This is Pt. 5 of a six-part mini-series about the Rockies bullpen integrated within the ‘Crafting a Gameplan’ series. I will discuss the Rockies bullpen as entity, and I will be covering each pitcher in the ‘pen (as of the time of writing) individually at one point or another, but will group athletes who share similarities in pieces so each one has a particular theme. I will eventually dedicate a full piece of the series to take a look at possible free agent options, and the final article will be a recap. The intended structure of this mini-series is as follows:
- Part 1: Overview & Quick Fixes (Bard, Lamet, Kinley)
- Part 2: The Righties (Lawrence, Bird)
- Part 3: Gavin Hollowell
- Part 4: The Lefties (Gilbreath, Suter)
- Part 5: Free Agent & Trade Targets
- Part 6: Recap
Each new entry will feature links to the previous parts, displayed up above. You can find the previous entries of the ‘Crafting a Gameplan’ series here:
- Crafting a Gameplan for Antonio Senzatela
- Crafting a Gameplan for Germán Márquez
- Crafting a Gameplan for Austin Gomber
- Crafting a Gameplan for Ryan Feltner
Thank you very much for reading.
Now that we’ve talked about all the current members of the Rockies bullpen in relative detail, we can turn our attention to some additions Colorado could make. A few things to remember here:
- You can never have too much pitching. Goes without saying.
- I won’t dive into the muddy waters of making hypothetical transactions, especially for pitchers that would require a trade. Not every team has the same evaluation of a player.
- Judging relievers only based on results is a bad idea. For a role with such a natural level of variance, stuff and overall profile is (in my opinion) a far better way to assess talent, especially for relatively unexperienced hurlers.
- This is meant to be a general overview of these athletes. I’ll explain strengths and weaknesses, but with a more macro profile.
- There will be a link to every individual pitch these guys throw on the first mention of it during each hurler’s section.
With that being said, let’s get to it.
Sean-Reid Foley (RHP, Mets)
Formerly of the Blue Jays, the 27-year-old Reid-Foley was recently DFA’d by the Mets only to be re-signed to a MiLB deal a few days ago. I’ve liked his profile as a pitcher for a while, and this is my chance to advocate for him.
- Reid-Foley has a good four-seamer in a vacuum, sitting 95-97 MPH with good carry up in the zone, but what makes it great in my eyes is the combination of elite extension (it looks more like 97-98 than 96) and solid vertical approach angle (VAA) produced by Reid-Foley’s lower than average release point. In other words: this is a sneaky good fastball that can do real work in the upper third of the zone. Also, since its differentiating factors are velo and VAA instead of true backspin, we can expect a softer transition to Coors than usual.
- His changeup is fantastic, and very similar to Ryan Feltner’s in terms of spin and profile and averaging almost 88 MPH. It’s a sub-1400 RPM change with very low spin efficiency that gives it an extremely vertical profile... and makes it Coors-proof, as I explained when I broke down Ryan Feltner for the Gameplan series. This is a fantastic pitch he could probably throw a bit more than 19% of the time, and the main reason I'm all for bringing him in.
- Reid-Foley is recovering from Tommy John surgery, which he had in May of this season, so he won’t be a factor for, at least, most of 2023. The first thing to do is wish him a strong recovery, but from an organization’s point of view, there’s always the risk that his stuff doesn’t quite return to its old level after surgery. It’s a risk you can always take, but it’s not a sure thing.
- His slider is in no-man’s land, more or less. It’s kind of hard (85-87 MPH), but it’s not an extremely hard and sharp gyro slider or a slower sweeper, instead residing in the middle of the spectrum. His fastball-changeup combo is good enough to get him by, of course, but I feel like we’d have to help him make a change with his slider (I favor a harder, shorter-gyro slider) in order to truly unlock his potential.
Sean Reid-Foley has been a reliever I would love as a Rockie for months. The recent TJ surgery can give you pause, but assuming his stuff is similar to what he had prior to his injury, this is a wonderful fit. His stuff is not only very good, it’s also Coors-proof to a high degree. I’d be all in.
Julian Merryweather (RHP, Blue Jays)
Merryweather was acquired by the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade back in 2018. Originally a starter, the now 31-year-old was moved to the bullpen after significant injury issues (he missed almost the entirety of 2018-19), and he has really electric stuff.
- Merryweather throws gas, with his four-seamer routinely averaging 97-98 MPH and nearing triple digits. It has solid life up in zone, and even in today’s day and age, this is a good fastball. No concerns about too much reaction time here.
- The main reason Merryweather intrigues me is his exceptional gyro slider (17% spin efficiency, Dinelson Lamet/Sandy Alcántara territory), which averages about 88 MPH and has terrific depth. Gyro sliders are great pitches at Coors, of course, with gravity instead of spin mostly taking over during ball flight. Batters have been mostly hopeless against it, and this is the kind of pitch that could be the real backbone of an arsenal.
