scary weapon, whether in a big league rotation or bullpen. The question is: who is going to wait for it, and for how long?
It is make it or break it time for Morales with the Rockies this season. He has exhausted all three of his options, so he may not be sent to AAA at any point next season (even to start the season) without being placed on waivers. Despite his struggles as a major leaguer, his age (he finally turns 25 on January 24), handedness and former elite prospect status would result in an almost certain waiver claim.
All of this means that Morales is penciled into the Rockies' bullpen in 2011. Had his 2010 campaign been just bad rather than as rancid as an out of control compost bin, Dan O'Dowd might have been shopping him this offseason. Instead, the organization will swallow hard and hope it finally clicks. If not, the Rockies' #1 overall prospect in 2007 will be out of the organization in 2011.