We all know that pitching was the core of the Rockies mountains of problems in 2019. An unstable rotation. Homers galore. Short outings. An overused and equally ineffective bullpen. Early injuries to Antonio Senzatela and then Tyler Anderson. Let the domino effect continue with a minor league demotion of a former Cy Young candidate to late-season injury shutdowns. Rough stuff.
In this dive into what happened and what the future might look like, Jack Etkin does a great job breaking down the options beyond the assumed solid three of the 2020 rotation: A back-to-2018 Kyle Freeland and healthy returns of Jon Gray and German Márquez. The rest is a big, fat question mark.
Anderson is entering unprecedented territory in terms of this type of knee injury (chondral defect) and surgery, and as Etkin points out, his availability might not come until June at best. His odds of being in the minors rather than taking a spot on the 40-man roster are high. Etkin believes Chi Chi Gonzalez deserves a try for a spot after posting a 1.65 ERA in the last five games of 2019. He’s also a low-cost option and the kind of find that the Rockies are forced to search for and land after betting the farm and losing on Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, and Wade Davis. It always feels like there is lingering trauma from Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle in 2000 as well. Will that last forever?
Etkin dubbed Tim Melville as a possible “depth piece” due to his success on road, but a worry for his struggles at Coors Field (0-3 with an 8.04 ERA). There is the promise of youngsters Peter Lambert, who needs to clean up mechanics and probably build back up confidence after a good amount of shellings, and Ryan Castellani, who needs more innings in the majors to get a more accurate portrait of his abilities. Then there is the promise and physical prowess of Jeff Hoffman, who is out of minor league options and more likely to get a spot because of it.
If the Rockies don’t hire from within, there are trade and free agent possibilities — but are there? Seems hard to have hope or believe in that right now. The more likely outcome is placing hopes in rediscovering the high inning count from starters from 2018 (932 innings vs. 842 1/3 in 2019) and more coaching from Bud Black, who admitted fault in not being more proactive in addressing issues from mindsets to mechanics earlier on. Then there are also the changing philosophies like mentalities on pitch location to fastballs to lower in the zone to not be so behind in the times.
In this Q&A with fans, Patrick Saunders gives his take on Bridich not being on the hot seat at all, like it or not, because of his back-to-back playoff seasons and 392-419 record (.483 winning percentage) among other topics. Sticking with the theme of pitching, Saunders lists eight wish-list issues the Rockies have to correct to get back on course in 2020. The top four have to do with the starting rotation: get K-Free back to form, keep Gray and Márquez healthy, find that in-house reliable fourth starter in Hoffman, Gonzalez, or Senzatela, and, of course, acquire a solid veteran starter. Again, I would ask who and how with the lack of big moves promised by the front office. Five and six consist of getting Scott Oberg or Jairo Diaz as a lockdown closer and then fixing or trading Davis. Can he be fixed? Maybe a sea-level team wants him?
Rounding out the eight areas of need are teaching Daniel Murphy to be less awkward and a better fielder at first base, especially considering he is the important receptacle for the best left infield in the game, as well as get his power up, or trade him. Then keep things progressing for David Dahl, Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, and Raimel Tapia. For the second time this week, there was no mention from Saunders about the costly disaster that is Ian Desmond.
An all-star Rockies pitcher? At any level, we’ll take it. Prospect Ashton Goudeau has earned a place on the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game as the lone Colorado representative. Although he hasn’t made any starts on the mound, the 27-year-old, 6-foot-6 righty has a 0.26 WHIP in 7.2 innings of scoreless work, where he has fanned 10 while only giving up two hits. This is a great step forward for Goudeau, who was putting up good numbers (3-3 record with 2.07 ERA) for the Hartford Yard Goats early this summer before missing over two months due to injury.
MLB Trade Rumors uses its data to calculate projected arbitration figures barring players being released or maybe not being arbitration eligible. Colorado has nine players on the list. Here is how they project the arbitration eligible players:
Jon Gray, $5.6 million
Tyler Anderson, $2.625 million
Kyle Freeland, $2.4 million
Chad Bettis, $3.8 million
Scott Oberg at $2 million
Carlos Estevez, $1.2 million
Trevor Story, $11.5 million
David Dahl $3.0 million
Tony Wolters $2.0 million.
Gray, Story, Oberg, and Estevez have earned their keep, and clearly the Rockies haven’t lost faith in Freeland. With injuries and the Dick Monfort-imposed no-new-money limitations, Bettis and Anderson are much more dicey, and are possible non-tender candidates.