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Three Rockies pitching prospects in make-or-break mode in 2024

Colorado Rockies news and links for Monday, October 23, 2023

The Colorado Rockies are starting to clean-up the roster now that their season is over. Some expected moves were made to start the process, such as outrighting veterans Harold Castro, Matt Koch and Austin Wynns. However, there have been more surprising moves made. Namely, designating Karl Kauffmann for assignment on Wednesday and following that up with a similar transaction regarding LHP Ryan Rolison on Friday.

It seems a sign of things to come for the organization, especially on the pitching front. There has been considerable turmoil in that department in previous seasons – mainly due to injury. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three Colorado pitching prospects that are in major need of repairing their value in 2024.

Ryan Rolison

While it’s no guarantee that Rolison won’t be picked up by another organization through waivers, it would certainly be surprising to see another team use a 40-man spot to acquire him considering the lefties’ injury troubles in recent seasons.

Drafted in the first round of the 2018 draft, Rolison genuinely felt like a fast-riser in the minor league system. A solid run through the A-Ball levels in 2019 reinforced that sentiment. He continued that trend with an impressive showing in the alternative site camp in 2020 — when there was no minor league season — however that momentum came to an abrupt halt in 2021.

After reaching the Triple-A level, Rolison was shut down after just 65 ⅓ IP due to appendicitis and a broken hand suffered during batting practice. Then the shoulder injuries crept in while he was pitching in the Dominican Winter League that year.

That last injury cost him all of the 2022 season before he went under the knife with sights set on returning to the mound in 2023. He did just that, debuting with Low-A Fresno in the middle of May and stuck around for another start before getting bumped-up to Triple-A to pick-up from where he left off. But Rolison was shut down again after just two starts, and again it was the throwing arm at the source of the problems.

He missed the rest of the year and his future in the organization is now as unknown as ever. A once-prominent piece of Colorado’s future rotation ambitions, Rolison has now thrown just 82 ⅔ innings over the past three seasons and there are little indications that he is physically in a spot to perform at a quality level.

If he returns to the Rockies organization, he will need to show that he can provide the quality and quantity of pitching that is needed to remain in the picture of the club’s future.

Helcris Olivarez

Like Rolison, Helcris Olivarez was a highly-touted lefty that was well in management’s plans after his stateside debut in 2019. He hit a skid in his momentum in 2021 when he posted a 6.68 ERA with 68 BB and unsightly 21 hit-batters in 99 ⅔ IP at High-A Spokane.

It was a far-cry from the promise he showed in his Spring Training trips in 2019 and 2021, but there was still visible talent on display from the Dominican Republic native.

The following year, Olivarez suffered a scapula strain before the season. That injury virtually wiped out his season and ultimately led him to the surgery table as well. That shoulder procedure cost him all of the 2023 campaign, leaving Helcris with just two innings pitched in the last two years.

At this point Olivarez has still yet to show an ability to command his arsenal and get upper-level hitters out. Now, there are serious concerns about how much of his once-promising arsenal even remains after two years away. Whether Olivarez can return and how he looks should be an important point of focus for the Rockies in 2024.

Sam Weatherly

Finishing out the trio of hobbled left-handed hurlers is Sam Weatherly, a third-round selection out of Clemson University in the 2020 draft. He showed his overpowering stuff in his first year in the organization, racking up 96 strikeouts and 69 IP with then Low-A Lancaster in 2021.

His start to the 2022 season was similar with 23 punch-outs in 11 ⅔ innings, but the majority of that action came in the Arizona Complex League as he was shut down after just one appearance in High-A Spokane before attempting a brief rehab stint in the ACL – ultimately getting put on the shelf again with a shoulder injury.

Like Olivarez and Rolison, Weatherly’s troubled shoulder ultimately led to surgery which wiped out his 2023 season as well. With almost no experience beyond the lowest full-season level, Weatherly still has much to prove on his ability to be viewed as a future big league pitcher. But that was a status he held prior to going down and one he can retain with a durable and productive 2024 season.

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Grading the 2023 Colorado Rockies on what truly matters | Mile High Sports

Drew Creasman gives his thoughts on the Colorado Rockies performance in all aspects of the organization. His segments cover ownership, performances of general manager Bill Schmidt and manager Bud Black as well as the development and performance of the farm system.

Jim Leyland is on the Era Hall of Fame ballot | Bless You Boys - SB Nation

Former Rockies manager Jim Leyland will appear on the Contemporary Era Baseball Committee Hall of Fame ballot, which will be announced on December 3, 2023. Leyland is best know for his time managing the Pittsburgh Pirates, Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers, winning a championship with the Marlins in 1997. In between Florida and Detroit, Leyland manged the Rockies to a 72-90 record in the 1999 season, his only year with the organization before resigning due to concerns on effectively managing in Colorado’s environment.

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Pebble Report: Arizona Fall League

The ups-and-downs have continued for the Salt River Rafters as they dropped their last four games and now sit 9-9 on the season, fourth place in the league. Chris McMahon was part of the woes during the week, surrendering four runs on six hits in his 2 13 innings pitched. Case Williams was touched for his first runs of the fall, surrendering three in 2 13 IP after going scoreless in his first six frames. On the bright side, Jaden Hill posted two hitless innings with three strikeouts.

At the plate, Benny Montgomery continued his torrid season with a team-high seven hits during the week — four going for extra-bases including his first home run of the season. He finished with six RBI and a .368/.429/.737 line in 21 plate appearances.

2023 AFL Hitters (Season to Date)

Benny Montgomery 26/78 3 14 27 10
Sterlin Thompson 27/80 0 18 24 7
Drew Romo 9/39 0 8 9 1

2023 AFL Pitchers (Season to Date)

Alec Barger 8/0 9.1 2/1 2 13
Jaden Hill 11/0 11.1 6/4 4 13
Chris McMahon 5/1 8.2 10/0 4 8
Juan Mejia 8/0 8.1 3/2 9 16
Case Williams 6/6 17 6/6 9 16

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