Despite the loss of Jon Gray to free agency, the Colorado Rockies headed into the 2022 season with the intention of starting pitching being an area of strength. Germán Márquez was coming off another strong season in 2021, Kyle Freeland had settled into abaseline standard and Antonio Senzatela flashed enough brilliance to earn a five year extension during the off-season. Beyond the top three, Austin Gomber appeared poised to lock-down a rotation spot and Chad Kuhl was signed during Spring Training, reinforcing what was supposed to be improved pitching depth that included Ty Blach, Ryan Feltner, Peter Lambert and Ryan Rolison.
That “improved depth” idea didn’t even last through the exhibition phase, as Lambert and Rolison were shut down in March with arm injuries. Lambert wouldn’t pitch again until June and only managed 8 ⅔ innings before getting shut down again. That was 8 ⅔ more innings than Rolison, though, who never made it back to the mound before undergoing shoulder surgery.
The Rockies rolled on with what they had available, sticking with Kuhl in the fifth starter spot and Blach as the long-relief/spot-start swing-man. Waiting in the wings with the Albuquerque Isotopes was Ryan Feltner and…not much else.
Minor league free agents Dillon Overton and Zach Neal started the season with hopes they would provide major league-caliber depth, but neither showed well during the season. That lack of effectiveness was true of the entire Albuquerque staff outside of Feltner, leading to a season ERA of 6.89 – the worst mark for any professional team in the major or minor league ranks.
By the end of May, the starting pitching had shown its true form with seven different pitchers making a start to that point. Management was left simply hoping that their core five would remain healthy and effective, because there was little left to back them up.
Fewest SP used 2022
They wouldn’t and the lack of depth was eventually exposed. The Rockies finished tied with Houston for the fewest starters used during the season, but reached that number in a much different way than the Astros. While Houston sported a league-best 19.4 starting pitcher fWAR and second-best 2.95 ERA, the Rockies finished with the second-worst ERA at 5.23 and just escaped the bottom-third in fWAR with a collective 8.4.
José Ureña was signed to a minor league deal in May – an admission of the thin margins by the front office – and when Austin Gomber was moved to the bullpen after posting an ERA north of six through his first 16 starts it was his turn to get a look in the rotation. An Antonio Senzatela knee injury in August pushed Feltner into a full-time piece of the rotation and provided job security for Ureña and Chad Kuhl despite their struggles.
COL SP depth 2022
Those three arms – Feltner, Kuhl and Ureña – wound up being not only the “depth” for the organization, but a majority of rotation by the end of the season. The trio combined to throw 37% of the total innings pitched by the rotation at a production mark below replacement-level.
Mix in an abysmal campaign by Germán Márquez and it was clear the season was a disaster for every starter not named Kyle Freeland. It’s easy to give Feltner a break, considering it was his rookie season and he did flash potential at times. But Chad Kuhl was simply not a quality starter after the first two months of the season and Ureña showed little to deserve a spot next season.
Senzatela’s injury will likely keep him out through the first half on 2023 at minimum, so reinforcements are already needed. Ryan Rolison will still be recovering as well and is a complete unknown at this point. The same can be said of Peter Lambert, who may need a strong Arizona Fall League performance to stay in the organization. The outlook for Albuquerque next season doesn’t look improved either, as Karl Kauffmann is the only pitcher potentially approaching major league-ready.
So, yet again, the front office will need to drastically improve its starting pitching options if it wants to get serious about competing. If they do not add any pitchers of substance this off-season, Rockies fans will likely be in for more of the same next year.
★ ★ ★
Pebble Report: 2022 Arizona Fall League
After a posting a zero in the win column during the first week of the season, the Salt River Rafters finally started to find their footing in week two. They dropped their first two games to fall to 0-8, but pulled out wins in three of their final four games to move their season record to 3-9.
Salt River’s second loss of the week was an ugly one, falling 20-4 to the Glendale Desert Dogs. That game was started by Peter Lambert, who was roughed up for five runs on seven hits in two innings pitched. Fineas Del Bonta-Smith also had a tough week, surrendering three earned runs in 2 1⁄3 innings in his lone appearance. Stephen Jones had a smoother outing, allowing one run in 1 1⁄3 innings while Blair Calvo registered 2 1⁄3 scoreless innings over two appearances.
At the plate, Zac Veen continued his hot-hitting after taking home Player of the Week honors to begin the season. Veen went 7-for-14 in the league’s second week, stealing four more bases to bring his league-leading total up to eight. Grant Lavigne also posted another fine performance, collecting four hits, runs and walks in his four games. Warming Bernabel has struggled to find his groove so far, but did demonstrate his power with a three-run homer, his lone hit of the week.
AFL Hitters (Season)
AFL Pitchers (Season)
|Fineas Del Bonta-Smith||3/0||6.1||10/9||6||3|
★ ★ ★
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