The Colorado Rockies have been bad this year, much worse than most people expected. They seem to be in a position where they need to rebuild the roster. So out of the 43 players (3 on the 60 day DL) on the current 40 man roster, who should the Rockies “build around?”. That is, who should they keep, who should they trade, and which contracts are either too big or expiring too quickly to be part of the rebuild. I was originally going to do this with the Houston Astros, but I have written about several of their players on this site, so I decided to use the Rockies instead (I have already written a Mariner 40 man roster evaluation, but this will be slightly different).
The starting pitching for the Rockies has been just awful so far this year. They have been so bad, that they have made radical changes on how they use starters. We could go into a bunch of statistics to show how bad they have been, but my favorite is the fact that of the 13 starters the Rockies have used this year, the three with the lowest walk rates are Jamie Moyer, Jeremy Guthrie, and Jeff Francis.
Jeff Francis has been okay this year with a 106 FIP -, but with his age, contract situation, and 85 MPH fastball, he isn’t a part of the next competitive Rockies team. It is a very similar story for a guy like Jason Giambi. He has been serviceable, but his age, contract, and diminishing skill set keeps him from being on the next competitive Rockie team.
Josh Outman has a pretty good fastball (94.20 MPH average this year) with a sinker to get him grounders and a slider to get him whiffs. He is a guy who they knew got more fly-balls than grounders when they acquired him in the offseason. He has actually spent most of the year at AA after struggling in 31 big league innings at Coors. He doesn’t miss a ton of bats and doesn’t seem to suit Coors very well.
Edwar Cabrera made his first two career starts in the big leagues earlier this year and they were complete disasters. He has also struggled with injuries and was mediocre in 6 AAA starts. He has below average fastball velocity, relying on moving it and throwing quite a bit of changeups and a curveball. According to scouting reports, the change is the good pitch and the curve isn’t very good at all. According to Pitch F/X, his movement isn’t anything to write about. I don’t really see him being a real option for the Rockies in a starting capacity.
Tyler Chatwood is more interesting than he was last year thanks to improved velocity and a decent slider (he was mainly a curve guy last year). The fastball and movement give you belief that he can at least be a reliever even though he doesn’t miss a ton of bats, he has been getting more ground-balls than he did with the Angels.
Jhoulys Chacin has been just dreadful this year after being solid the past two years. The ground-ball rate has dropped and his line drive rate has soared. He has seen a drop in velocity in his fastball and has started throwing it less. You can’t tell any difference in the movement he is getting according to Pitch F/X, but the drop in velocity and effectiveness are almost certainly related. He has had injury problems this year, so there is a good chance that there is correlation between the injuries/loss of velocity/lack of effectiveness. Whether the velocity returns or not will determine whether or not Chacin is part of the future of the Rockies. Like many of the Rockies pitchers, he still has a lot of team control and won’t be a free agent until 2016.
Jorge De La Rosa threw 59 innings last year and didn’t pitch this year thanks to an injury. He has a 11 million dollar option for next year, but I believe it is a player option. They may be stuck with him next year. He has been good as a Rockie when healthy, but on the wrong side of 30 with a serious injury history rules him out of being part of the Rockies rotation in a few years.
Christian Friedrich made his MLB debut this year, starting 16 games before going on the DL. DIPs suggest that he was about a mid-rotation starter. He was picked in the late first round by the Rockies in the 2008 draft. When I saw him in the minors earlier this year, he was sitting anywhere between 90-94 MPH with a good curveball and solid command. He has about league average velocity (91.6 MPH) but gets grounders by using a cutter and a moving fastball. He is interesting and a guy I think will be in Rockies rotations for years to come.
Jonathan Sanchez has pitched about how you would have expected in 3 starts after the trade and then was placed on the DL. He will most certainly be non-tendered in the off-season. Guillermo Moscoso is a guy who has looked decent to pretty good in other places, but has been an absolute disaster in Colorado. He doesn’t get grounders and has a mediocre at best fastball.
