The Rockies have swept the Atlanta Braves and now once again find themselves on the edge of the playoff picture only four games behind in the Wild Card Race.
However, it’s not all good news as reliever Manuel Corpas went down with an injury. Corpas will have an MRI done today, and the Rockies are hoping he won’t have to have Tommy John surgery. Yeah, it’s a bad injury whenever TJ is thrown out there.
When the major league rosters expand at the first of September, the Rockies will be adding several pitching arms. With position players it’s more about a try-out, for many pitchers it’s about getting in bodies and giving a break to an over-worked and injury depleted bullpen.
Previously I looked at the position players the Rox may take a look at, now let’s take a look at the pitchers, those hurlers on the mound that are now the most important position in baseball. Many of these are names we are already familiar with, but the Rockies will be trying to determine where these all fit in the future plans.
Ubaldo Jimenez: Jimenez of course will be back in 2011 and the Rockies have him under contractual control for three more years. He may be the only starting pitcher that doesn't have questions the Rockies will have to evaluate besides how can they afford to pay him.
Jason Hammel: Hammel stepped up this year, and put up some impressive numbers. His stuff is not that great, but he pitched much more aggressively and threw strikes. Hammel has always been looked at as a back of the rotation starter, but for much of the season Hammel was the second best pitcher in the Rockies rotation (which is actually very telling as to why the Rockies are where they are now). How Hammel performs this last month may affect how willing the Rockies are to go after a starting pitcher in Free Agency.
Jeff Francis: Once labeled Jeff "Franchise," his future is in question. Jeff had a terrible shoulder injury that in 2009 that was pretty severe—about as bad as you can get with out having to have major reconstruction surgery. Still it was an injury many guys don’t come back from at all. Jeff has spent time this year on the Disabled List and is currently on the DL right now. When Francis has pitched this year he’s been surprisingly good. His ERA of 4.56 is below his career ERA of 4.72. Also his Hits/9 HR/9 and WHIP are all below his career averages.
The question around Jeff (the Rockies have an option on his contract for next year at $7 million) is how well can he perform in the future. $7 million for one year isn’t bad for a No. 2-type pitcher, which Francis once was and could be again, but it’s way out of line for an injury damaged pitcher which Francis has been in 2010.
I don’t expect Francis to pitch again this year, unless the Rockies find themselves in a tight playoff race. I do expect the Rockies to re-sign Francis this off-season and even give him an extension, but that extension should be closer to $5 million per year for two years with a third year as an option.
Aaron Cook: Cook is the biggest problem in the Rockies organization right now for pitchers. He’s got one more year on his contract where he’ll make $10.6 million dollars in 2011 including the buy-out for 2012. That will make him the highest paid Rockie next year, tied with Todd Helton. He’s been terrible this year in the majors. I expect the Rockies to recall Cook from his injury rehab assignment, and give him some starts. They need him to perform well, to raise his trade value from near nothing to something, so when they trade Cook this off season, they don’t end up eating too much of his contract.
Jhoulys Chacin: He’s a top prospect for the Rockies. He has four-plus pitches. He’s not an over powering fastball guy, so he has to locate, but his performance for the Rockies in 2010 screams that he’ll be in the Rockies rotation for 2011 and beyond. More outings like Sunday against the Diamondbacks where he went seven and 2/3 giving up only three hits and shutting out Arizona, and he’ll be a great No. 2 pitcher behind Jimenez. Chacin isn’t on any try-out, he’s here to stay.
Esmil Rogers: Rogers has one of the top fastballs in the National League; however, that does not make a pitcher. So far Rogers has been more of a thrower than a pitcher. At times his stuff looks more like he should be a reliever or even a closer, but the Rockies have liked him as a starter. Rogers should get plenty of starts as the Rockies look to see if he will be in their rotation for 2011 or if he’ll be a major trade chip this off-season. Next year Rogers is out of options so the Rockies have this month to decide his future role with the organization.
Samuel Deduno: Deduno is one of those pitchers who has had several starts and stops as he’s progressed through the system. He’s 27 now, and has been a starter in Colorado Springs, but he might be a long guy out of the ‘pen. He’s running out of time, but his numbers have been very solid for the the humidor-less Sky Sox with a 2.93 ERA in six starts with 29 K's to only 18 walks. He’s on the 40 man. Expect to see him for a cup of coffee as he is on the 40 man roster. Deduno might log several innings as the Rockies give him a good look. Scouting reports project Deduno to be better suited as a reliever in the majors.
Franklin Morales: Yeah, that’s a familiar name. First called up in 2007, Morales helped the Rockies make the playoffs. This year he’s been working mostly in the AAA after starting the season with the Rockies. The Rockies hope he can be a closer, or at least a power set up guy. His numbers have been good in the Springs with a .286 ERA, and he’s walked only 18 in 28 innings which isn’t great, but it’s an improvement. His WHIP is 1.34. Look for Morales to get some work in late in games and even in pressure situations due to his experience.
Since teams always need left-handed pitchers that can throw it 95 mph, Morales has value. Now, we’ll find out if that value can be with the Rox or if it’s going to be with another team.
Edgmer Escalona: Escalona has been a work horse for the Sky Sox this year, logging in 63.0 innings in 51 games. Double E was a candidate to make the Rockies bullpen after a terrific year in AA, but Escalona’s numbers haven’t been great in AAA this year. The question will be whether he can improve his numbers from AAA once he has a humidor helping him out. He won’t be used in any tight situations though. I wonder if he can help the ‘pen out in 2011 or if he just hit his ceiling in AAA. I’m sure the Rockies would like an answer to that question as well.
Chaz Roe: Once a top pitching prospect for the Rockies, he’s logged the most innings pitched this year for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. He’s been hittable in AAA with a WHIP of 1.62 and an ERA of 5.81. It will be interesting to see if Roe or Deduno gets a start during their call up. Like Deduno, I expect Roe to be added to the roster as he’s on the 40 man, and also like Deduno I expect Roe to be mainly used in September as a long man out of the bullpen. Roe is not the prospect that he once was and Roe is now looking to be future organizational depth at the starting pitcher or a B level prospect trade throw-in.
We should also expect to see Taylor Buchholtz (who is on an extended rehab assignment currently in AAA) back with the Rockies. With some roster juggling to get guys on the 40 man roster, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rockies, who really need bullpen help, to add a few guys like Al Alburquerque, or even 2009 draft pick Rex Brothers, both currently in AA Tulsa.