- Merryweather also has a changeup and a curveball to pair with his fastball-slider combination. His curveball is in the 80 MPH range and has great depth for the velocity, another good pitch. His changeup is really interesting, because the right-hander throws it in the 81-82 MPH, about 15-16 MPH slower than his fastball. This is one of the largest velo differences between a fastball and a changeup in all of baseball, and worth pointing out just because (also, hitters have a .236 wOBA against it in the Majors).
- While his stuff is outstanding, Merryweather has a long history with injuries. He’s currently healthy, but the track record could give you pause.
- Even with the durability concerns, his stuff is fantastic and he’s still in pre-arb, meaning the cost to acquire wouldn’t be insignificant, though maybe mitigated a bit by the fact that he’s out of MiLB options entering 2023. He won’t be a free agent for years, however, so this is far from a rental.
If you squint a little bit, you can see a dominant multi-inning stopper here. Merryweather has an explosive fastball-slider-curveball combination reminiscent of someone like Justin Verlander’s (not quite the same carry on the four-seamer, but more velo) and a very unique changeup that batters haven’t figured out so far.
Luis Perdomo (RHP, FA)
Perdomo was technically a Rockie once before, but he never appeared in a game for Colorado at any level of pro ball and was traded to the Padres for future considerations in 2015. He’s not even 30 yet, but he’s struggled to establish himself in the majors for lenghty periods and is a full-blown reliever now with a career 5.04 ERA. Why would I suggest him, then?
- Perdomo throws three pitches, and all three are Coors-proof: a 93-95 MPH seam-shifted sinker with pretty good bite, a mid-80’s gyro slider with good depth, and a high-80’s splitter. The sinker is the most “vanilla” of the three, but it still has its uses, and as a whole the combination has a lot of synergy.
- That pitch mix makes him a heavy groundball pitcher: 58.2% of the batted balls he’s allowed in his career have been grounders compared to 44.9% league average. Again, this is Coors Field material, the park where flyballs are boosted like no other.
- His sinker has fine utility, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary (if he threw 95-97 instead of 93-95, it would be different) and leaves him somewhat exposed against lefties, who have a .383 wOBA against it since he became a full-time reliever in 2019 (compared to a .314 wOBA for righties). His slider and splitter are fine weapons against LHH, but he’s clearly a guy with bigger platoon splits than you might wish.
- I’ve talked his slider and splitter up a bit, but they’re just fine pitches (his slider is the better offering), not dominant secondaries. Combine that with pretty heavy sinker usage, and you get a career 16.7% strikeout rate, very low and not ideal for a Rockies pitcher despite the heavy groundball profile.
I do like Perdomo, but this would be a move on the low risk, low-to-medium reward spectrum. He’s unlikely to be dominant, but gets too many grounders and his slider fits Coors to well to be bad unless something crazy happens. He’s also not the kind of reliever who’d get you a noticeable return at the deadline if that’s the game you want to play. However, an altitude-friendly three-pitch mix with heavy groundball orientation is nothing to sneeze at, and Perdomo would bring that to the table.
Tanner Scott (LHP, Marlins)
Take it from someone who watched quite a few Marlins games last year: the Tanner Scott experience is an incredible rollercoaster. A longtime Oriole, he was traded to the Marlins last season and saved 20 games for them. What is the good, what is the bad?
- No sense downplaying it: Scott has some of the most electric stuff of any lefty on this planet. His fastball sits 96-98 MPH with excellent carry up in the zone and he throws an absolutely disgusting slider in the 88-91 MPH range that has unfair movement for its velocity. Both his slider and heater create extremely high whiff rates — he’s just coming off a season in which batters missed over a third of the time when they took a cut at his heater, a ludicrous number, and his slider has a long history of whiff rates around 45-50%, which is astounding. In other words: if the Rockies were to acquire him, he would immediately rival Daniel Bard for the title of “Nastiest Stuff in this Bullpen”.
- I feel like I’ve mentioned it already, but Scott is a lefty, which gives him another plus in short bursts and would pair very well as a power pitcher with the aforementioned Bard.
- Also no sense downplaying it: his control is as poor as his stuff is exceptional. Scott has a 14.2% career walk rate, and it’s not a result of poor chase rates: he just struggles to throw strikes. Tale as old as time, really: a pitcher with dynamite stuff who just can’t find the zone. Remember how I said he struck out 90 batters in 62 2⁄3 innings? He also walked 46 batters (and plunked four more, and averaged 4.4 pitches per PA) in those same frames. Like I said, a rollercoaster.
Scott, 28 years old, is extremely straight-forward: dynamite, closer-worthy stuff with truly poor control and command. The fastball-slider profile is nicely suited to altitude, by the way (Scott’s four-seamer succeeds mainly through VAA and velocity, not perfect backspin). His floor is volatile, but his ceiling is as high as any reliever out there if he get in the zone at an average rate. And the Marlins are starved for bats, by the way.
