Navigating the Rockies: SP Discussion

Christian Petersen

Brian Creagh explores Colorado's options in the starting rotation and if any should be worth your consideration on draft day.

Project 5,183 is now thankfully laid to rest and with the new season around the corner, Colorado Rockies fans are probably thinking, "this season we should cut our starters off after warm-ups". Over the years Colorado was practically a wasteland for starting pitchers. Since their establishment in 1993, 4 pitchers have thrown a full season with an ERA below 3.50 and only 2 pitchers (with 500+ IP) have a career ERA below 4.50 with the Rockies. The effects of Coors Field are well documented, but one should expect a little more success from the rotation within the past 20 years. 2013 is shaping up to be more of the same sub-par performance out of the staff, but is there any value to be found on the bump in the Rocky Mountains? Below is a deeper dive into each option Colorado has to fill their rotation and whether I would recommend them in any format for 2013.

Jorge de la Rosa - The de facto ace of the staff, Jorge de la Rosa is entering his age 32 season. While I think there may still be some potential left, the upside is very limited following his TJ surgery. De La Rosa came back to start three games at the end of 2012, which was an encouraging effort despite the uninspiring results. It will likely take some time for him to re-gain form, and I find it increasingly doubtful that he will come all the way back to his 8.0+ K/9 rate. Avoid him early in the season, but keep an eye out on his results, as he could be a nice stream play away from Coors field during the stretch run. He might also be dealt to a contender if he can find some success, because he is an expiring contract with an $11 Million team option for 2014 that will most likely not be exercised.

Jhoulys Chacin - The most valuable pitcher in terms of popular projection systems is Jhoulys Chacin. The walks will always be a problem, but Chacin is only a year removed from a near 7.0 K/9 and a 56.3% GB rate in 194 IP. Impressive stuff. He was aided by a .261 BABIP and still only managed an 11-14 record so regression seemed inevitable. The shoulder injury, which sidelined him for almost 4 months in 2012 is troubling and enough of a red flag to keep me away, but if you're in a deep league Chacin is probably your best bet for 2013.

Drew Pomeranz - The best long-term option of the bunch, Drew Pomeranz was rated the 30th best prospect in 2012 according to Baseball America. His results didn't match the hype, but that can be expected for a 23-year old getting his first taste of the big leagues. He struggled with control, putting up a 4.28 BB/9 rate. I doubt he fixes the control issues in one season, plus his fly ball tendencies leaves me sour about his 2013 outlook. Pomeranz is still young and has the arsenal to be a productive big-league SP, but I wouldn't count on it for 2013.

Juan Nicasio - Nicasio is the victim of plain bad luck. Not in the sabermetric, "how in the world did Cliff Lee get 6 W's" sense of bad luck but just plain bad stinkin' luck. Between being knocked unconscious by a line drive in 2011 or the knee surgery in 2012, Nicasio appears to always have health going against him. I'm not holding the randomness of being hit in the head with a come-backer against him as some sort of knock on his ability to stay healthy, but I also can't imagine any pitcher coming back after an experience like that and being able to perform at the same high level. Besides the bad luck, Nicasio isn't a great fit for Coors Field with his fly-ball tendencies and so he could be a nice spot starter away from home if he can get back on the bump with confidence and health.

Jeff Francis - No.

But seriously Francis is likely the first one to be replaced by Chatwood, Friedrich, or Volstad if he struggles early. Low strikeout rates, a WHIP balloon and with no real possibility for accumulating W's, Francis' value is near non-existent for fantasy purposes.

Tyler Chatwood - Chatwood has always struggled with control and his ability to go deep into games reflects it. He will murder you in WHIP and ERA and offer very little by the way of strikeouts. He is just 23 and brings a 94 mph fastball to the table, so there is something to work with here, but I wouldn't bet on it all coming together in Colorado.

Christian Friedrich - Another guy like Chatwood with a respectable arsenal and an inability to really control it, Friedrich has kept his BB/9 floating around 3.0 his whole career. He will be 25 years old this season and only has a half-season of MLB experience so there is definitely room to grow despite the mediocre results in 2012. His lack of a secured rotation spot relegates him to waiver fodder in my opinion.

Chris Volstad - A sleeper for the best of the bunch, Chris Volstad has looked real good in short Spring Training stints. I loved his signing in Chicago last year and thought it would work out better. Arguably the only groundball pitcher on this list, Volstad is the best suited to pitch at Coors Field even though his "stuff" will likely hold him back from having any significant value in 12-team leagues. I'm hoping he sneaks in and gets the 5th Rotation spot.

Chad Bettis - Marc Hulet of FanGraphs recently ranked Bettis #8 in the system and had this to say,

"Previously considered a future high-leverage reliever, his repertoire has rounded out well which should help him stick as a starter at the big league level. However, he doesn't have a huge frame and he's already suffered some injuries during his brief pro career that put his durability into question. If he comes back with little rust, Bettis could see the majors late in 2013 with an eye on a permanent big-league role in '14."

I'll have to keep an eye on his velocity as he is returning from a shoulder injury, and if the fastball can't get up to the 94-95 level he is capable of, it would be a big red flag for his future prospects. I do like him in deep keeper/dynasty leagues.

Rob Scahill - Likely a future bullpen arm, Scahill would be the ideal fit for the "piggyback" roll utilized in Project 5,183. He might get a shot at the end of the season if the Rockies fall out of the playoff race, but there is really nothing to look at here. Short or long term. Scahill has had great strikeout rates in the minors but has paired that with below average walk rates. At 26 years old and only 9 innings of big innings experience, you can gladly pass on taking a flier to see what Scahill can bring to Colorado.

Tyler Matzek - There is no chance for 2013 value with Matzek, but I did want to make note of the top-pitching prospect in the system. Similar to the Rockies prospects before him, Matzek racks up strikeouts at an encouraging rate, but has obscene control problems. He struggled to a 6.01 BB/9 in 142.1 IP in 2012. As a lefty with nasty stuff, there will always be a spot for Matzek but if the control isn't reeled in that spot will likely be in the bullpen.

Below are the players I would recommend owning/holding in each respective scenario. Players in parentheses are options you could consider streaming against the right matchup away from home.

12-Team League

(Jhoulys Chacin)

(Jorge de la Rosa)

14-Team League

Jhoulys Chacin

(Jorge de la Rosa)
(Drew Pomeranz)

(Juan Nicasio)

(Chris Volstad)

(Christian Friedrich)

20-Team League

Jhoulys Chacin

Jorge de la Rosa

Juan Nicasio

Drew Pomeranz

(Christian Friedrich)

(Chris Volstad)

Make sure to follow me on Twitter (@BrianCreagh)


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