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Wednesday Rockpile: Making Sense of the Colorado Rockies' 2012 Rotation Candidates

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Okay, Dan O'Dowd. This whole #AcquireAllTheYoungArms (and the really old ones too) is getting a little ridiculous. By my count, the Rockies will come into spring with as many as 17 guys competing for 5 rotation slots (and as many as two bullpen positions) on the Opening Day roster. And that's not even including a guy who will be a lock for a spot when he returns from injury (Jorge De La Rosa).

Obviously, not all 17 of these guys will be seriously considered for a spot, but I think that it's only fair that we get to know these gentlemen a little better (but only a little better -- I mean, we've got 17 guys!). So without further adieu, I give you your 2012 Colorado Rockies rotation candidates!

Prospects Almost Certainly Ticketed for AA or AAA

Name: Rob Scahill
Codename: Chill Boars
Relationship Status: Single -- he's got 3 options remaining
Street Cred: Powerful right arm, durable (150+ IP in last two years), decent groundball rate
Fatal Flaw: Lacks prospect pedigree, effective off-speed pitches
Verdict: Future set-up man has a minor league present

Name: Joe Gardner
Codename: Deer Jargon
Relationship Status: 3 options
Street Cred: Lots of groundballs, plus velocity
Fatal Flaw: Doesn't have a great strikeout rate, combines it with a high walk rate
Verdict: Another minor leaguer in 2012 with the potential to get involved in the bullpen

Name: Edwar Cabrera
Codename: Beer Car Award
Relationship Status: 3 options
Street Cred: Phenomenal strikeout rate (led MiLB in 2011), nasty change-up, low walk rate, left-handed
Fatal Flaw: Small stature, was a little old for High A ball
Verdict: There certainly are Juan Nicasio parallels to be drawn with Cabrera, but he'll spend the year in AA

Name: Christian Friedrich
Codename: Dirtier Finch Chairs
Relationship Status: 3 options
Street Cred: 1st round pedigree, decent K/BB rates, left-handed
Fatal Flaw: Mystifying lack of progress/regression last two years at AA
Verdict: Beginning a third straight year in AA, maybe a bump up to AAA

Name: Chad Bettis
Codename: Ditch Beast
Relationship Status: 3 options
Street Cred: High 90's velocity, multiple plus pitches, dominated every level so far
Fatal Flaw: Hasn't pitched above High A
Verdict: Ticketed for AA, Rockies see him as more of a relief contributor, which to me is a real shame

Well, that's 5 candidates dispatched of. Now the sorting gets a little trickier.

Fringe Back End Starter Types

Name: Clayton Mortensen
Codename: Mostly No Entrance
Relationship Status: It's Complicated -- he might have a bonus option, but that's all up the air right now
Street Cred: Threw 58.1 innings in the big leagues for Colorado
Fatal Flaw: Most of them weren't very good innings, lacks a major league out pitch
Verdict: If he stays with the organization, he'll anchor the rear of the AAA rotation

Name: Esmil Rogers
Codename: Silo Mergers
Relationship Status: In a Relationship -- he's got no options
Street Cred: High 90s velocity, multiple breaking pitches, great potential
Fatal Flaw: Inability to hide ball leads to batting practice for MLB hitters at times, prone to wildness
Verdict: Might fill out the bullpen as the 7th guy, otherwise he's trade bait if anybody wants him

The Seth Smith Trade

Name: Guillermo Moscoso
Codename: Cruise Gloom Looms (too soon?)
Relationship Status: It's Complicated -- might have a bonus option to use
Street Cred: Shiny MLB ERA last year in the AL (3.78), recently learned a cutter,
Fatal Flaw: He makes it rain...flyballs, poor strikeout rate, shiny ERA came in pitcher's park, worst xFIP among qualified starters last year
Verdict: If that magic cutter shows up in spring training, he's a strong candidate for the last spot in the rotation

Name: Josh Outman
Codename: Josh Outman -- I'm pretty sure that can't be his real name
Relationship Status: Single -- 2 options remaining
Street Cred: He's a pitcher and his name is Outman (I swear, this column just writes itself), prior MLB success over three seasons, left-handed,
Fatal Flaw: MLB flyball tendencies, put up numbers in the Oakland Mausoleum, doesn't possess elite stuff
Verdict: If there isn't a place for a lefty starter in the rotation, Outman seems like a candidate to come out of the pen or start the year off in AAA

A note on this: Outman looks like the better guy to have, right? So then why do the Rockies seem higher on Moscoso? Maybe I'm just reading too much into things. Here's a SB Nation article about the Smith trade and an article from 10 years ago at Baseball Prospectus that suggests a blueprint for winning at Coors Field.

