Pitching is the name of the game for the Colorado Rockies this offseason — which is nothing new — and while they have brought in just two pieces for the Major League team, minor league contracts have been and will continue to be the main way they build up depth. One such option returning for his third straight season is the Little Cat himself, Ty Blach.
Signed on a minor league pact before the 2022 season, Blach has found himself bouncing between the big league roster and Triple-A Albuquerque for the past two seasons and once again finds himself in competition for a spot on the roster. Knowing the role he played with the pitching staff in 2022 and 2023, how big a role will Blach play for the 2024 Rockies?
When Blach signed with the Rockies in 2022 it was with the understanding that he would likely factor in as a long reliever with the potential to start from time to time. That year went exactly to plan as he appeared in just 24 games and pitched to a 5.89 ERA before some injuries and underperformance landed him in Triple-A and he was eventually outrighted and became a free agent after the season. Once again he returned to the Rockies in 2023 where his role changed a bit more, even if the results didn’t.
After once again breaching the Opening Day roster, Blach struggled as a long reliever in the first month of the season. At the end of April, he struggled to an 8.18 ERA in 11 innings over six games and was subsequently designated for assignment. He passed through waivers unclaimed and accepted the assignment to Triple-A where he began to focus on a blend of being a reliever while working as a starter most of the time. From May 6 to June 23, Blach pitched in 11 games, including five starts, for a 4.40 ERA over a total of 30 2⁄3 innings. In the hitter-friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League, it wasn’t too shabby for Blach and with the rotation continually decimated by injuries, the Rockies selected Blach once again at the beginning of July to join the rotation.
Blach would fill that spot for the rest of the seasons for 13 starts. In that span, pitched 67 innings over 14 games, posting a 5.10 ERA. In total on the season, Blach pitched 78 innings, finishing the season with a 5.54 ERA (xERA 7.21). In addition, he had a 5.63 FIP (xFIP 5.01), and 110 ERA-. Blach earned a 5.77 K/9, 2.77 BB/9, and 1.73 HR/9.
Once again he found himself outrighted after the season and became a free agent until he reportedly re-signed with the Rockies last week. The Rockies enjoyed his presence in the rotation last season but is he the answer to help stabilize shaky rotation?
The Rockies currently have three presumed locks in the rotation heading into 2024 with left-handers Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber, followed by newly acquired right-hander Cal Quantrill. Germán Márquez and Antonio Senzatela are out for at least half the season due to Tommy John surgeries and the Rockies may still feel that they can’t fully rely on Ryan Feltner, Peter Lambert, and Noah Davis. The plan seems to be to build depth to create competition in spring training, but at this point, it feels that Blach is a shoo-in to join the roster once Opening Day comes around.
While Blach works quickly and throws strikes, he does so to detrimental effects. Blach isn’t exactly the hardest-throwing pitcher out there (then again who is for the Rockies starters?) and therefore can’t rely on strikeouts. His 14.2 K% ranks in the second percentile while his 43.4 Hard Hit% was in the 20th percentile. His 15.1 Whiff% ranks in the first percentile while also ranking in lower percentiles in a myriad of offensive stats like xBA and xWOBA.
Blach is at his best when he can work quickly and induce ground balls and soft contact by attacking the bottom of the zone. That has been his pitching lexicon for his career and fits a Rockies mold, whether the team admits it or not. There is no doubt that he could easily eat up at least five innings each start, but they aren’t exactly going to be the prettiest outings. In his final 11 starts of 2023, he failed to complete five innings in just three of those games but he gave up at least three or more runs in eight of those 11 starts. He can be efficient and work deeper into games, but the Rockies better hope their offense is ready to put up some runs.
There is no problem with the Rockies bringing Blach back on a minor league deal to provide some depth, but the team cannot become complacent with the thought of penciling him in as a starter in the rotation. Preferably he would only get big league time should an injury happen to someone or a younger arm just isn’t panning out whatsoever. Blach works well as a contingency plan for the 2024 season as either a starter or long reliever, but what will his role be exactly? Unfortunately, we can only wait and see what else the Rockies do leading up to spring training before we can fully answer that question.
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Our own Renee Dechert not only writes Tuesday Rockpiles for this site but produces plenty of extra baseball coverage for the folks at Just Baseball. Renee lends some expertise to answer the question as to whether the Rockies can be an exciting team to watch next season. To summarize her article, yes they can, but the ability to do that is a little more complicated. Renee does share some intriguing options/reasons for us to watch next season.
The Rockies released Connor Seabold prior to the Rule-5 draft and it was reported last Friday that he would be heading overseas to the KBO. Seabold has had a rough big league career thus far and didn’t fare well with the Rockies last season. Hopefully, he can find himself again in the KBO and make a triumphant return to MLB in the near future.
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