Following the 2021 season, the Rockies had three key players set to enter free agency unless the team could find a way to sign them to an extension. Trevor Story’s status is still up the air but it is likely he will reject the qualifying offer from the team. Bill Schmidt also quickly signed C.J. Cron to a two-year deal to continue playing first base. The fate of Jon Gray is still shrouded in mystery, however, as little to no movement has been made on reaching an extension despite both parties expressing interest in July.
In case Gray doesn’t stick around in purple, let’s take a look at some in-house and free-agent options that could fill the void, just as we did with Story and a new closer.
It’s no secret that the Rockies are a bottom-heavy organization with their pitching prospects. A lack of depth has been a problem for a few years but the team has been able to combat that with a durable and quality starting rotation at the big league level. When they have turned to depth pieces, it hasn’t exactly turned out the way they hoped.
Peter Lambert made a return to the Rockies from Tommy John surgery for a couple of starts at the end of the season. He struggled in those starts pitching just 5 2⁄3 innings between the two starts, allowing seven runs on 12 hits for an 11.12 ERA. He gets the benefit of the doubt coming off of an injury and he did have some promise from his work in 2019. As a rookie, Lambert made 19 starts where he posted a 7.25 ERA in 89 1⁄3 innings of work.
The main problem Lambert will need to overcome if he wants to crack the rotation is the number of walks issued. In 21 starts with the Rockies, Lambert has issued 38 walks to just 60 strikeouts. His 1.779 WHIP is something he needs to lower but proving he can limit hits and walks and show he can be effective in retiring big-league batters. He will get a long look in Spring Training for some sort of role regardless of Gray, but he needs to show plenty of improvement this offseason.
Ryan Rolison is the top-pitching prospect for the Rockies. If not for the freak injuries that hindered his 2021 season, it is not far-fetched that he would have debuted with the Rockies at some point. Rolison spent the entirety of the season in the minors where he posted a 5.27 ERA in 71 2⁄3 innings of work across four levels. He spent the majority of the season at Triple-A Albuquerque where he made 10 starts, pitching to a 5.91 ERA in 45 2⁄3 innings of work. It was a good trial for Rolison as he faced more big-league caliber batters in a hitter-friendly league.
Just like Lambert, Rolison will need to show that he can throw effective strikes and limit free passes. In Albuquerque, Rolison’s walk rates ticked up while strikeouts went down and he allowed an average of 10 hits per nine innings. He has the makings of the next homegrown pitcher for the Rockies, but he will need to fine-tune his skills in Spring Training where he can make a strong impression and pitch his way onto the Rockies roster.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Feltner, Ryan Castellani
The Rockies will not be signing Max Scherzer for the 2022 season. As much as I would love for them to get pitchers of that caliber, it isn’t feasible with the Rockies philosophy and modus operandum. However, they do still have pitchers that could fill in for the Rockies should they feel their depth pieces aren’t ready to take that step forward.
If the Rockies want to simply find a replacement Jon Gray, then Dylan Bundy would fit the bill nicely. He hasn’t had the same success as Gray, but Bundy has proven himself a quality starter in a rotation. Bundy has a career 4.72 ERA with 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings and a 36.7% ground ball rate. His 2021 was not ideal as he posted a 6.06 ERA in 90 2⁄3 innings of work while allowing 20 home runs on the year. He has been more prone to giving up the long ball, but the Rockies could buy low on the 29-year old and hope they can iron out those details to have Bundy fall in line with the rest of the rotation.
There are plenty of other options to choose from, but one option that is intriguing to me is the young pitcher Luís Madero. He made his debut in 2021 with the Miami Marlins for six games, primarily out of the bullpen. He pitched 12 innings for the Marlins, allowing 12 runs for a 9.00 ERA while walking eight and striking out four. He needs more work at the big league level, but his minor league career has shown he is a quality pitcher as either a starter or a reliever.
Throughout the minors, he has a 4.23 ERA across 119 games (93 starts) with a strong strikeout to walk ratio of 2.42, which shows he can quite effective and has more room for growth. The Rockies could add to their depth by signing the 24-year-old and give him a chance at the rotation, if not just a long reliever spot.
Honorable mentions: Tyler Anderson, Zach Davies
Who else would you like to see replace Jon Gray should the need arise? Sound off in the comments below!
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4 NL West players who slashed the Colorado Rockies in 2021 | Rox Pile
Our pal Kevin Henry at Rox Pile got into a festive Halloween theme by naming the four players that were the NL West equivalent of Jason Voorhees with their slash lines in relation to our unsuspecting Rockies campers. They are all names that we recognize in the forms of Buster Posey, Corey Seager, David Peralta, and new Rockies killer Jake Cronenworth. All four players put together devastating slash lines against the Rockies and are perfect representations of how hard it is to win in the division.
Rockies’ Scott Oberg, after blood clots sidelined him again, hopes to stay in baseball | The Gazette ($)
Danielle Allentuck covers a beautiful story about Scott Oberg and his career, and his desire to overcome the blood cots that have sidelined him yet again. While Oberg was unable to pitch for the Rockies this year, he was able to help the club in a variety of other ways such as scouting, analytics, and mentoring other pitchers on the team. Oberg will undergo many tests this offseason to pinpoint the problem that keeps causing the blood clots, but his legacy of resilience is a defining factor that Rockies fans will never forget.
On the Farm: Arizona Fall League Edition
Salt River Rafters 8, Scottsdale Scorpions 1
Ryan Vilade (No. 10 PuRP) put in a strong performance for the Salt River Rafters in their 8-1 victory over the Scorpions. Batting clean up and starting at first base, Vilade had four hits on the night including a double in the sixth to drive in his second run of the night. He has now raised his Arizona Fall League batting average to .300 and now has seven RBI. Ezequiel Tovar (No. 12 PuRP) started the game at shortstop and went 1 for 4 with his lone hit being a double. No Rockies pitchers made an appearance, but it’s encouraging to see Vilade tally more and more hits.
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