The bulk of the Rockies’ offseason efforts went to revamping a bullpen that has been less than effective for much of the last few seasons. With the addition of three former closers, the final innings will be commanded by a line of mostly new faces.
Set up men
The added depth, and a possible shift in strategy, will allow the Rockies to keep things pretty fluid in terms of bullpen roles. Look for free agent pick ups Chad Qualls and Jason Motte to make a fair share of appearances in the seventh and eighth innings. Qualls has done his best work in lower leverage situations, working primarily the eighth for Houston last season. The 12-year veteran will get strikeouts -- 8.4 SO/9 last year -- but struggles with men on base. Though his arsenal is reminiscent of Latroy Hawkins’, Qualls will likely be kept out of the ninth. He is 7-20 in save situations in his career.
Jason Motte’s season totals in 2015 were relatively uninspiring. After a brief DL stint on account of a right shoulder strain, Motte posted a 3.19 ERA in 57 games for the Chicago Cubs. Motte accrued six saves, with the slight majority of his work coming in the ninth inning when filling in for Hector Rondon. Motte walked just two batters in the second half, which is 282 less than what Rockies relievers managed in the same time frame!
Other set-up possibilities for the Rockies include Justin Miller -- whom Bobby DeMuro named his middle relief ace in yesterday’s post -- a healthy Adam Ottavino, Jairo Diaz and Miguel Castro.
If Walt Weiss is a true man of superstition, he won’t give this title to anyone. The closer’s role last season proved more curse than conferment after the blow ups and blow outs of Adam Ottavino, John Axford and Tommy Kahnle.
At least until Ottavino returns from Tommy John rehabilitation, the job will likely land with Jake McGee, the 29-year old southpaw who came over from the Rays in the Corey Dickerson trade. The Rockies are eager to see how McGee’s extreme fastball usage plays at Coors Field, particularly after the way the bullpen's breaking pitches were handled last year. McGee does have a dramatic off-speed option in his curve, but has never consistently thrown it over ten percent of the time. Even with his predictability, McGee was nearly unhittable last year. His 0.938 WHIP and 11.6 SO/9 make him arguably the most exciting addition to the back end.
Expect the Rockies to take things slow with Adam Ottavino. This may be the club’s closer of the future, but there’s no rush on the recovery process with all the added depth.Qualls, Motte and Miller could all close out a few games, dependent on scores and rest schedules.
Keep sacred the memories, everyone, Boone Logan is entering the final year of his contract with the Rockies. With any luck at all, Walt Weiss is done asking Logan to try his hand with right handed batters, and will allow him to fill a full-time, exclusive lefty specialist position.
In a pinch, Jake McGee could also serve splendidly to shut down a key left-handed bat. No one hits McGee well, but lefties managed just a .196 AVG last year.
MLB quality depth
Jairo Diaz and Miguel Castro served briefly for the Rockies in the latter half of 2015. Both figure to be impact arms one day, but have struggled to find consistent playing time at the big league level.
Diaz’s high-nineties arsenal generates a Coors-friendly combination of ground balls and strikeouts. Castro is more of a sinker baller with higher fly ball tendencies, but throws incredibly hard and has potential to fill a variety of bullpen roles. Other depth pieces include Gonzalez Germen and Scott Oberg.
On the farm
Carlos Estevez gained a lot of national and organizational attention last year, after an impressive 18-save season split between the Modesto Nuts and New Britain Rock Cats. Estevez went on to lead the Arizona Fall League in saves with a .132 batting average against and an "AFL Players of Note" distinction from Baseball America.
Ryan Castellani could prove to be a back end bullpen asset to the Rockies in the more distant future. Scouts are excited by the control and velocity of his fastball, but have expressed concern with his secondary pitches. If all goes well with the Rockies’ 2016 fastball factory, they could take Castellani’s development in a more single-faceted direction.