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Prospects Roundup: Current state of the Rockies pitching

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Starting pitching has been a glaring weakness for the organization, and there's not a lot of help on the horizon. In this breakdown, I look at top performers from the farm this season and highlight which players to watch. Stats and highlights are included.

Jon Gray might be close.
Jon Gray might be close.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Starting pitching is one of the rarest and most valuable commodities in the major leagues. The starter throws only once every five days, and has a shorter longevity in his career than position players. The difference in value between the hitter and pitcher is that while a hitter has limited opportunities to score runs in a game, the pitcher is a gatekeeper and can allow as many runs as possible until they are pulled from the game. A great hitter cannot overcome a terrible pitcher.

The dearth of starting pitching has been a glaring weakness for the Rockies this season, but it's not confined to this season. In recent years, the front office has either traded or allowed several solid pitchers to leave for other teams. Players like Drew Pomeranz, Brett Anderson and Huston Street have fled the organization to find more productive places to ply their trade.

Meanwhile, the team has struggled to develop its own pitchers. A season ago, the team had a stable of starting pitchers in Double-A Tulsa, and the future seemed bright. Fast forward a year and only Eddie Butler is pitching in the majors, while Jon Gray is struggling in Triple-A, Daniel Winkler endured Tommy John surgery and was selected by the Braves in the Rule 5 draft, and Tyler Anderson is still sidelined with an arm injury and is rehabbing in extended spring training.

The future state of the pitching staff is bleak at the moment. Tyler Chatwood has only started to throw side sessions and is yet to begin his rehab stint. Tyler Matzek has gone on leave, and there isn't much in the pipeline to bolster the Rockies.

Jon Gray is the highest profile pitcher for the organization. The right-handed pitcher struggled in April, posting a 10.70 ERA, but has leveled out in May by producing a 3.18 ERA for the month.

It's easy to get down on Gray, as we see others in his draft class like Kris Bryant performing well in the majors. But compare him to Mark Appel, and Gray's future seems a little brighter. Appel was drafted first overall by the Astros, two spots ahead of Gray, and since then has been solid, if not spectacular.

Appel is struggling in Double-A Corpus Christi this season, posting a 6.03 ERA in eight starts with a strikeout per nine rate of 6.6. Meanwhile, Gray has similar numbers, but at a higher level and in a hitter-friendly league. Gray has proven to be the better choice early in their careers, and is closer to making his major league debut. That debut could occur later this year if he produces like he did in May.

The highest performing pitcher in the minor leagues this season is Antonio Senzatela. The 20-year-old has a 2.22 ERA in High-A Modesto and is second among all starters on the farm in strikeout rate. The strikeouts have been a nice development, as Senzatela has been known for solid fastball command, with a developing changeup.

Previously, Senzatela has gotten by on limiting hits and creating weak contact from batters. The Venezualan has allowed opposing hitters a career slugging rate of just .325 against him. Now that he's creating more strikeouts, the sky could be the limit, but he's still a couple of years away from appearing in a Rockies uniform. Antonio is three years younger than his CAL league competition and still needs to compete in Double-A New Britain before the Rockies will give him a sniff at Coors Field.

Another pitcher to watch is right-handed reliever Carlos Estevez. An international free agent signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, Estevez was ranked the No. 26 player in the Rockies organization by Baseball America last year.

Reports on Estevez's repertoire are glowing, with a mid-90s fastball that can top out at 98, and which he complements with a high-80s changeup and a slider in the lower 80s. At 6-foot-4, Estevez is a tall pitcher and not known for outstanding control. That being said, his walk rate isn't terrible and his K/9 of 11.4 in Modesto this year has been outstanding.

The Rockies are likely to push Estevez this year and fast track him towards the major leagues. The Dominican will be available for the Rule 5 draft after this season, and relievers with his profile tend to get snatched up fairly quickly.

The Rockies seem to always be on the precipice of a rotation disaster due to the lack of depth. If the team can hold out till August, then Gray and possibly Tyler Chatwood will be available. Tyler Anderson and Kyle Freeland are wild cards who have yet to begin the year. In the meantime, expect the Rockies to be scouring the bargain bin for replacements if issues pop up.

Stat Central

Top 10 Starters

Name

Age

Tm

G

BF

IP

ERA

FIP

SIERA

GB%

HR/9

BB/9

K/9

Antonio Senzatela

20.42

MOD

8

181

44.2

2.22

3.47

3.38

41%

0.8

2.2

8.3

Helmis Rodriguez

21

ASH

8

196

47.2

2.27

3.41

3.38

54%

0.6

2.1

7.0

Zach Jemiola

21.17

ASH

8

202

50.2

2.66

3.32

3.49

40%

0.7

1.6

7.3

Ryan Castellani

19.17

ASH

7

102

22.2

3.97

2.98

4.45

48%

0.0

2.8

5.2

Matt Flemer

24.58

NBR

8

193

46.0

3.72

4.03

5.16

36%

0.6

2.5

4.5

Harrison Musgrave

23.25

MOD

8

174

40.1

4.02

4.02

3.77

43%

1.1

2.5

7.6

Konner Wade

23.5

MOD

7

183

44.2

4.03

4.45

3.99

54%

1.0

2.8

6.0

Sam Howard

22.25

ASH

7

146

35.1

4.08

3.45

3.04

49%

1.0

2.0

8.9

Ryan Carpenter

24.83

NBR

9

213

49.0

4.41

3.51

4.04

36%

0.7

2.2

7.0

Johendi Jiminian

22.67

MOD

8

187

43.0

4.81

3.36

4.18

35%

0.4

3.8

8.0

Strikeout pitchers

Name

Age

Tm

ERA

FIP

SIERA

GB%

HR/9

BB/9

K/9

Sam Howard

22.25

ASH

4.08

3.45

3.04

49%

1.0

2.0

8.9

Antonio Senzatela

20.42

MOD

2.22

3.47

3.38

41%

0.8

2.2

8.3

Johendi Jiminian

22.67

MOD

4.81

3.36

4.18

35%

0.4

3.8

8.0

Harrison Musgrave

23.25

MOD

4.02

4.02

3.77

43%

1.1

2.5

7.6

Zach Jemiola

21.17

ASH

2.66

3.32

3.49

40%

0.7

1.6

7.3

Contact against

Name

Age

Tm

G

PA

H

2B

3B

HR

BB

K

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

Antonio Senzatela

20.42

MOD

8

181

35

4

2

4

11

41

0.213

0.272

0.335

0.607

Sam Moll

23.42

MOD

8

90

19

2

0

4

4

25

0.221

0.256

0.384

0.640

Sam Howard

22.25

ASH

7

146

31

4

0

4

8

35

0.230

0.274

0.348

0.622

Zach Jemiola

21.17

ASH

8

202

44

9

1

4

9

41

0.235

0.280

0.358

0.638

Konner Wade

23.5

MOD

7

183

39

8

2

5

14

30

0.238

0.306

0.402

0.708

Stats are ytd through 5/21/15.

Highlights of the Week

Jon Gray strikes out a batter in Round Rock, Arkansas.

Antonio Senzatela shown warming up and throwing for Modesto.

Matt Flemer strikes out his third straight batter in a game for New Britain.

Finally some Modesto highlights! Ryan McMahon hits a leadoff home run.