The Rockies opened up Cactus League play yesterday with a 6-2 loss to the Diamondbacks. The results don't matter, but there are some interesting tidbits to take away from the game. Nick Groke at the Denver Post notes that yesterday's starter, Jordan Lyles, used his "full arsenal" of pitches yesterday. He threw mostly fastballs (of both seam variety) and changeups, but it sounds like he also mixed in his slider and curveball. That those pitches were effective is more important than the results, no hits and two strike outs, although those are welcome too.
The two most encouraging performances form yesterday's game came from Wilin Rosario and Jon Gray. Groke at the Post has a piece about Rosario, in which he describes an almost 3-6-3 (or 3-6-1) double play that Rosario started at first. It was the only ball hit to him during the game. There's still a lot more to learn about how well Rosario plays at the cold corner. Jack and Jerry on KOA had some kind words about his play there as well, even if they were simultaneously damning with faint praise: "he has a first baseman's glove and he keeps the right foot on the bag."
Thomas Harding at MLB.com has the story on Jon Gray. Gray threw two scoreless innings, but who cares about that? The in-game highlight was the 97 mile per hour heater with which Gray struck out all-world hitter Paul Goldschmidt. The post-game highlight was Gray's quote about the pitch: "I was saving that one for him," Gray told reporters. Love it. Another highlight I gleaned form the radio broadcast was the low to mid-90s rising four-seam fastball Gray threw to cause Jake Lamb to pop up to shortstop Daniel Descalso. From my perspective, it's an encouraging sign that Gray throw the four seam fastball high. Such pitches lead to balls in the air more often than they do balls on the ground, but they also lead to outs more often than they lead to hits.
Speaking of prospects: Are you curious how various prospect publications rank Rockies' prospects? Adam Peterson of Rockies Zingers has you covered. The conclusion is that things are looking up for the organization, farm-wise. The caveat that is crucial to keep in mind, however, is that there really is no such thing as a sure thing. It is a near guarantee that more than one of the prospects currently invading our purple tinted dreams will join the 70 percent or so of prospects labeled a bust.
Looking ahead to Saturday's starting pitcher, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes that Jorge De La Rosa plans to emphasize working his changeup on the road this season. It's unclear what needs improvement, at least from an observer who doesn't see De La Rosa throw several times a week. According to FanGraphs, De La Rosa's changeup in 2014 was just as effective on the road as it was at home. Not only that, but they rated his changeup as the fourth best in all of baseball in terms of value in 2014, after only Felix Hernandez, Alex Cobb, and Cole Hamels. Using that same metric, the value of De La Rosa's changeup in 2014 was the best of his career. Based on an interview with Walt Weiss about the pitch, Saunders suggests that the key to making the pitch better is arm speed. It's part of a plan for De La Rosa to translate home success to road success. I would love it if De La Rosa's changeup gets better on the road and leads to more wins for the Rockies, but I'm not sure how much better it can be.
At Just a Bit Outside, Sam Miller addresses the riskiness of long-term extensions. Miller's point of departure for determining whether or not a contract extension was a monetary risk vis-à-vis player value is the question: Would you sign Player X right now for the remainder of his contract? Carlos Gonzalez and his contract is one of the players in question. Miller contends that the Rockies would sign Gonzalez right now for the remainder of his contract, during which Gonzalez will be paid $53 million over three years. Not only that, but he suggests that PECOTA's long term projection indicates that he would be worth the money. And most importantly, a 78 percent majority of respondents to a Twitter poll also approve.
Grantland's Jonah Keri takes on Las Vegas's over/under odds for the upcoming baseball season. While Keri thinks that the Rockies are one of the five worst teams in baseball right now, he concedes that the team's outlook can improve if just a few things go right. Not that they'll be contenders. For that reason, Keri thinks that if you're a betting person, take the over on 71.5 wins for the Rockies this year. I'm neither a betting person nor an optimistic person for the upcoming Rockies season, but I'd take the over as well.
Finally, Grant Brisbee picks apart the nickname finalists for the Rockies Double-A affiliate. The New Britain Rock Cats-cum-Hartford Choppers/River Hogs/Preying Mantis/Honey Badgers/Blue Frogs/Screech Owls/Hound Dogs/Whirlybirds/Hedgehogs/Yard Goats seemingly can't miss with any of these nicknames. Brisbee shows why some are better than others. He prefers Yard Goats, and he makes a compelling case for that name. I prefer Praying Mantis. As a commenter in the linked article stated, and as I suggested yesterday, the Hartford Praying Mantis is singular and doesn't make sense if left that way. It would be as if the Baltimore Orioles were called the Baltimore Oriole. Praying Mantises is a mouthful, and Praying Mantes sounds like Prayings are subject to something called a Mantis -- like interviewee. So I'm starting a campaign to write-in the third possible way of pluralizing mantis: vote Hartford Praying Mantids.