The recent news about Chad Bettis was crushing to the organization, and nothing but thoughts, prayers and support go out to Chad by everyone who loves the game and can’t wait to see him back on the hill. But the game must go on and the Rockies will now need to fill a rotation spot in the coming weeks. They were already looking to fill the #5 slot, which according to RosterResource.com, is projected to be Jeff Hoffman. Hoffman would then bump up into #4 and then the door could be open for German Marquez. Marquez was a two-time UTR-OAS (2014-2015) while with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rockies acquired the Venezuelan righty during the hot stove period prior to the 2016 season. The 22-year old made his MLB debut during the September call-ups and made 6 appearances, with 3 starts. If those back-end spots trip early into the 2017 season, the Rockies could give some minor league arms a shot. Triple-A options could be 1st rounder Kyle Freeland, who was my 2014 #1 ranked TPS UTR-OAS, Harrison Musgrave (2015 OAS), or Evan Grills. The latter would be long-shots, plus all three are not currently on the 40-man roster. If the club decided to give a prospect currently on the 40-man the opportunity, Antonio Senzatela could get the nod. The 22-year old right-hander became a strong UTR signal in the DSL and then later when he came state-side with Tri-City in 2013. He became a two-time UTR-OAS in 2014/2015 and was on my 2015 draft wishlist. In that draft, I needed to re-stock my reserves with minor league arms. I drafted Reynaldo Lopez, but later added Senzatela and Jose DeLeon off the waivers, after they were left on the board and could be acquired on the cheap. In a NL-only Keeper League, I’ve already whined in a previous team write-up about losing Lopez and DeLeon in off-season American League trades, so the thought that Senzatela is a nanosecond away from Coors is exciting.
Overall the Rockies minors pitching has ranked very well, especially in recent years. But unfortunately, it really hasn’t translated to Coors Field. Top pick misses like Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Matzek, Christian Friedrich, and Eddie Butler just didn’t materialize for the Rockies. Jon Gray and Tyler Anderson hope to turn that around heading into the 2017 season. With their hopes staked to those top picks, the under the radar inventory has been rather slim the last three years, thus my latching onto Senzatela. Freeland easily ranked #1 within my system in 2014, but the rest of the list was nondescript. Matt Flemer was my “One to Watch” selection prior to the 2014 season and did rank as a UTR-OAS, joining Konner Wade and Johendi Jiminian. All are still within the Rockies system, but have been moved over to the bullpen, with Flemer primarily used as a swing-guy. My tracking sheet of the Rockies relief pitching in 2016 indicates why they needed to move starters into the bullpen, as the options are narrow. Troy Neiman and Jerry Vasto were regulars atop my relievers spreads and would have been again this season, had they not dropped from the UTR radar by turning 25-year old. Don’t count them out from contributing in Coors soon, with the projected bullpen arms median age almost 32 years old. One other name to remember is Rayan Gonzalez, who could be a later-comer in the Rockies bullpen. The same is happening with a few International pitchers on my watch list. Juan Pena and Jorge Oviedo were listed “Just Off the Scope” in 2016 were converted over to the bullpen. Oviedo had the best success, but still in the DSL, the hype is tempered. The 2016 UTR-OAS bullpen doesnt provide much “relief” (pun intended), but this year edition of the UTR-OAS is most promising and I wouldn’t hesitate taking a flyer on any of the starters.
Top 5 Starting Pitchers – Factor Score / TPS
1. RHP Parker French – 24 / .127
23 years old – (LoA Asheville / HiA Modesto)
5th round – 2015
French started his first full season in the minors with a four start tune-up at LoA Asheville, posting a 2-1 record and a 1.17 ERA. Getting an early season promotion, the sturdy framed righty impressed with a Cal League leading 2.85 ERA over 24 starts. French projects as a back-end, innings-eating type which he proved in 2016 by throwing 177.2 innings. His stuff would play at Coors, in that he throws a low 90’s fastball with good movement and heavy sink, which produced a near 60% groundball rate. His progression through the system will be dependent on improving his change-up.
After being involved in two trade deals, Almonte has found a home with the Rockies. So much so, the organization has added him to the 40-man roster and in the discussion of possibly filling a rotation spot in Colorado in 2017. A solid start at Double-A Hartford could expedite those talks. Almonte is a hard-thrower (FB tops at 97 mph), but it’s his solid slider and changeup which induces enough swing & misses and weak contact that could get him to Coors Field very soon.
An intriguing UTR is Wynkoop. My system metric wasn’t fond of the .138 TPS, and that he surrendered 17 HR’s, 187 hits over 170.2 innings, but this also included a ridiculous 12:144 BB:K rate. He should be watched closely in 2017 to see how his stuff plays against more advanced bats. Wynkoop has a 4-pitch mix and only throws his fastball in the upper 80’s. He has mastered the art of changing speeds (among all offerings) that keep hitters off-balance.
Fangraphs describes Castellani’s delivery similar to Max Scherzer, with a loose arm action that creates movement of a mid 90’s fastball. The rotation at Hartford could be the headliner in the Double-A Eastern League, as Castellani should join Almonte and Wynkoop, and could be the youngest pitcher at that level in 2017. The right-hander was another workhorse in 2016, throwing 167.2 innings and capped the season by going 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA in the final seven starts. Recently turning 21-years old, Castellani did receive an invite to Spring Training.