Only two left-handed relievers pitched for the Rockies in 2020. They tossed a combined 11 1⁄3 innings.
One of those arms, James Pazos, was designated for assignment on Monday.
Pazos pitched in six games this year, throwing a combined 5 1⁄3 innings. His left-handed counterpart in the bullpen, Phillip Diehl, threw six frames over six appearances of his own. For all of September, both reported to the alternate training site. It rendered the Rockies bullpen without a lefty for their final 25 games.
In a series of roster moves on Monday, Diehl was ‘recalled’ from the now-obsolete alternate site. Left-hander Ben Bowden was also recalled; the 25-year-old is four years younger than Pazos, but has yet to appear in a big league contest. Bowden pitched the majority of his 2019 innings with Triple-A Albuquerque.
Let’s assume Bowden and Diehl are the only left-handed relievers moving forward: is that entirely a bad thing?
The 2019 Houston Astros did not carry a single left-handed pitcher on their World Series roster. With the advent of the three-batter minimum, the strategy for relief pitcher platoon matchups has understandably taken a hit. Such matchups can still be employed, but now could be as good of a time as ever to lack left-handed pitching depth.
Around the time Colorado acquired right-handed reliever Mychal Givens, some discussion arose whether the Rockies would bring on lefty Ryan Rolison for his MLB debut. Rolison’s highest affiliate thus far has been High-A Lancaster, but such a jump wouldn’t be unheard of in 2020. Right-handed Tommy Doyle made the leap on September 23.
Rolison has been deemed a starter, however: all 34 of his minor league appearances have been starts. The discussion of him joining the bullpen this year amounted to nothing more than discussion, and we’re left awaiting his presumed arrival in 2021.
The Rockies showed for the worst reliever ERA in franchise history this year, and a key left-hander could easily benefit the staff.
Given the volatile nature of relief pitcher contracts (which the Rockies have seen firsthand), Jeff Bridich could understandably be averse to landing a premier reliever. We are now on the other side of contracts for Jake McGee, Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis, and it could be dangerous for Colorado to venture back into high-priced reliever territory.
In April, Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors listed out the left-handed relievers in the upcoming free agent class. He lists the Nationals’ Sean Doolittle (34 years old) atop the class, followed by a series of arms in their 30’s.
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Noah Yingling of RoxPile says the Rockies need some “new faces” in 2021. He addresses how plenty of contracts and existing buyouts are expiring, which will free up the team pocketbook and allow for more moves. He also addresses where plenty of that spending might have to go, however: “Trevor Story’s salary will more than double in 2021. Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray, Mychal Givens, David Dahl, Tony Wolters, and Carlos Estevez will eat up most of the rest of that money in arbitration.”
Colorado’s near-equal winning percentage in 2019 and 2020 could put them in near-equal territory for the 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft. The draft order isn’t set in stone, however: “Rob Manfred has the right to modify the draft order rather than let the 60-game 2020 regular season determine it as usual.”
If the upcoming draft order is sorted by 2020 record, the Rockies will receive the eighth overall selection. The Rockies took high school outfielder Zac Veen with the ninth overall pick this year.
As manager Bud Black said following Sunday’s season-ending, 11-3 loss at Arizona, “We have to identify what went wrong.”
Patrick Saunders breaks down what went wrong through 11 different statistics, aptly sorted ‘Offense’, ‘Pitching’ and ‘Defense’. He mentions a silver lining with the starting pitchers, at least: Colorado’s starting pitcher ERA was the 10th best in Rockies history.
The Rockies’ pitching staff allowed MLB’s highest hard hit percentage, but a good amount of contact stayed on the ground. Saunders points out how Colorado pitchers showed for the seventh highest ground ball percentage in baseball, a statistic that is particularly favorable at Coors Field.
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