Juan Nicasio is a guy who has been good when healthy but has suffered two bad injuries in consecutive years. A lot of that is luck, but eventually it becomes hard to count on him. Luckily, he still has several years of team control and a 89 career FIP -. With his 94 MPH fastball, he will get a lot of chances, and if he stays healthy, he should be a part of the Rockies rotation for the next several years.
Drew Pomeranz has been serviceable this year as a starter after originally coming in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. Despite throwing virtually only fastballs (with below average velocity), he gets quite a bit of ground-balls and a respectable (though certainly underwhelming) amount of strikeouts. He will have to develop something off-speed to really be better than just a back of the rotation guy, but there is team control and a little bit of promise there.
Alex White is another one of the players the Rockies got in the Ubaldo trade, and he has a good fastball that he can cut or move, but throws a ton of sliders. I remember watching game this year when he was in AAA where he was just throwing slider after slider and really struggling with walks. When he finally started throwing 94 MPH fastballs, he started having success. He hasn’t throw the changeup this year, and that really makes him less interesting as a starter. I am not sure what to make of him, but my guess is that he eventually becomes a full time reliever.
Tyler Colvin has had a pretty monster offensive year (126 wRC+) this year in Coors despite a horrible K/BB ratio. So as you expect, his BABIP has been really high, .062 points higher than career average. He has been a below league average hitter in his career, and there are somewhat mixed reviews on his defense and other skills. There is a real hitch in Colvin’s swing, which means he needs to cheat on fastballs, which is (most likely) why he struggles with strikeouts and doesn’t walk. He won’t be a free agent until 2017, so there is team control. However, the Rockies can’t expect this kind of production moving forward. He is hitting the ball harder this year according to GB/LD/FB, but he seems to be a 4th outfielder.
The Rockies are stuck with Michael Cuddyer until after the 2014 season. He is a solid hitter, but it comes with average at best baserunning skills, and just awful defense. With the team they have now, it doesn’t look like the Rockies will be a playoff type team until after the 2014 season anyway, but he isn’t going to live up to that contract. Their best move is probably to eat most of the contract in a trade and try to get a couple prospects for him.
Dexter Fowler will not be a free agent until 2016 and has been rumored as an extension candidate. He seems to be the kind of player that the Rockies want to build around. On the road, Dexter Fowler has been a .248/.328/.368 hitter for his career and is hitting .268/.327/.391 this year. So really, he is an under average hitter over a large sample size. Even though if he sticks with Coors he will continue to put up decent numbers overall (.887 OPS at home, 101 OPS +), you will just be paying a player for the ballpark. The Rockies should not overpay hitters (just as the Mariners/Athletics shouldn’t and don’t overpay pitchers). UZR and DRS both have him as an awful defender, although he is a really good athlete. Depending on how you view his defense, he may not be a guy that should be part of the Rockies long term future (or at least shouldn’t be paid greatly for it).
This brings up Carlos Gonzalez as well, another below average defender that crushes the ball at home (1.009 OPS) and is mediocre on the road (.740). When he was with the Oakland Athletics, he had a .662 OPS at home. The very next year, when he joined the Rockies, he had a .943 OPS. Coors Field has the ability to make mediocre hitters look awesome and decent pitchers (see Jeremy Guthrie) look horrible. The Rockies have done a horrible job identifying what hitters are expendable (getting rid of Seth Smith) and which hitters to spend a lot of money on (Michael Cuddyer). Their defense has been horrible this year, and they need to figure out how to rebuild this part of the team. Committing to Gonzalez and Fowler (depending on how you view their defense) just seems to compound this problem for me.
