With the month of May drawing to a close, minor league pitchers in the Colorado Rockies organization have established enough of a sample size to really sink your teeth into. Last week we explored several pitchers with the Low-A Frenso Grizzlies that are making a strong impression so far this season. This week we’re going up a level to explore pitchers with the High-A affiliate Spokane Indians.
The Rockies drafted Mike Ruff out of Florida Atlantic University in the 11th round of the 2019 draft. He split duty between the rotation and the bullpen at FAU (41 appearances and 24 starts) with a career collegiate ERA of 5.89 in 128 1⁄3 innings. His best college season came in 2018, where he posted an ERA of 2.91 in 34 innings. Unfortunately he couldn’t replicate that success the following season—posting an ERA of 5.80 in 85 1⁄3 innings—but the Rockies saw promise in his 91-93 MPH four seam fastball and mid-to-high 70s curveball with 12-6 action.
Ruff has been steadily improving as he progresses through the Rockies farm system, and there’s nothing “Ruff” about his work in Spokane so far. Not only is he putting together his best professional season so far, but he’s surpassing his 2018 college season too. Ruff currently has an ERA of just 2.16 through seven starts and 41 2⁄3 innings, the lowest of any Indians starter. He’s currently coming off back-to back six inning shutout starts where he allowed just four combined hits. His 42 strikeouts is the highest total on the Indians pitching staff while his seven walks are the lowest of the rotation. His 0.888 WHIP is also the second best of the pitching staff.
The Rockies took Joe Rock in the second round of the 2021 draft after he put together an excellent final year at Ohio University. He pitched 88 2⁄3 innings with the Bobcats with a 2.33 ERA. Rock was sent to the Arizona Complex League to start his professional career, and did so with gusto. In eight innings with the ACL Rockies he flashed a 1.13 ERA while striking out 11 batters and walking just one without giving up a single home run. After his success in Arizona he was fast-tracked to the High-A Spokane Indians.
Rock (no. 16 PuRP) is a key factor in the front end of the Spokane rotation. With an ERA of 3.08 in seven starts and 38 innings, Rock is the left hook to Mike Ruff’s right jab. He has the second most team strikeouts at 39, but does have more of a tendency to issue walks. Rock has reliably pitched at least five innings in each start this season and only has two starts where he’s given up more than two earned runs. His four seam fastball can hit as high as 97 MPH and comes equipped with a plus slider and a changeup that’s developing well. Combine that with a big frame at 6-foot-6 and a repeatable, deceptive delivery, and Rock has tantalizing potential to continue developing as a starter.
Shelby Lackey is someone I’m surprised isn’t higher on a lot of radars. After a strong final season at Pacific University in 2018—where he had an ERA of 3.48 over 88 innings—the Rockies drafted him as an 18th rounder. In college Lackey split time between the bullpen and rotation, but the Rockies organization has mostly used him in relief save for the 2019 season. In 2019 he made 21 starts with the full season A-level Ashville Tourists to mixed results. Lackey had an ERA of 5.47 over 100 1⁄3 innings in the Tourists’ rotation with a healthy K/9 of 10.1 and 113 total strikeouts. That’s not bad at all, but it’s clear his services are stronger out of the bullpen.
Shelby Lackey Career Minor League Stats
|2018||A (short) Boise Hawks||21||0||33.2||1.60||23||10||6||1||10||32||0.980||.195||.262||.246|
|2019||A (full) Ashville Tourists||21||21||100.1||5.47||108||74||61||13||39||113||1.465||.270||.354||.433|
|2021||High-A Spokane Indians||20||0||19.1||2.79||16||6||6||1||8||29||1.241||.216||.318||.284|
|2022||High-A Spokane Indians||13||0||15.0||1.80||9||4||3||1||7||15||1.067||.176||.288||.255|
Lackey has just three games where he’s given up an earned run, and has yet to give up more than one earned run in a game. Working in tandem with Luke Taggart in the closing role he has four saves in 15 innings. His 1.80 ERA is the third lowest on the Indians pitching staff. Lackey started the 2022 season with the Indians due to missing a large chunk of time in 2021 with a right elbow strain (June 13th through August 28th), but he’s a prime candidate for promotion to Double-A Hartford.
I’ve already talked at length about Luke Taggart. Despite several strong college seasons with Incarnate Word and Oklahoma, Taggart went undrafted in 2021 and the Rockies quickly snatched him up as a free agent. Tagged as the Rockies’ best late round or undrafted pick, Taggart made a strong first impression in the Arizona Complex League that year. In two appearances and three innings Taggart did not allow even a single baserunner while striking out six of the nine batters he faced.
