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Which pitching prospects should be on the Opening Day roster?

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, January 5th, 2023

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Last week I discussed the Colorado Rockies position prospects who should stand the best chance to make the Opening Day 26-man roster in 2023. If you’ll recall, I commented that any rookie or prospect would have a tough time breaking the roster unless the team made some trades because the Opening Day lineup is expected to be largely the same as the 2022 season. When it comes to the pitching prospects, things might be even harder. While the Rockies did part ways with Carlos Estévez, they also brought in two big league relievers in Brent Suter and Pierce Johnson. They’ve also signed multiple pitchers with big league experience to minor league deals like old hand Matt Carasiti and former Red Sox pitcher Phillips Valdéz. That’s a lot of competition for a prospect or a rookie, but there are a few who have a shot.

RHP Jeff Criswell — Starter/Reliever

Although the Rockies had a relatively quiet Winter Meetings, one of their key moves was swapping righties with the Oakland Athletics. The Rockies sent Chad Smith to Oakland and received Jeff Criswell in return. Criswell—currently ranked the Rockies’ no. 19 organizational prospect—is a big bodied pitcher out of the University of Michigan, where he worked both out of the rotation and bullpen and can be projected for either role at a big league level.

He works with a four pitch mix in which the highlight is his power slider. His slider breaks vertically with good bite and works well against right-handed hitters. Criswell throws a four seam fastball with a repeatable delivery which sits mostly low 90s, but he can pump it up to 97 MPH at times. He also throws a curveball and a changeup with good whiff potential.

At 23-years old, Criswell rocketed up from High-A to Triple-A over the 2022 season while working mostly as a starter. In High-A Lansing he worked a 3.78 ERA over 10 starts and followed that up with a 4.21 ERA in Double-A Midland over 12 appearances and nine starts. He finished the season with two starts and 10 23 innings pitched with Triple-A Las Vegas where he gave up five earned runs. The Rockies need depth both in the bullpen and in the rotation, and Criswell is the team’s highest ranked prospect above the Double-A level.

RHP Riley Pint — Reliever

After a brief retirement, a return to the organization, and a lot of new experience, the former 2016 first round pick is on the precipice of MLB baseball. Riley Pint reached the highest level of professional ball he’s played in his career during the 2022 season and the Rockies decided to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Now it might be time for him to spread his wings and fly.

After being completely out of baseball in 2021, Pint returned to the fold looking comfortable on the mound. In 42 23 innings with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats he posted a 4.85 ERA with 55 strikeouts. While he is still working on his command—he walked 29 batters and hit eight—his pitches still show why the Rockies drafted him all those years ago. His four seam fastball can still reach triple digits and his arsenal of breaking pitches works well for him, especially his power curveball.

Pint was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque and made three appearances before getting shut down with a right forearm strain. Now that he’s on the 40-man roster, Pint will likely get substantial reps during spring training.

RHP Noah Davis — Starter

Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds last year, Noah Davis made just one appearance with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes in 2022, having spent most of his season with Double-A Hartford. Davis struggled with giving up runs in Double-A, posting an ERA of 5.54 in 26 starts while giving up 26 home runs. However, he excelled at striking out batters with a team high 152. Davis made one start with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes for 4 23 innings while giving up one earned run. Davis made his big league debut on the final day of the 2022 season against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He threw 32 pitches in his single MLB inning, striking out two batters but giving up two earned runs and a solo home run.

Noah Davis still has work to do, but he’s a part of the current 40-man roster and has been putting in the offseason work. Recently Davis posted on his social media that he was working with Driveline to develop a cutter for his arsenal. His performance during spring training in 2023 will likely determine if he starts the season in Triple-A or if he gets another crack at the majors sooner rather than later.

RHP Gavin Hollowell — Reliever

Gavin Hollowell also spent most of 2022 with the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, and the towering 6’7’’ righty had promising results. In 42 appearances over 48 23 innings out of the Yard Goats bullpen Hollowell posted an ERA of 3.14 with 64 strikeouts to just 14 walks. He also only allowed three home runs. He bypassed Triple-A entirely to make his big league debut towards the end of the season. He made six appearances and pitched seven innings with the Rockies and gave up seven earned runs for a 7.71 ERA. He showed promise with eight strikeouts, utilizing his excellent sweeping slider.

Hollowell’s slider is his premiere pitch, hitting between 80-83 MPH with heavy glove-side sweeping action. His arsenal also includes both a sinker and a four seam fastball, a solid changeup, and a cutter.

Our own Mario DeGenz has written fairly extensively on Gavin Hollowell this offseason. You can turn to his review of Hollowell’s big league debut, or his crafted gameplan for Hollowell’s future.

The Rockies’ farm system is notably bottom-heavy when it comes to pitching, and realistically I think they only carry one rookie pitcher on the 2023 Opening Day roster at most. However, I think these four young men represent the closest arms they have to major league readiness. One of them, potentially more, will have their shot to break camp this coming season.

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What I’m hearing from MLB front offices is the next move for every team | The Athletic ($)

Jim Bowden of the Athletic suggests the Rockies might still look to add a left-handed outfielder prior to spring training, though Brandon Nimmo, Cody Bellinger, and Kevin Kiermaier are now all off the market. He also believes the Rockies will aim to add at least two more pitchers to their staff for depth. Notably he also believes the Chicago White Sox might attempt to trade for Brendan Rodgers.

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