Before this year, Eric Young had been a below replacement player and his walk rate has actually dropped this year. He isn’t a free agent until 2017, but I would be shocked if he made it as a Rockie until then. Ramon Hernandez is a 36 year old catcher that hasn’t hit at all this year. He is under contract for next year, but I would be a little surprised if he made it through the 2013 season. Todd Helton has been the face of the franchise, but there is a good chance he won’t ever play again thanks to another injury. Regardless, he has nothing to do with the future of the Rockies roster.
Is Wilin Rosario the future Rockies catcher? He isn’t a free agent until 2018, so he will at least get a shot (unless they trade him). So far, Rosario has played 110 games in the Majors and has a 97 OPS +. That is slightly below league average, but since he is catcher, you give him a little slack and realize that he has been roughly average. He is a better hitter at home, but is solid on the road, with a .759 OPS. He doesn’t walk much and strikes out a ton, but has a low BABIP (so there isn’t concern that he will regress in that way). Really aggressive hitter. Strong arm behind the plate but his other defensive skills aren’t very good.
Chris Nelson has been given 167 games in the Majors. Both statistics and scouting reports (as well as my eye) say that he is bad defensively, and he has been really bad with the bat, with a career 80 wRC+. When you look at his at-bats, he doesn’t really look like a big league player either. Jonathan Herrera has gotten a long look in the Majors, and despite playing good defense according to defensive metrics, has not hit much at all. It looks like his time in the Majors (or at least with the Rockies) is running out. Andrew Brown is sort of a borderline MLB/AAAA player who was claimed off waivers last year from the Cardinals.
I wasn’t a big fan of D.J. LeMahieu when he was with the Cubs organization, and he has been pretty bad at the plate this year, splitting it between the PCL and the Majors. He was about league average with the AAA club and with the big leagues he has not been good at all. He has now played 95 games in the Majors over the last two years and is walking a laughably low 3.5% of the time. He doesn’t strikeout a ton, but it is too much for his walk rate and he hits a ton of grounders. His defense is anywhere from okay to decent. If he can play short, he can probably be an okay utility player, but I don’t see much more than that.
Jordan Pacheco has looked bad defensively in times I have seen him (defensive metrics agree), and has been a slightly below league average hitter in 499 career plate appearances. He basically has the bat you would like to see in LeMahieu but none of the defense. These players are most likely above replacement going forward, but not impact players or players that you would miss if they left.
Matt McBride is getting his first taste in the Majors and the sample size is obviously too small to make any judgments from it. After tearing up AA for the Indians last year, he was part of the Ubaldo Jimenez deal. This year in AAA, he creamed the ball, but the PCL can be very deceiving. He doesn’t walk hardly at all, which is frustrating since he is a 1st base/corner outfield type (he used to be a catcher but I believe those days are long gone). He doesn’t strikeout much at all either, and showed off some pop throughout his minor league career. The Rockies don’t really have a future 1st base option (as we have dismissed Cuddyer, Giambi, and Helton), so he will and should get a big look.
I like Josh Rutledge’s swing. It is compact and fast and he looks like a solid runner. Since joining the big leagues earlier this year, he has been really good with the bat, but it is a pretty small sample size. The reports on his defense are good in the infield, and if his quick ascension through the minors is any indication, he should hit and hit well. He is definitely a guy that has a really good shot to be on the Rockies next competitive team as a starter.
Charlie Culberson was acquired for Marco Scutaro and his career numbers in the minors have been awful. He looks like a guess hitter without a lot of discipline. He has some holes in his swing and has a hard time getting around on fastballs. It appears he has slightly above average speed, which I guess plays well with what appears to me to be a ground-ball swing.
Charlie Blackmon is a former 2nd round pick who hasn’t played well in the Majors so far in still a pretty small sample size. Despite not showing really any patience in his minor league career, he did have a good walk rate in AAA this year in 59 games. He doesn’t have the prettiest of swings (with an open stance as a left-hander), but that didn’t stop him from putting up solid numbers in the minor leagues. With that said, I don’t see how he can have MLB success at the plate because of all of the breaking balls he is willing to chase. His strikeout rate wasn’t high in the Minors and in watching him it looks like he has a little bit of pop, but he doesn’t seem to have the contact tool to keep strikeouts down and still chase as many pitches as he does.