Touki Toussaint (RHP, FA)
Formerly a top starter prospect in the Braves system, the 26-year-old Toussaint (of Haitian heritage) was traded to the Angels and spent 2022 pinballing between the majors and Triple-A, as well as in-between the bullpen and the rotation. He was recently non-tendered, but there’s a few things I like here.
- Toussaint throws a really good splitter, and we know the split-finger is one of the best pitches there are when it comes to the sea level-altitude transition. This pitch has returned consistently good chase and whiff rates (both in the mid-high 30% range) throughout Touki’s brief MLB experience so far, as well as a steady diet of groundballs. Plus pitch in my eyes.
- While his raw velo (91-95 MPH) isn’t anything special, Toussaint gets elite extension down the mound, making his velo play up by a few ticks. This is something you always like to see.
- His main fastball is a pretty heavy seam-shifted sinker. When paired with his splitter, this makes Toussaint a groundball pitcher as far as batted ball profile, and it would translate fine to altitude.
- He has experience as a starter, but also in long relief, which is an area of the Rockies bullpen that’s not quite set in stone at the moment. This versatility is also a plus because Colorado’s rotation depth past their starting five is either unproven, injured, or both.
- While his curveball is gorgeous in a vacuum (look at this one), it’s also a mid-70’s curve with big, loopy break that completely stands out from the rest of his armside-oriented repertoire and stands on an island as far as velocity goes. This would require some sort of change; either throwing the curve harder and sharper or introducing a mid-80’s slider that can better serve him as a bridge and consistent chase weapon. Or both at the same time!
- He’s had serious issues finding the zone so far, in the Tanner Scott range as far as walk and in-zone rate goes. Of course, Scott has absolutely dynamite swing-and-miss stuff, and Toussaint doesn’t, which often leaves him pitching from behind, which in turn makes him nibble, which in turn makes him walk more batters... you get the vicious cycle.
I’d be very happy if the Rockies took a shot at Toussaint. I like his splitter, I like his sinker, I like his ability to spin a breaking ball, and he’s still quite young. He also provides rotation depth if needed, so we tackle two issues with one move.
Gregory Soto (LHP, Tigers)
We conclude this entry with a look at Tigers closer Gregory Soto, who saved 30 games and had a 3.28 ERA in 60 1⁄3 innings last year. He presents a very interesting profile, because many of his traits are similar to those of Rockies ace Germán Márquez.
- Soto is one of the hardest-throwing lefties on the planet. He routinely sits at 98-99 MPH and has touched above 101 before on his four-seamer, which averaged 98.7 MPH last season, and all this paired with good extension to make the velo play even higher. His sinker averaged 98.1 MPH as well, so no drop-off there. This is exceptional velocity for anyone, let alone a left-hander, as only Phillies reliever José Alvarado throws harder. It’s a true outlier skill.
- He doesn’t just throw his fastball hard, his sharp slider is also a velocity outlier. Soto averaged 89.3 MPH on his breaking ball last season, again top of the list as far as lefties go, making it a good stylistic fit for his heater. No lack of arsenal coherence between fastball and breaking ball here.
- He has no recent issues with injuries, aside from breaking his finger at the end of last year.
- Soto’s pitch usage and overall strategy is all messed up. Aside from throwing too many fastballs (over 70% as a big leaguer), he doesn’t tend to separate them between lefties and righties like he probably should. Since 2020 (when his velo spiked to 97+), his sinker has a .292 wOBA (.260 xwOBA) against lefties, with an average exit velo of 83.4 MPH and an average launch angle of -4.6º. Against righties, however, that sinker has a .346 wOBA (.360 xwOBA, 92.7 MPH EV, 8.0º launch angle) against. His four-seamer has performed similarly against both hands, but he’s thrown a lot more sinkers than four-seamers. Also, last season he started to throw four-seamers at the knees for some reason and his slider became almost exclusively a chase pitch. Both offerings performed way worse right away. In other words, his issues are almost all about approach.
He’ll be expensive to acquire, but that’s for a good reason. Soto has exceptional arm talent, and small adjustments in how he deploys his tools could make him a relief ace overnight. And top of it all, he won’t be a free agent until after the 2025 season. It’s the most ambitious acquisition I’ve presented here, but also the one with the most mid-term upside. Again, I’d be all over this deal if it’s a possibility. Soto is a potential difference-maker in high leverage.
These are just a few suggestions. I’m sure you noticed that I mostly went for guys with explosive four-seamers, and that’s for a good reason — after the likely departure of Carlos Estévez, nobody in the current Rockies bullpen has a legitimately dominant four-seamer that can bully hitters at the top of the zone. Bullpen variety is very important (just look at the Tampa Bay Rays) and too many sinkerballers can make you predictable. For the final entry, tomorrow, we’ll recap everything we’ve talked about and talk a little bit about pitching philosophy in general. See you there!
This is a study made through my own research and conclusions. In order for it to be truly complete, it would require things such a biomechanical breakdown and some feedback from the pitcher himself, among others, which is data I don’t have access to. Please take what I present more as a suggestion than a stone-cold fact.
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