When Jeff Bridich was promoted to General Manager, he was straightforward about the most important task the Rockies faced: rebuilding a pitching staff that was a disaster in 2014. The talk was talked, but so far the walk has not been walked; the Rockies have acquired a couple of low level relievers and that's it.
The off-season isn't done yet, but if the Rockies roll into the season with their current pitching staff, what are the odds it stays healthy and effective? This feels like one of the least reliable staffs the Rockies have ever staked a season upon, at least in recent memory. Last year we had Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, and Tyler Chatwood all coming off solid seasons, with some good prospects on the way and some hopefully decent veterans to eat innings and bridge the gap. That all came crashing down rather quickly.
As a thought exercise I'm going to look at the Rockies' starting pitching options and lay odds on whether or not they'll be healthy and effective for a full season. I'm not expecting 200 innings pitched and a 3.20 ERA; just whether I think they can throw a season's worth of quality innings. So, more accurately, I'd call this "bust potential." I'm guessing what the odds are the pitcher in question straight-up doesn't contribute meaningfully to 2015 (and only 2015; I'm not considering 2016 and beyond at all). Maybe that's a negative way to look at it, but I'm feeling pretty negative about the pitching staff, so it fits.
Jorge De La Rosa - 15% bust potential
DLR is the closest thing we have to a sure thing, but, like all pitchers, there's no such thing as a sure thing. 2015 will be his age 34 season, and once players get that old the decline phase can hit at any time. His ERA jumped from 3.49 in 2013 to 4.10 in 2014. His strikeout and walk numbers actually improved slightly, but he gave up twice as many home runs (you might recall how ridiculously lucky the Rockies were at preventing the long ball in 2013). 2014 was his second full season since Tommy John surgery, and his elbow seems to be holding up.
I've got faith in DLR. He won't be an ace, but he's a veteran who knows what he's doing.
Tyler Matzek - 25% bust potential
Matzek was one of the few unvarnished bright spots of 2014. Dropping a 4.05 ERA and 3.78 FIP in your first tour of duty as a Rockie is one heck of an achievement. The strikeouts were good, the walk rate was good, and the ground ball rate was good. If you had nothing else to judge Matzek by but his 2014 major league performance, you would think he had no major flaws.
So it's hard to square that rock-solid performance with the odyssey of his minor league career. Matzek was completely incapable of throwing strikes from 2010 through 2012. There were rumors the Rockies had tweaked his delivery and totally messed him up. He had to leave the organization for half a summer and train with his old high school coach to regain any semblance of control. He had something of a bounce-back season in Double-A in 2013, posting a 3.79 ERA; but that came with a much lower strikeout rate and a still-lousy 4.81 BB/9. To be perfectly honest, I had written Matzek off as a bust by that time.
But somehow he found his mojo in 2014. Who knows how it happened; maybe it was coaching or maybe it was just a young kid (drafted as an 18 year old) finally figuring something out.
I'm definitely a believer in Matzek. I don't think his 2014 was a fluke. But that minor league track record is scary.
Jhoulys Chacin - 50% bust potential
Chacin was throwing 86 mph lollypops in 2014 with a busted shoulder. Shoulders are the scariest part of a pitcher's anatomy. The Rockies were evidently happy enough with his health to drop $5.5 million on him for this season. But if he doesn't regain his velocity and his sinker, he could be done. Which is a shame, since he's been one of the best pitchers in Rockies history.
Jordan Lyles - 25% bust potential
Lyles looked pretty good last year until he broke his hand in a fluke injury. He won't put up ace numbers, but it's pretty likely he maintains the performance of a solid number three. It's all about control with Lyles and getting strike one with his sinker on the outside corner to lefties.
Eddie Butler - 50% bust potential
Butler did not look ready for the big leagues -- at all -- during his brief stint in 2014. Supposedly he was struggling with conditioning and fatigue at the time. There's no doubt his prospect status took a hit with the mediocre 2014, but he's still a strong prospect. He just might need more time than we thought.
Jon Gray - 40% bust potential
Gray is almost certainly going to be a good-to-great big league pitcher, it's just a question of whether he'll be ready for this season. Most publications seem to think he's practically big league ready. I wouldn't rush him for 2015 though; this is probably a punt season and Gray could probably use some more seasoning.
Tyler Anderson - 60% bust potential
Tyler Anderson is the most polished of the young guns who could get a shot in 2015. The 25 year old left hander has an immaculate minor league career with the exception of various nagging injuries. When he's on the mound he's dynamite. The question is his health and whether he has been taking advantage of minor league talent. I actually like Anderson a lot, and I might be too bearish on his 2015 chances; I get some early Jeff Francis vibes from him.
Who else do we have? Christian Bergman? Jair Jurrjens? The cupboard is pretty bare. I expect Bridich to bring some veterans into camp in order to take the pressure off Gray/Butler/Anderson--guys who probably should not start the year on the active roster--but those veterans will be nothing special. Let's be honest here: the odds of a successful 2015 pitching staff being assembled from the parts we have now are pretty dang slim.