Weekend Mailbag

Just like the Walkers…I’m baaaaack! Great questions continue to pour in. Want to get involved? You know where you can find me.

Jordan from Santa Monica, Calif. writes: Which prospect do you think the Rockies should’ve grabbed in the MLB Draft this weekend but didn’t?

Cody Voga: There will certainly be plenty of great talents that come out of the draft and won’t be in Colorado, Jordan. One player I wish the Rockies would have picked is actually from around your area. Aaron Brown is a pitcher and center fielder from Pepperdine University who is an all-around player that could have helped Colorado in many areas.

The 6-foot-1 southpaw was the Player of the Year in the West Coast Conference, hitting .306 with 12 home runs and 47 RBI. He is currently 13-1 with a 1.95 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 115.2 innings. I say currently because the Waves are in the Super Regionals and are playing for a chance to make it to the College World Series on Monday.

Brown was picked No. 81 overall by the Phillies and has a chance to make it to the majors as fast as anybody in this class given his array of talents.

Bryce from Des Moines, Iowa writes: Now that we have had time to digest Eddie Butler’s debut, what do you make of it?

Cody Voga: There are certainly two ways to look at it, Bryce. Positives are always good, so we will stick with that.

Butler was thrown to the wolves by manager Walt Weiss – and I think that was a good decision. Butler won’t face a better lineup this season than that of the Dodgers. He did record two strikeouts on Yasiel Puig, making the Cuban look foolish on both of them.

Eddie Butler didn't have the best debut, but showed glimpses of why the Rockies called him up. (Denver Post)

Eddie Butler didn’t have the best debut, but showed glimpses of why the Rockies called him up. (Denver Post)

Despite picking up the loss, Butler didn’t shy away from Los Angeles hitters as he pounded the strike zone all night. 61 percent of his pitches were in the zone, showing he had no fear of the competitors. We also saw the full arsenal of Butler’s repertoire. He mixed in his slider, curveball and changeup very well with his fastball. He also showed that he is unafraid to throw any pitch during any count.

Do you think Franklin Morales would have done any better? As his numbers show, I would highly doubt it. It was good to toe the rubber in Denver for the first time for Butler. Only better starts are on the horizon.

Martin from Colorado Springs, Colo. writes: With a plethora of outfielders, do you see a trade in the future for the Rockies? How about for a left-handed reliever?

Cody Voga: You and I think very similarly, Martin. I recently posted a scenario in which the Rockies would be trade partners with the Red Sox.

I can see a trade happening with the Red Sox because they have a drastic need in the outfield. Shane Victorino has been the best outfielder all season, and he is just hitting .242. Jackie Bradley Jr. has done well defensively in center and has shown some of the potential that Boston has been banking on. The other outfield spot is certainly up for grabs.

Shane Victorino has been the best outfielder in Boston, though he has lower numbers than all the Rockies outfielders. (Creative Commons)

Shane Victorino has been the best outfielder in Boston, though he has lower numbers than all the Rockies outfielders. (Creative Commons)

As much as it would pain me to see Brandon Barnes or Drew Stubbs go, either of those two could pull Andrew Miller to the Rockies. Miller would give the Rockies a solid southpaw that they have been lacking this whole year. Miller’s 2.81 ERA would rank first among Rockies left-handers if he were to land in Denver.

The next trade will show just how committed to winning the Rockies organization is.

Duck on the Pond: Where Colorado can improve

Welcome to the first installment of Ducks on the Pond where I will analyze an area the Rockies need to improve in order to reach their full potential. This area is crucial moving forward and will be easily monitored as it controls whether Colorado comes out a victor or a loser.

In order to get back to its winning ways, Colorado must get their starters into the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

The Rockies bullpen has already compiled 179.2 innings up until June 3. Though that ranks just 15th, teams that have thrown the fewest bullpen innings are set up to win in August and September because they won’t have tired arms. The three teams that have gone to their bullpens the fewest are Cincinnati (138.1 innings), Atlanta (149.1 innings) and Detroit (157.1 innings). Atlanta and Detroit are both leading their respective divisions, while Cincinnati is below .500 but has had tough luck with injuries thus far in 2014. You can never count out the Reds, as they have been playoff contenders since 2010. At least one of Atlanta or Detroit have made the postseason in each year since 2010.

Jorge De La Rosa and his fellow starters need to log more innings in each start the rest of this season. (Mile High Sports/Chris Bianchi)

Jorge De La Rosa and his fellow starters need to log more innings in each start the rest of this season. (Mile High Sports/Chris Bianchi)

These are teams that the Rockies need to model their pitching structure after.

