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The Rockies would be wise to target pitching early in the 2022 draft

Colorado Rockies news and links for Saturday, June 4, 2022

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Drafting based solely on need is never advisable, especially when it comes to the MLB Amateur Draft. The Rockies famously passed on Evan Longoria (and many other future All-Stars) in 2006 because they already had a third baseman of the future in Ian Stewart. It was a pick made for all the wrong reasons and became the most polarizing selection in franchise history.

But that doesn’t mean the current state of a farm system shouldn’t factor into a decision, either. And the current state of pitching in the Colorado Rockies farm can be described in one word: ailing.

It’s not completely empty. Ryan Feltner has continued his ascent through the minors and is now on the cusp of becoming an established big-leaguer. Karl Kauffmann has been thriving in his second season in Double-A Hartford while Joe Rock is off to a promising start in his first full-season in High-A Spokane. And some of the younger arms in Fresno, namely Victor Juarez and Case Williams are showing flashes of dominance.

But, anyone that follows the Pebble Report and our top Purple Row’s PuRPs list will attest that these are not the names we were expecting to be leading the conversation this season. Not to take away from their, or others, performances, but the bigger story has been the number of pitchers that have yet to pitch at all.

Season to Date (Pitchers)

Name PuRP Ranking Level G/GS IP R/ER SO BB
Name PuRP Ranking Level G/GS IP R/ER SO BB
Ryan Rolison 4 Triple-A (IL) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Chris McMahon 9 N/A (IL) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Jaden Hill 12 N/A (IL) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Helcris Olivarez 13 Triple-A (IL) N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Sam Weatherly 14 High-A 2/2 6.1 4/4 11 2
Ryan Feltner 15 MLB 8/8 38.1 19/16 48 12
Joe Rock 16 High-A 12/12 67.1 35/28 73 25
Noah Davis 19 Double-A 14/14 68.2 54/51 75 34
Karl Kauffmann 20 Double-A 13/13 68.0 31/30 74 26
Jordy Vargas 21 DSL 2/2 9.0 2/2 14 1
Mitchell Kilkenny 23 Double-A 11/11 38.0 29/29 30 14
McCade Brown 29 Low-A 8/8 38.0 26/23 57 13
Tony Locey HM High-A 11/11 62.0 28/19 64 36
Julian Fernández HM Triple-A 25/0 22.0 23/21 21 14
Brayan Castillo HM Low-A 12/12 55.0 36/31 51 28

After missing most of the 2021 season due to various injuries, Colorado’s top pitching prospect Ryan Rolison (No. 4 PuRP) has been on the shelf since Spring Training with an injury to his throwing shoulder and is now likely undergoing surgery, knocking him out for the entire season.

The next best arms in the system are also noticeably absent. Chris McMahon (No. 9 PuRP), Jaden Hill (No. 12 PuRP), Helcris Oliveraz (No. 13 PuRP) and Sam Weatherly (No. 14 PuRP) have all yet to pitch this season, and the timelines for each are still vague. Like Rolison, Oliveraz went down with a shoulder injury in Spring Training and was recently placed on the 60-day IL. Jaden Hill underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2021, so his rehabilitation has at least been expected but there’s a good chance he may be the first one back. As for McMahon and Weatherly, lingering lat injuries have kept any firm timelines from being established regarding their season debuts.

It is a sad state of affairs, but the Rockies do hold four of the top-50 selections in the upcoming draft. Sitting 10th, 31st, 38th and 50th, Colorado is in a position to aggressively address this issue. If, or how, they choose to do that will be very interesting.

Projections so far have Colorado landing a college bat with their first selection. The top of this class is stacked with hitters, so it’s understandable if an outstanding hitter like Jace Jung falling to the 10th selection could be too appealing to pass up. But this top-heavy structure puts the Rockies in a precarious position of possibly being able to select any pitcher they want with that pick, instead. The catch is the top of the pitching crop is largely constructed by prep arms – namely Brock Porter and Dylan Lesko – and some of the most appealing collegiate arms – like Blade Tidwell and Connor Prielipp – come with genuine health concerns.

Given Colorado’s rocky history with selecting high school arms and the current health woes of the pitchers in the system, this obviously presents a dilemma. That is especially true in the case of Lesko, who was viewed as the consensus top arm in the draft before going under the knife for Tommy John surgery in April.