Tommy Fields is a small shortstop who can go the other way with some authority. He didn’t hit much in the PCL but has decent numbers in all of his minor league stops. He is a little aggressive (which must be an organizational thing), but his plate discipline is not as much as an issue as it is with Blackmon or Culberson.
The really interesting one is Troy Tulowitzski. Considered by many to be the best shortstop in baseball, he has been unable to stay healthy this year. He is locked up until at least 2020, so the only reason he wouldn’t be in the Rockies long term future is a trade (it doesn’t appear that they have anyone close to replacing him, so keeping him seems to be the best move).
Will Harris is 28 and just made his MLB debut this year after being a 9th round pick in 2006. His fastball is slightly below average velocity wise despite him throwing it so much of the time. He has always had huge strikeout totals in the minors, usually with low walk totals. Statistically he is interesting if not from a stuff standpoint. Edgmer Escalona is younger at 25 and has gotten into 29 MLB games without much strikeouts. The ERA is really deceptive, but he does come with an above average fastball with a slider/change. However, non-elite bullpen arms don’t have much value to teams not in contention. Most likely, these guys will be parts of trades in the near future. Carlos Torres basically came out of nowhere to throw 43 innings of solid relief work this year, but his fastball is average at best and he doesn’t miss a lot of bats (relying on grounders instead).
Matt Belisle has been really good over the last two years, but, at age 32 and a contract that could possibly expire after the 2013 season, he is a trade candidate. Rafael Betancourt is another reliever that has been downright dominant in recent years. He has a mutual option for the 2014 season, but I would imagine he would be traded before then as he is 37 years old. It doesn’t make any sense to keep these good old relievers, when there are so many other holes on the roster. Rex Brothers is the reliever they should keep, showing the ability to miss a ton of bats and isn’t a free agent until 2018. The lefty (that throws over 95 MPH) has a 2.91 FIP in 97.1 career innings (pitching roughly half of them at Coors). He is the guy you keep when you trade Belisle and Betancourt.
After a horrible stint with the Cardinals in 2010, Adam Ottavino has been roughly an average reliever according to FIP – for the Rockies this year. He has a good fastball (94 MPH on average) and gets a ton of ground-balls, which is obviously good in Coors. He throws a ton of sliders and it has been really effective for him this year. You would like to see him miss more bats but he is a former 1st round pick with 2 solid pitches. You give guys like that a chance.
Matt Reynolds isn’t a free agent until 2017, but has been just mediocre for the Rockies so far in over 120 innings. He has a below average fastball and relies on a mix of pitches. These guys are pretty replaceable. Josh Roenicke isn’t a free agent until 2017 either, but has a mediocre career FIP of 4.09 with a decent but not overpowering fastball. He is in the same boat as Reynolds in my opinion, you try to use him as part of a trade.
Zach Putnam in AAA has gotten short looks in the Majors by the Indians and Rockies and showed off a below average fastball along with a slider and change. The slider looks pretty good, with some sharp break and an ability to bury it in the dirt. His fastball hit 93 MPH but was somewhat hittable (and just as importantly, he couldn’t put hitters away with it), even by AAA hitters. He had decent command of the fastball, but the rare time I saw the change, he couldn’t throw it for strikes. Rob Scahill is a reliever that has not yet pitched in the Majors. He has put up decent numbers in the minors, but is not really considered a prospect. He has more command than stuff and doesn’t strikeout a lot of batters.
The Rockies have a long way to go before they can seriously make a run for the playoffs. They have some serious holes on their roster that they will have to fill and players to replace. Perhaps most importantly, they will have to figure out which players they want to keep and which ones are expendable on the current roster.