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The Rockies desperately need to address their starting rotation for 2024

Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, January 4th, 2024

It’s no secret that the Colorado Rockies are having a quiet offseason. It’s officially the new year and the Rockies are one of just four clubs to have not spent a single solitary cent on MLB contracts, joining the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, and Miami Marlins. Outside of acquiring Cal Quantrill from the Cleveland Guardians, Jalen Beeks from the Tampa Bay Rays, and signing a handful of players to minor league contracts, the Rockies continue to sit silent with a month and a half until pitchers and catchers report in mid-February.

It’s been argued that this approach isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Rockies’ youth movement is moving into full swing with the emergence of Brenton Doyle, Nolan Jones, and Ezequiel Tovar as every-day starters and more young talent on the way from an underrated farm system.

The problem is that the Rockies youth movement currently only covers position players. When it comes to starting pitching the Rockies don’t have a lot of MLB-ready talent waiting in the wings, which is a problem when major league rotation is in desperate need of reinforcements.

After having a franchise high 17 pitchers start games in 2023, the Rockies are heading into 2024 with their pitching staff quite depleted. Only six of those pitchers used are expected to be on the Rockies’ active roster when spring training comes around.

Status of 2023 Rockies starting pitchers

Pitcher Name 2023 Starts Current Status
Pitcher Name 2023 Starts Current Status
Kyle Freeland 29 Rockies Active Roster
Austin Gomber 27 Rockies Active Roster
Chase Anderson 17 Free Agent
Ty Blach 13 MiLB deal (Rockies)
Connor Seabold 13 KBO (Samsung Lions)
Chris Flexen 12 MLB deal (White Sox)
Peter Lambert 11 Rockies Active Roster
Ryan Feltner 10 Rockies Active Roster
Noah Davis 6 Rockies Active Roster
José Ureña 5 Free Agent
Dinelson Lamet 4 Free Agent
Germán Márquez 4 60-day IL (Tommy John surgery)
Jake Bird 3 Rockies Active Roster
Karl Kauffmann 3 Triple-A Albuquerque
Brent Suter 2 Free Agent
Antonio Senzatela 2 60-day IL (Tommy John surgery)
Matt Koch 1 MiLB deal (Rockies)

The Rockies have just three cemented rotations spots entering the 2024 season. Now a veteran leader of the clubhouse, Kyle Freeland is the expected Opening Day starter after a serviceable 2023 campaign in which he posted a 5.03 ERA over 29 starts and 155 23 innings pitched. Following him will be fellow lefty Austin Gomber, who righted the ship after an extremely tough start to the season and became a reliable workhorse in a rotation devastated by injuries. Gomber made 27 starts with an ERA of 5.50 over 139 innings.

Acquired via trade in November, the right-handed Cal Quantrill looks to slot in at number three in the rotation. The pride of Port Hope, Ontario, Quantrill pitched very well in three of his first four big league seasons, but struggled in 2023 while dealing with shoulder inflammation. Described as a “pitcher’s pitcher” by skipper Bud Black, the Rockies are hoping Quantrill can return to form and aid an ailing rotation.

Beyond those three, the back end of the rotation is still up in the air. With no Germán Márquez or Antonio Senzatela to start the season after having Tommy John surgery, it’s Freeland, Gomber, Quantrill, Hopes, and Dreams.

Ryan Feltner and Peter Lambert are potential options for the fourth and fifth rotation spots, but their status is anything but certain. Feltner was an incredible comeback story after missing much of the season with a skull fracture caused by a comeback line drive, but he ended the season on the injured list with inflammation in his pitching elbow. Lambert similarly worked his way back to the big league roster only for his season to end early due to injury as well with biceps tendonitis.

On the minor league front there are a few potential names to consider but only one of which is on the Rockies’ 40-man roster at this time.

Noah Davis missed significant time due to injury—the dreaded elbow inflammation—and what time he spent with the Rockies was less than stellar. He posted an ERA of 8.70 over eight appearances and six starts with the big league club, though he has the tools to potentially succeed at the MLB level. His 6.02 FIP during those appearances as well as a 4.50 ERA in 14 starts with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes put him in a spot to earn his way into the rotation during spring training.

Karl Kauffmann has some hope for the future as well, but struggled with inconsistency during his rookie campaign. He made 11 appearances with the Rockies—including three starts—with an 8.23 ERA and was largely relegated to long relief and mop-up duty late in the season. He was outrighted off the Rockies’ 40-man roster at the end of the season.

Bringing up the rear are old reliable Ty Blach and minor leaguer Jeff Criswell. Blach was an adequate spot starter in 2023 and returned to the Rockies organization on a minor league deal this offseason. Criswell has yet to make his MLB debut and although he sharpened up somewhat at the tail end of the season with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, he struggled immensely with walks by issuing 71 free passes over 121 innings. There is some promise in Criswell however, as his 135 strikeouts in 2023 rank fourth all time in Isotopes single-season history.

The Rockies do have internal options, but it doesn’t exactly amount to a murderer’s row of starting pitching waiting in the wings at this time. Fangraphs currently ranks the Rockies’ starting pitching dead last in the league right now behind such powerhouses as the Oakland Athletics and Chicago White Sox.

The Rockies desperately need to bolster their rotation further for 2024. We know big names like Blake Snell are likely off the table due to the organization’s fear of splashy free agent signings at the position, and let’s be honest that someone like Yoshinobu Yamamoto was never even a possibility. However, less big names like Lucas Giolito and Frankie Montas are starting to drop off the board as well. There are still a decent number of free agent pitchers on the market, but the clock ticks ever closer to spring training and the Rockies have been as silent as the grave. Long having been a position of need, the front office needs to start pursuing potential pitchers sooner rather than later if they hope to avoid another grisly season.

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Rockies coach thriving as winter ball skipper | MLB.com

This excerpt from Thomas Harding’s newsletter follows Rockies assistant hitting coach Andy González as he finds success in his second managerial stint. González is the skipper for the Puerto Rican Leones de Ponce as the team finds itself making a playoff run this winter.

Prospects primed to break out in ‘24 — one for each team | MLB.com

Sam Dykstra and Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline explore a prospect primed to make headlines in the 2024 season for each organization. For the Rockies they highlight outfielder Robert Calaz, who signed with the team as an international free agent for $1.7 million last year. Calaz turned in a strong performance in the Dominican Summer League and could find himself with the Low-A Fresno Grizzlies this coming season.

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