Jamie Moyer

Name: Jamie Moyer
Codename: Mime Joy Era
Relationship Status: Married -- Moyer last had an option year before I was born
Street Cred: Crafty lefty, great clubhouse presence, can double as pitching coach
Fatal Flaw: Has vivid memories of the 60s, has allowed the most home-runs in history, might have more MLB service time than everyone else on this list combined
Verdict: I don't see a place for him on the team...but can you really see Jim Tracy saying no to Jamie Moyer?

Prospects on the Verge

Name: Tyler Chatwood
Codename: Wealthy Doctor
Relationship Status: 3 options
Street Cred: Pitched a full season in the AL last year at only 21 years old, high 90s velocity, multiple off-speed pitches round out arsenal
Fatal Flaw: He got shelled last year - putting up the second worst xFIP among qualified starters, lacks ideal size, poor command
Verdict: I don't see him the rotation this year, but he could be a dynamite set-up man from the pen

Name: Alex White
Codename: Whale Exit
Relationship Status: 3 options
Street Cred: 1st round pedigree, high velocity, multiple out pitches, competitive streak
Fatal Flaw: Was pretty terrible (injuries aside) during Rockies cameo, will he be healthy?
Verdict: I think that if Juan Nicasio or Drew Pomeranz isn't ready, White will take a slot, otherwise it's off to AA/AAA

Name: Drew Pomeranz
Codename: Warmed Zen Pro
Relationship Status: 3 options
Street Cred: Polished lefty with multiple out pitches, plus control/command, 1st round pedigree
Fatal Flaw: Doesn't have a lot of pro innings under his belt, lacks elite velocity
Verdict: He'll make the rotation as the lone lefty starter

MLB Veterans

Outside of Moyer, these are the only two guys with at least three years of MLB service time among the 17 guys on this list. Which is pretty crazy when you think about it.

Name: Kevin Slowey
Codename: Weekly Vinos
Relationship Status: 2 options left
Street Cred: Historically elite K/BB ratio, has already been a league average pitcher twice
Fatal Flaw: Injuries have limited him two out of the last 4 years, high flyball tendencies, lacks elite stuff
Verdict: I see Slowey filling out the back of the rotation -- and I believe that he'll post surprisingly acceptable numbers from that spot

Name: Jason Hammel
Codename: Manhole Jams
Relationship Status: No options
Street Cred: 3 years of league average production, good velocity, durable
Fatal Flaw: Low strikeout rate, poor control last year, eminently hittable, peripherals show some danger signs
Verdict: Will either be trade bait or will be 2 or 3 in the Opening Day rotation

La Violencia

Name: Juan Nicasio
Codename: Ouija Sin Can
Relationship Status: At least 1 option left, maybe 2
Street Cred: Excellent velocity, good K rate, great performance in MLB call-up in hitter's park
Fatal Flaw: That whole broken neck thing, limited MLB experience

Verdict: If he's healthy, Nicasio is Colorado's 2nd or 3rd best starter going into Spring Training -- it'll be a rotation slot or the DL

The Machine

Name: Jhoulys Chacin
Codename: Launch Icy Josh
Relationship Status: 1 option remaining
Street Cred: Multiple great years in MLB before the age of 24, multiple out pitches,
Fatal Flaw: Issues with control have kept him from going deeper into games
Verdict: Write Chacin's name down in pen at the top of the 2012 Opening Day rotation

* Yes, the codenames are just anagrams

So the 2012 Opening Day Rotation Looks Like...

1. Chacin
2. Hammel
3. Nicasio
4. Pomeranz
5. Slowey

The bottom line here is that while Colorado may have a whole bunch of guys who would be back-end options for many teams, they have very few guys who project as anything better than that (at least for the 2012 season). With all that pitching talent so close to the majors, the probability of somebody panning out at the major league level isn't bad, but until that happens the 2012 rotation appears to be a mess.