Taggart was sent straight to High-A Spokane and has continued to thrive with an ERA of 0.42 through 13 appearances, 21 1⁄3 innings, and four saves. His WHIP is just 0.879, he’s struck out 28 batters and walked just seven, and he hasn’t given up a single home run. Hell, Taggart didn’t give up his first earned run until his his 11th appearance. He went 16 1⁄3 innings with a 0.00 ERA and a slash against of .115/.200/.115 while facing 60 batters during that time frame. Taggart has allowed more than one hit in an outing just twice, one of which was the same day he gave up his lone earned run. Taggart has been more than good. He’s been excellent, and he might earn a call-up much sooner than anyone anticipated.
★ ★ ★
The first quarter the has been full of terrifying lows, dizzying highs, and creamy middles. Sure, they might offend a few of the blue-noses with their cocky strides and musky odors. Oh! They’ll never be the darling of the so-called “City Fathers” who cluck their tongues, stroke their beards, and talk about “What’s to be done with these Colorado Rockies!?”
Anyway, Noah Yingling over at Rox Pile covers three of the Rockies’ strengths so far this season. CJ Cron has been one of the best hitters in baseball (at least at home), parts of the bullpen have been solid like Daniel Bard and Tyler Kinley, and Yonathan Daza is an on-base machine.
★ ★ ★
On the Farm
The Isotopes have lost seven of their last ten games, many of which have not been close. Tonight was no different. Starting pitcher Brandon Gold allowed two home runs, five hits, and four earned runs in five innings. Nate Griep continues to have a difficult season, lasting just 1⁄3 of an inning and yielding three runs on three hits and a walk. The Isotopes offense left ten runners stranded and were just 2-for-11 with RISP. Coco Montes, Jonathan Morales, and Ryan Vilade both had multi-hit games, while Tim Lopes and Dom Nuñez had the only RsBI of the night. Isotopes batters struck out 13 times to Express pitching.
No-hitter over, shutout over. Dom Nuñez lines an RBI single to right!— Albuquerque Isotopes (@ABQTopes) May 26, 2022
B5: Express 4, Isotopes 1 pic.twitter.com/mteTFwlxxo
Four early runs sealed the fate of the Yard Goats: three in the second and one in the third. Noah Gotsis lasted just four innings, giving up all four runs on five hits and a walk. The bullpen was mostly flawless, giving up only one hit over four innings, but the offense was unable to climb out of the hole. The Yard Goats had just four hits, but were somehow 0-for-10 with RISP and left eight men stranded. Michael Toglia and newcomer Tyler Hill were both 1-for-2 with two walks.
It was a tough start for Tony Locey and the Indians defense, who gave up four unearned runs in the first inning and another in the fourth due to two errors. Locey gave up six hits while walking three and striking out six. The bullpen was flawless. Anderson Pilar earned the win with two perfect frames in the sixth and seventh innings, striking out three. Luke Taggart continues to be nothing short of fabulous. He gave up two hits but held the AquaSox scoreless with three strikeouts of his own. Julio Carreras, Colin Simpson, and Grant Lavigne all hit home runs, while Daniel Montano extended his hitting streak to eight games with a 3-for-4 night.
Starting pitcher Case Williams had a strong night, keeping the damage to a minimum despite getting hammered by the Stockton bats. In six innings he gave up eight hits and a home run, but only two earned runs. Williams struck out nine batters to tie a career high and walked only one. Felix Ramires gave up one earned run on one hit and one walk in the seventh inning while Tyler Ras pitched a scoreless eighth. Tyler Ahearn earned his second save of the season. He did allow a solo home run, but struck out two in an otherwise solid final frame. Hunter Goodman and Warming Bernabel were both 2-for-4 tonight with two and one RsBI respectively. Right fielder Yanquiel Fernandez hit his third home run of the season with a two-run shot in the second inning.
B2 | Yanquiel Fernandez ties the game at 2 with this oppo homer! That is his 3rd clout of the season (1st at home) and the Grizzlies 50th team big fly! That big fly is presented by @iflyfresno. ⚾️ #RaisetheBear pic.twitter.com/H66A92NhD0— Fresno Grizzlies (@FresnoGrizzlies) May 26, 2022
★ ★ ★
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