Thursday, November 29, 2012

An outsider’s overview of the Rockies in 2012, Part 1

I moved to Denver in the summer of 2006 from Minnesota and have remained a Twins fan despite the superior success of the Rockies since then (I do realize that they’re in a tail spin much like the Twins are in recently). Because I’m a Twins fan I’m familiar with following an inclusive, promote-from-within, loyal-to-a-fault organization—an organization that’s conservative when it comes to free agents and the unknown in general.  In order to get to know the Rockies better, I’ve decided to begin this blog. So begins part 1 of my 5 part take on the players and staff that make up the bulk of the greater Rockies ball club.

I realize that pitching is different at Coors Field, and there’s no secret as to why the Rockies have the worst ERA in baseball since their inception, pitching in the premiere offensive park in the majors. Overall, they do not have a surplus of quality pitching, but it's hard to imagine them being worse than they were in 2012 (5.22 ERA, dead last in MLB. Next worst ERA belongs to Cleveland at 4.78). In no particular order, I’d like to pick out what I see as being a few lowlights and highlights of the 40 man roster staff.

#49 Rex Brothers. This guy is simply a strikeout machine. With strikeout rates of 11 and 13 per nine in the last two years, he ranked near the top of league leaders in that category in 2012 (16th out of players who had at least 60 IP). Strikeouts are the kind of numbers that cannot be easily faked in the majors, and are a valuable weapon to a team like the Rockies where every fly ball put in play has a chance to be a home run. In order to become elite, he needs to cut down on his walks but even if he doesn’t and continues to strikeout 11-13 per nine he’ll be a very serviceable player for years to come.

#37 Adam Ottavino. He’s a decent pitcher. Fairly average and should be valued as such. In the minors he struck out between 7.4 and 11.4 per nine, but I see him as settling into the majors at a 7-8 clip which is average to slightly above average. He walks a fair amount of batters and gives up an average amount of home runs. That being said, I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in 2013.

#63 Rafael Betancourt. He’s been in the league a long time---I remember him as a reliever in Cleveland well. He had a nice looking ERA in 2012 but he also experienced a drop off in his strikeout rate, and an increase in hits per nine and walks per nine. I would argue that he’s been a great addition at a great dollar value for the Rockies, especially since according to Fan Graphs he’s produced $6.5-8 million of value for the club per year. In fact, he’s had his best years ever (outside 2007) with the Rockies. Even though he took a slight step back last year, the Rockies were right to pick up his $4.25 million option. However, the Rockies should not be signing him to multiple years or closer dollars next off-season regardless of what he does in 2013.

#13 Drew Pomeranz. Even though I don’t think he’s the Rockies #1 prospect as Baseball America has dubbed him, I have hope for him and I’d like to see him make it. However, in the most professional innings he’s ever pitched he had a fairly poor xFIP, an average strikeout rate, and a fairly high walks per nine. His numbers in AAA (and high single A and AA in 2011) are encouraging. Keep your eye on this one.

#34 Matt Belisle. He’s a good pitcher, this guy, and at a bargain price, too. Make him the closer if Betancourt flounders or declines significantly.

#32 Tyler Chatwood. Not crazy about this guy—between the walks and a lack of punch out power I don’t see a bright future for him in Colorado.

#6 Alex White. Another replacement level pitcher. He’s put up decently shiny numbers in the minors a couple times. Not enough strikeouts and far too many walks last year. He’s certainly suited for the experimental long reliever role, though.

#45 Jhoulys Chacin. He’s obviously a big question mark at this point. No one seems to doubt the talent and the potential he has. In 2010-11 he was a stud. Higher-ups in the organization once questioned his conditioning program. Without details it’s hard to if the criticism is warranted. Whenever I hear reports like that I always question whether or not the same public criticisms are applied to white players.

#88 Josh Outman. Clearly the best name for a pitcher EVER. He's not particularly bad, either. Slightly below average fastball, curveball, and change up, but an above average slider. He had an ugly looking 8.19 ERA, but his peripherals and track record say that he's much better than that. Despite his reputation as a fly-ball pitcher, his ground ball rate jumped 7% (possibly due to increasing his percentage of sliders thrown) once he landed in Colorado from Oakland, but the Rockies simply lacked the infield talent necessary to turn those balls into outs.

#29 Jorge de la Rosa. He's several years removed from a stellar 2009 and decent 2010, but has the capability to be a quality pitcher when healthy. There's very little chance that he's going to be worth the $11 million due to him by the end of 2013, and if that's the case, the Rockies simply decline his 2014 option and walk away.

I will cover Chad Bettis and Tyler Anderson in my prospects section later