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Ranking the Rockies: No. 20 Rex Brothers and the minor setback for the major comeback

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Sure it was a small sample, but Rex Brothers kind of (?) took a step forward in 2015 as he attempts to get his pro career back on track.

Rex Brothers wasn't awful in 2015!
Rex Brothers wasn't awful in 2015!
Trevor Brown/Getty Images

There's no doubt that luck played a role in Rex Brothers' 2015, and his final numbers (including a sexy 1.74 ERA) don't stand up to scrutiny when you consider his (lack of) command and the base runners he allowed. That's fine, and I won't argue with you that maybe Brothers didn't take as big a step forward as anyone would've wanted this year.

But for a guy who was banished to Triple-A by the end of spring training, who I figured we might never hear much from after his command problems from 2014, Brothers deserves credit for putting together a little success this summer. Upon that, hopefully, he will re-build his Major League career.

In 17 big league games (10.1 innings pitched), Brothers allowed just two runs (1.74 ERA) and earned a win while holding opponents to a .243 batting average. That's amazing! Add in that he held Triple-A opponents to a .181 batting average in 42.1 IP for the Albuquerque Isotopes, struck out 61 hitters there, and allowed only one home run, and we've got our reliever back, right?!

Well, no. That whole problem with walks reared its ugly head once again in 2015: Brothers walked eight (!) in 10.1 innings in Denver, and another 44 (!!) in 42.1 innings in Albuquerque. That is ... not so good. Again, he didn't take as big a step forward as anyone was hoping. He worked primarily as a lefty specialist in Denver, and the leash was very short on Brothers (thank goodness for good luck with inherited runners).

But four of those eight walks -- as well as the only runs he allowed all year -- came in his three July appearances. By the time he came back in September, Brothers was better: 14 scoreless appearances spanning 7.2 innings, allowing no runs on five hits and four walks. As our Nick Stephens found out in June, 2015 was all about small steps forward for the reliever.

All of this is good if the Rockies are slowly re-acclimating him to the big leagues; he enjoyed a little bit of success, hopefully built some confidence, and the Rox will continue to straighten him out. It's relatively more indifferent if Brothers' new ceiling is that of a lefty specialist; considering the first few years of his career, a lefty specialist would be kind of a letdown ... but if he gets outs and improves his command, I can get behind that. It's a bad thing if the Rockies are straight up expecting Brothers to be a late inning set-up man next year. Judging by his 2015 numbers, that would be a bad idea. They should probably not do that.

Rex Brothers' 2016 outlook

Look, y'all, feel free to call me crazy (and you will), but am I wrong to be high on Brothers coming into 2016? I don't mean the I really think he's going to be the Rockies' set-up man kind of high, but more the Brothers took some small steps forward and perhaps he can impact the team in a positive way kind of high. Is that wrong?

He may never get back to the pitcher he was from 2011 through 2013. That's a shame. But he still could become some sort of left-handed specialist. He's tough to hit, though part of that may be terrible command which leaves hitters unable to get comfortable in the box, which is a double-edged sword. He had decent numbers against lefties in 2015 (5-for-22, just .227/.308/.364) and historically does significantly better against them than righties. Maybe there's a future there?

Brothers needs to show quite a bit on the mound before he can regain the Rockies' trust, and considering he still has minor league options, it appears he'll probably take that path. He'll go through arbitration again this winter (he made $1.4 million in 2015 after arbitration), and he won't be a free agent until 2018.

All that points to this: the Rockies have a few chances left with Rex Brothers. His arm is too strong, and he has too much success in his (increasingly distant) past to throw him out on the street, only to let another team pick him up as their reclamation project. Brothers may never again be the pitcher he was the first few seasons of his big league career, but a (very small) step forward in 2015 tells me there's enough there to keep him around. He still walked everybody this year; they just didn't score as often. Yeah.

Addendum: I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Brothers' brother, Hunter. Hunter repeated at Rookie-level Grand Junction in 2015, and threw well in relief in a league that wasn't kind to pitchers. In 36 innings across 25 games, he allowed just 31 hits and 16 walks (1.31 WHIP, .226 batting average against), while going 3-3 with six saves and a 3.75 ERA. He was also a midseason Pioneer League All-Star! Rex he is not, and the soon-to-be 24-year old Hunter pitched a level or two below his age in 2015, but at least one Brothers brother had success in the Rockies' organization this summer!