Starters for Colorado have pitched the sixth-fewest amount of innings (326.1) in the majors this season. Check out the stats from the four pitchers the Rockies have started the most:

Jorge De La Rosa: 12 starts, 66 innings, 5.5 innings per start
Jordan Lyles: 11 starts, 65 innings, 5.9 innings per start
Franklin Morales: 11 starts, 62.2 innings, 5.7 innings per start
Juan Nicasio: 11 starts, 62 innings, 5.6 innings per start

Of that list above, De La Rosa has pitched seven or more innings four times, Lyles three times, Nicasio two times and Morales just once. That means that 22 percent of that time, the bullpen will not be overworked. Complacency will settle in and that can give a shock to starters who are asked to pitch into the seventh, eighth and ninth inning. What will happen when the bullpen arms are exhausted and starters reach the late innings?

One can only assume that those innings will not be pretty for Rockies fans.

Hitters have started catching on to how relievers are pitching them. Opponents have a .256 batting average against Colorado relievers, ranking 24th in baseball. Opposing hitters hold a .743 OPS against the bullpen, ranking them 26th in that category.

Considering these numbers, what makes the bullpen a better option than keeping the starter out for an extra inning or two? If starters can go just a little deeper into games, relievers will remain fresh and provide quality innings where they matter the most.

If it is just June and the relievers are being torched due to soreness from being overworked, Rockies fans will be in for a long summer.


Sunday Mailbag

Throwing everybody a curveball on this Sunday afternoon. Having a mailbag on a Sunday might just be the new trend. As always, any inquiries can be sent to cody.j.voga@gmail.com or @BlakeSt_Bombers.

Dillon from Des Moines, Iowa writes: Rockies have the eighth pick of the MLB draft this season. Who do you think they will go with?

Cody Voga: The Rockies should be in prime position to pick up an excellent prospect at No. 8, Dillon. One guy I feel would help Colorado out in a big way would be Max Pentecost (C, Kennesaw State). With Wilin Rosario planning on moving to first in a couple of years, catcher will be a big need. Pentecost can fill that role as soon as the Rockies would need him.

Pentecost is hitting .424 with nine home runs and 57 RBI for the Owls, who are currently battling in the NCAA Regionals. The former seventh-round selection of the Texas Rangers would see an improved power surge if he plays his home games at Coors Field. Pentecost hits for average and does well behind the plate. The Rockies would hope he could turn into a defensive specialist, like Russell Martin.

Carl from Rome, Ga. writes: Will Colorado’s pitching staff ever figure it out? Or are we looking at some turnover come July?

Cody Voga: There’s a good chance we are going to see some changes soon, Carl. I believe calls to Tyler Matzek and Eddie Butler are imminent. Franklin Morales has proved once again why the Rockies ditched him a few years ago. It’s been five starts and we still don’t know if Jhoulys Chacin will get back to last year’s form. Those two, I would say, are in serious trouble to lose their jobs.

Franklin Morales could have made his last start in a Rockies uniform on Saturday. (Creative Commons)

Franklin Morales could have made his last start in a Rockies uniform on Saturday. (Creative Commons)

Matzek and Butler have been waiting in the wings for a couple of years now. Manager Walt Weiss has said that the only thing holding them back is Major League experience. How else do they get experience in the majors without pitching in the majors? That could be one subtle hint that the time will be coming.

Sadie from Osage Beach, Mo. writes: What’s the status on Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood? Can the Rockies get them back sooner than expected?

Cody Voga: If all things go as planned, Sadie, you might be seeing Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood pitch before the All-Star break.

Anderson is coming off of a surgery in which he had implanted pins removed from his left index finger. For him, it’s all about getting back into rhythm. Once he has gotten back into shape and can throw from a long distance, he will begin the rehab process. Gripping the baseball may be the biggest thing prolonging his comeback. With the index finger being an important tool in creating movement, it’s ideal to be 100 percent before pushing back into it.

Brett Anderson has begun the rehab process and is aiming for a return in early July. (Creative Commons)

Brett Anderson has begun the rehab process and is aiming for a return in early July. (Creative Commons)

Chatwood, who had a strained flexor tendon, has returned to playing catch at 75-plus feet. Building up stamina and getting back into the throwing program is what Chatwood needs to do before returning to Coors Field. I would anticipate a longer wait for Chatwood as he doesn’t want to have another flare-up in his elbow.

As nice as it would be to have them before the All-Star break, I think it would be best to sit these two until after July 15. If they are rushed back too early, they could be out for an extended period of time that could include the rest of the 2014 season.

Rox Linx

Here’s to hoping the Rockies end their drought on the road and steal one from the Indians on Sunday. As long as this little drummer boy keeps quiet, it will be a good day.

Video: Rockies travel to Cleveland for a weekend series

The Colorado Rockies are coming off of a three-game stint in Philadelphia. Here is a recap of that series, what we can take from those three games as well as what lies ahead in Cleveland.

Video: Turn your phone off, Walt

Rockies manager Walt Weiss would be wise to keep his phone bill to a minimum when looking to fill that fifth spot in the rotation.

