Rockies Position Potential: Starting Pitchers

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The starters for the Rockies have always been something people look over, and for rightful reasons. The Rockies just don’t get great starting pitching. Whether it be the altitude, the development, just bad luck, or a combination of the three can’t be said for sure. There have been good seasons for pitchers. Every Rockies fan remembers Ubaldo Jimenez’s 2010 season in which he started the All-Star game and threw a no-hitter. It was the best season the Rockies have ever had from a starting pitcher. Then there are people like Jhoulys who showed that you don’t need to be a bonafide ace to pitch well at a Mile High. And of course, Jorge De La Rosa has gone out and won more games than any other Rockies starter and has cemented himself as the most consistent starter in franchise history to date. The pitching for the Rockies is just something that no one ever expects a lot out of. It seems too inconsistent and the offense is often looked to pick up the slack of the pitchers. If the Rockies are to compete however, the pitchers need to perform.

Jorge De La Rosa:  De La Rosa will be getting his second opening day nod on Monday and he will look to start off on the right foot. De La Rosa is notorious for slowish starts until he gets into a rhythm, both in games and in the bigger picture. But if there’s one thing De La does, it is compete. He goes out and whether he is pitching through an injury, a lack of control, or something else, he goes out every fifth day and, for the most part, give the Rockies a chance to win. A few things could happen this year for De La. He could come out and establish himself as the leader of this rotation and put the Rockies in a position to compete throughout the year. He could have a great first half and the Rockies could trade him for some prospects towards the future. Or he could be struck with injury, pitch well when able, and leave the Rockies unable to dump him off because they won’t get enough and they feel he can still perform for them. What I think will happen is De La Rosa will come out and lead this rotation, but not pitch great. He will pitch well enough for the Rockies to trade him and open up the rotation to a young starter who can impact the Rockies future.

San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies
DENVER, CO – SEPTEMBER 18: Starting pitcher Chad Bettis #35 of the Colorado Rockies delivers against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field on September 18, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Chad Bettis: In 2013 and 2014, I would not have picked Chad Bettis to be a pitcher to have an impact for the Rockies. When he was starting games in 2015, I dreaded it, but I was wrong in doing that as he came out and pitched very well. Bettis is a bright spot in the Rockies rotation this year and I expect some very solid pitching from him. His ERA last year was a respectable 4.23 for pitching at Coors, but I expect him to improve upon that number and get under a 4.00 for the Rockies while pitching at least 160 innings over the course of the year. Bettis can be a solid two/three in the rotation and I fully expect him to prove that this year. His command is there, he has the stuff, and he has the grit to compete as a pitcher at Coors. He took a huge step forward last year, now he just needs to keep in that direction.

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Jordan Lyles: A toe injury of all things kept Lyles from playing for much of the year in 2015. It is really disappointing as he pitched well in 2014 and seemed to be headed in the right direction until the injury. 2016 will be an important year for Lyles. He is either going to come out and establish himself as a middle of the rotation starter, or he will not be able to come back from the injury and the Rockies will have another broken pitcher on their hands. His ability to put the ball on the ground will benefit him greatly, as it does for all pitchers at Coors, but he also has the control to rack up an important strikeout. He is also a smart pitcher, he won’t over pitch in important moments and despite his young age (25 years old) he has already pitched in the big leagues for five years. He knows the game and this year he will be a pitcher around a 4.20-4.40 ERA and will win around 10 games while competing in most outings.

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Tyler Chatwood: Even though Chatwood is listed as the number four projected by RotoChamp, he is one of the Rockies I believe to have the highest upside of the current five starters. Chatwood has a plus fastball that will induce a lot of ground balls and also has some put away pitches. Coming off of Tommy John Surgery, 2016 will be his first yera back since leaving early in 2014. Chatwood has looked good so far in spring training and will more than likely prove to be the second best pitcher for the Rockies this year. The innings load on his arm will limit how much he is going to pitch, but he is efficient which bodes well for him reaching some longer outings. That is what the Rockies need out of him and the back of their rotation. They can’t have pitchers exiting after 5 and leaving the rest up to the bullpen.

Christian Bergman/Yohan Flande: Neither of these two is likely to remain in the rotation for too long as they are filling in for the injured Jon Gray. They are both long relievers who rely on craftiness and control. They don’t have the best stuff or a fastball that is going to blow people away, but they can be effective. Look for these two to come out pitch 4-5 innings before giving way to the bullpen. If they can allow 3 runs or fewer in that time, consider it an effective outing for them.

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Jon Gray: Gray is the wild card for this group of starters. He was drafted as a future ace, but last year he did not pitch like one. He was without a win and pitched well in only two or three of his outings. Those outings he pitched well in though show a lot of promise. He will start the season on the DL, but once he is off, he will be the starting pitcher story to follow. If the Rockies are to compete in future years, Jon Gray needs to pitch like a number one. The Rockies don’t have luck in the free agent market when it comes to getting aces, so developing their own is the best option they have. Once Gray is back, he needs to dominate or the Rockies are in trouble.

Colorado is not a friendly pitchers park, that is well known and established. However, three of the other teams in the National League West are very friendly. Petco, AT&T, and Turner stadium are all pitchers parks where the Rockies will play a lot of games. The Coors field argument just can’t be had. Other pitchers pitch well at Coors, so the Rockies pitchers can pitch well there. For the Rockies to compete, the pitchers need to go 6+ innings most nights, they need to give up fewer than 4 runs in those outings, and they need to minimize the damage when it gets tough. The offense can carry this team at times, but through the course of the season, you need the starters to put up good outings.

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