So maybe the team rolls the dice on the best arm on their board with their top pick, or maybe they play it safe by selecting the best hitter remaining from the top of the class. An argument can be made for going either direction. But what the team does with the compensation pick received from Trevor Story departing, the competitive balance selection proceeding it and their first pick of the second round is where the real possibilities lay.

There will be plenty of time to debate the names that rise and fall between now and draft day on July 17. There’s still plenty of games left over the next month that will sway stocks, as will showcases for arms such as Prielipp, Kumar Rocker and Carson Wisenhunt. Signability will also become clearer for many of the prep arms, helping guide the decisions of all front offices.

But the 2022 season has shown that pitching depth is still a large concern for the Rockies organization. No single draft selection will rehabilitate that situation in the short-term. But the organization needs to take lessons from this and recent seasons and take steps to address future problems of slim pickings from the system. With four early selections in the upcoming draft, they have the capital to do so.

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Girardi dismissed; Rob Thomson named interim manager | MLB

After a 22-29 start to the season, the Philadelphia Phillies fired manager Joe Girardi on Friday and named Rob Thomson as interim manager. Girardi has been the team’s manager since 2019 and held a career record of 132-141 (.484). The Phillies have not made the playoffs since 2011.

Two top Rockies prospects will undergo surgery and Colorado’s pitching depth is in trouble | The Athletic ($)

Not only is Ryan Rolison’s season ending because of shoulder surgery, but so is Colton Welker’s. Rolison’s injury is still not fully understood, and the organization is hoping to learn more about the extent of his injury during the surgery. For Welker, a shoulder impingement/labrum repair in his left shoulder is the reason for surgery. This is essentially the third-straight missed season for each following the 2020 pandemic and injuries for Rolison and a suspension for Welker in 2021.

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On the Farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 8, Sugar Land Space Cowboys 7

The Isotopes came out on the right side of a wild game in Sugar Land. The Space Cowboys took an early 2-0 lead in the first, but Albuquerque struck back with three of their own in the second, all scoring on a D.J. Peterson homer. Up 4-3 through five innings, Albuquerque fell behind when Zach Neal surrendered a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth. But the Isotopes would rally, as Johnson drove in another with a single before a double-steal plated the tying run. The teams headed to extra innings and traded runs in the 10th. Albuquerque would tack on another off a Bret Boswell double in the 11th before Logan Cozart pitched a scoreless ninth to close things out.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 9, Reading Fightin’ Phils 4

After losing both games of a double-header yesterday, the Yard Goats got their revenge earlier on Friday. Hartford plated three runs in the second inning to take an early lead and stretched it further with a Kyle Datres grand slam in the fourth inning. Up 7-0, starter Noah Davis ran into trouble in the fourth inning, coughing up four runs to bring the lead down to the three. But that’s as close as Reading would get as Davis settled in, finishing the night with three hits,four walks and five strikeouts over six innings. Ezequiel Tovar had two hits in the game, including his 11th homer of the season and Datres finished the night with five RBI.

High-A: Spokane Indians, Vancouver Canadians (PPD)

The fourth game of Spokane’s road series against Vancouver was postponed due to wet field conditions. It is scheduled to be played as the second game of a double-header on Saturday.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 11, Modesto Nuts 10

Adael Amador got the Grizzlies off to a lead as early as possible, homering on the first pitch of the game. Fresno would plate another in the first inning on a Juan Guerrero double before scoring three more in the third and heading into the fourth held a 5-2 lead. Starter Brayan Castillo would help keep it that way, as he allowed just the two over five innings pitched with five strikeouts.

But things would change dramatically as the Fresno bullpen coughed up five runs in the bottom of sixth, pulling Modesto ahead by one run at the time. An RBI single by Hunter Goodman would tie it back up before E.J. Andrews Jr. pulled Fresno ahead with an RBI double. The Nuts would get it back, however, and the teams traded solo homers in the eighth inning, leaving the score knotted up at 9 heading into the ninth. In extras, the teams would each score in 10th inning before held off the board in the 11th. But Fresno got the last laugh, scoring on an E.J. Andrews double-play before Felix Ramires closed out the game with a scoreless final frame.

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