In 2012, the Colorado Rockies' starting rotation was beyond bad. Their 29 wins and 68 losses as a starting staff were the worst marks in the majors (no other team had less than 39 wins), and their collective 5.81 ERA was also bottom of the barrel.
Did I mention reliever Rex Brothers led the team with eight wins? It's not surprising considering the starters collected just 765 innings of work -- no other team had less than 880 innings.
The Rockies accomplished league worst status with a series of questionable moves in the offseason: moves that included signing 50-something year old Jamie Moyer, acquiring fly ball pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman from the Athletics, and inking Jeremy Guthrie, who surrendered 133 long balls in the five years prior, to a one-year contract.
I guess you could say the Rockies got what they paid for, which was a last-place finish in the NL West, 30 games behind the eventual World Series champions, the Giants. But things do look a bit more promising for the Rox in 2013. Injured pitchers Juan Nicasio, Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin should be good to go, and Drew Pomeranz showed glimpses of what the Rockies hope becomes a future No. 1 starter.
To fix the mess, the Rockies plan on implementing a five-man, piggyback rotation in 2013, with the starters on a pitch count of 75. Then the piggyback pitcher comes in, essentially finishing the starter's job. That's cute and all, but for fantasy owners, this muddies up an already less than stellar situation, and it could be one to avoid all together.
So far, we've reviewed the following teams:
NL East: Braves
NL West: Diamondbacks
As always, pitchers are ranked from worst to best in terms of 2013 value (with 2012 stats in parentheses).
5. Alex White (2-8, 92.2 IP, 5.73 K/9, 4.47 BB/9, 5.15 ERA, 4.60 xFIP)
White didn't necessarily fare poorly in his first extended look in the majors, but he didn't impress either. He's never going to rack up a ton of strikeouts and his control is spotty at best. I suspect he falls in the piggyback portion of the Rockies' rotation in 2013, making him expendable in the majority of fantasy leagues.
4. Juan Nicasio (2-3, 58.0 IP, 8.38 K/9, 3.41 BB/9, 5.28 ERA, 3.99 xFIP)
Nicasio was one of my favorite sleepers heading into 2012, so much that I had a mini freak out in an auction league when the online draft room froze in the midst of my $1 bid. I ended up getting him for a buck, and I ended up with not much return on my modest investment, as Nicasio missed most of 2012 with a knee injury.
Prior to being injured, Nicasio was rather effective, with a solid strikeout rate of 8.38. Some of his high ERA can be attributed to a .376 BABIP, and his 3.41 BB/9 was well off his career mark of 2.78.
Depending on where Nicasio falls in Colorado's piggyback rotation, he might not be worth considering for your fantasy team, which is unfortunate. I still think there's a lot of upside with Nicasio, but the knee injury he suffered in 2012 might cause the Rockies to err on the side of caution.
3. Jhoulys Chacin (3-5, 69.0 IP, 5.87 K/9, 4.17 BB/9, 4.43 ERA, 5.10 xFIP)
Chacin was another Rockies' pitcher that suffered inconsistency in 2012 with on-again, off-again injuries. He's proven to be a very effective pitcher in the past, particularly in 2010, when he went 9-11 with 9.05 K/9 and a 3.28 ERA.
It's clear that Chacin is no where close to his 2010 form, mostly due to a diminishing skill set. In addition to a slower fastball, Chacin's slider has become a shell of its former self. If he had qualified in 2010 (he was 7.2 innings short), Chacin's 10.1 wSL (total runs saved by the slider) would have ranked 11th best in the majors. In 2012, that number shrunk all the way down to negative 1.2.
Out of all the Rockies' pitchers coming off injury, Chacin worries me the most. I highly doubt he can regain his 2010 form. He's more of a back-end starter for your staff, but there's definitely some upside here.
2. Jorge De La Rosa (0-2, 10.2 IP, 5.06 K/9, 1.69 BB/9, 9.28 ERA, 5.70 xFIP)
De La Rosa missed most of 2012 attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery. He ended up making three starts in September, but he didn't fare well, giving up 17 hits and 11 earned runs in 10.2 innings.
He looked like a sneaky lottery pickup in 2012 drafts coming off surgery as the Rockies' supposed ace, but now that status is up in the (thin) air. His career 7.94 K/9 is OK, but his 4.42 BB/9 is not. Many a Colorado pitcher has struggled to keep the ball from flying out of Coors, and De La Rosa fits in that category, with a 11.6% HR/FB rate in his career (21.7% in 2012; 15.8% in 2010).
It's not easy projecting a player coming back from major injury, but the fact that De La Rosa made three starts late in the year is at least a positive sign, and he did reach 94 mph in his comeback. The problem is you can't expect a full year out of him, and he's sure to encounter ups and downs along the way. Maybe he works out as a No. 3 for your staff, but I wouldn't want him for anything more than a No. 4, and even then, I'm not overly confident.
1. Drew Pomeranz (2-9, 96.2 IP, 7.73 K/9, 4.28 BB/9, 4.93 ERA, 4.49 xFIP)
Pomeranz was the prize of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade and ended up throwing the second most innings for the Rockies in 2012. He fared well for his first extended go in the majors, and he showed signs of improvement month to month:
Month: K%, BB%
March/April: 20.6%, 12.7%
May: 15.6%, 15.6%
July: 17.9%, 7.1%
August: 19.3%, 8.3%
Sept/Oct: 21.0%, 13.3%
Pomeranz turns 24 later this month, and the Rockies envision him as the future ace of the franchise. His fastball reaches 95 mph, but he'll have to work on his secondary pitches in order to become a true No. 1. Out of all the Rockies' pitchers, Pomeranz has the most upside, and he's the one you'll want to land in drafts, especially in keeper or dynasty formats. He has the potential of a No. 2 for fantasy purposes.
Jeff Francis was probably the Rockies most reliable pitcher in 2013, leading the starters in wins, innings and nearly edging Pomeranz in strikeouts. Francis is a free agent, and while the Rox haven't ruled out bringing him back, his services are probably better suited elsewhere (6.93 ERA at home in 2012; 4.35 away) as a pitcher who gives up his fair share of long balls.
Statistics from FanGraphs.