The Northwest League is historically an offense-suppressed environment, so the same type of hitting caveats that are often applied to Colorado Rockies minor league hitters in Grand Junction, Asheville and Colorado Springs are also applied to pitchers at Short Season-A Tri-City. As such, the fact that Dust Devils pitchers posted a collective 4.68 ERA in 2014 is a bit discouraging, and it's a big reason why the team finished just 33-43.
Of course, it wasn't without a few notable performances, both positive and negative. First, the pitching stats for the collective unit:
The first thing that pops out is that Helmis Rodriguez was responsible for a lot of effective baseball. The 20-year-old left-hander led the Northwest League in innings and posted a sub-2.00 ERA in those frames despite being the 13th-youngest hurler in the league. He wasn't a strikeout pitcher by any stretch, but he certainly used the right approach to get batters out. Rodriguez walked only 1.8 batters per nine innings and posted a 56.1 percent ground ball rate, which contributed to a HR/FB rate of just 3.8 percent. Rodriguez, the No. 27 PuRP, should move up to Asheville next year, where he'll hopefully be able to get a few whiffs when he needs them while continuing to post otherwise excellent peripherals.
Ryan Castellani (PuRP No. 25), the Rockies' second-round draft pick in 2014, also had a promising season in Tri-City. Castellani, the second-youngest pitcher in the NWL, was almost as stingy with walks and just about as good as inducing grounders as Rodriguez, but he was a little more adept at striking batters out. The end result was a 3.65 ERA in 37 innings that should only be considered as very good for a pitcher Castellani's age at that level. It will be interesting to see what the Rockies do with him next year. Castellani could very well be held back in the spring and pitch in Short Season-A again, but if the organization decides to push him to Asheville, he'd be the youngest player to pitch at that level for Colorado since Peter Tago in 2011. That season didn't go well for Tago, but Castellani appears to have much more polish, and is fully capable of having a season like the one Antonio Senzatela had in his age-19 season for the Tourists in 2014.
On the other side of the coin, things went extremely awry for 2012 third-round pick Ryan Warner. The Colorado native walked 38 batters in 40⅔ innings in a repeat year at Tri-City after showing some promise there during the previous season. In three minor league seasons, the 20-year-old right-hander has a 4.97 ERA with fewer than six strikeouts per nine innings and a rapidly rising walk rate.
Sam Moll (PuRP No. 24) also repeated in the NWL after starting his season late due to an injury. Moll was very good for Tri-City in 2013 but was merely pedestrian this time around, albeit in an insignificant sample size. If healthy, Moll -- Colorado's third-round pick in 2013 -- should move up a level and still has a chance to be an impact reliever from the left side. There aren't a lot of those in the Rockies organization at any level, so big performances from here on out could get Moll on the fast track.