Franklin Morales is back down to earth after starting the season off so well. Morales has struggled in his last four outings, giving up at least four runs per start and has only thrown at least five innings only once. His next start against the Giants tonight (May 20) could be his last.

The upcoming schedule sets up nicely for a possible move to a four-man rotation of Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rose, Jordan Lyles and Juan Nicasio. After having an off day yesterday (May 19), the Rockies have two more coming soon on May 29 and June 2. These off-days come at crucial times in the rotation, allowing Weiss to consider dropping Morales out of the rotation and moving it to four, until Brett Anderson can return in mid-June.

Recent history has proven that it would benefit the Rockies a great deal to leave prospects such as Eddie Butler and Jon Gray down in the minors for as long as they can.

Since 2007, pitchers to be called up by the Rockies have been a very mixed bag, with most of them failures. Here is a look at who has been shot through the mountains and onto Coors Field:

2007 – Jason Hirsh, Franklin Morales
2008 – Greg Reynolds
2009 – Jhoulys Chacin, Esmil Rogers
2010 – Samuel Deduno, Greg Smith
2011 – Juan Nicasio
2012 – Tyler Chatwood, Drew Pomeranz, Alex White
2013 – Chad Bettis

Of that list provided, only five of those pitchers are still with the Rockies. Chacin is the one exception to this notion because he has proved to be a solid top-end, rotation guy, logging an ERA of 3.64 and starting 14 or more games in five of his first six seasons.

Chacin has been one of the few bright spots in recent Rockies call-ups. (Creative Commons)

Chacin has been one of the few bright spots in recent Rockies call-ups. (Creative Commons)

Chatwood and Nicasio have shown flashes of greatness, but remain question marks upon not only durability, but also consistency. Both right-handed hurlers have a career ERA over 4.30 and have made 15 or more starts only three times out of a possible eight seasons.

How do these pitchers compare to the dynamic duo that promises to be Butler and Gray?

Butler has shown that he is willing to adjust as he progresses through the minors. He started his first season playing rookie ball for the Casper Ghosts, finishing 7-1 with an ERA of 2.13 and 55 strikeouts. Since then, the former first-round pick has seen his strikeout totals go down, but the ERA has plateaued at 2.68 this season in Double-A with the Tulsa Drillers. He has left over 78 percent of the baserunners he has put on right where they stand. Sound like anybody you know? This guy has the Chacin makeup written all over him (hopefully minus the 2014 season we are witnessing from the Rockies ace).

Gray has me psyched, but cautious at the same time. I’m fully aware of the hype that surrounds the 2013 No. 3 overall pick. He has been the best player on his team, dating back to his days as an Oklahoma Sooner. I don’t know if there is a player on the current roster that can relate to the skill set that Gray has, as well as how he pitches the game. He has gone on record saying how badly he wants to contribute to the team this season, but that may not be the best option for the Rockies. He got off to a very slow start with the Drillers, going only 6.2 innings in his first two starts. I saw a guy trying to force the issue, wanting to make his big league debut so badly that he didn’t want to focus on improving his game. Since those two audacious starts in early April, Gray has calmed down and dominated the competition, giving up only five earned runs and striking out 32 in his last six starts.

Rockies prospect, Jon Gray, has the chance to develop into an elite pitcher in Colorado if he remains patient. (Creative Commons)

Rockies prospect Jon Gray has the chance to develop into an elite pitcher in Colorado if he remains patient. (Creative Commons)

If we get another pitcher like Chacin in Butler and if Gray can remain patient and hope for a chance in 2015, the Rockies may have struck gold. As it pertains to this season, filling out that fifth spot in the rotation will come once Chatwood and Anderson come back from their stints on the DL.

Until then, let’s hope Weiss leaves his farm system alone.

Rox Linx

Another day, another victory over the Giants. Ah, life is good. Below are a few links for you to peruse through during your lunch break. Hope everyone brought their brooms to work today – we’re going for the sweep!

Mailbag Monday

Hoping you all had a safe and enjoyable Easter weekend. If you are already sick of hearing Pitbull rap about the NBA Playoffs (excuse me, PLAYOFFS!) like I am, then I have just the cure: let’s do a mailbag. As always, any inquiries can be sent to cody.j.voga@gmail.com or @Purple_Mondays.

With that said, let’s jump right into it.

Dylan from Stockton, Calif. writes: Being in the NL West where some of the best pitching staffs in baseball exist (and that being a glaring weakness for the Rockies), do you see Colorado making any significant moves to help them compete?

Cody Voga: Great question, Dylan. I think the biggest thing holding the Rockies back is not having a bona fide ace. Young, power arms such as Jordan Lyles, Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler should develop into solid rotation pitchers, but all have a few knocks on their game. Jhoulys Chacin, currently the best arm on the staff, is rehabbing a shoulder injury that he injured early in Spring Training.

As for potential moves? I see one that would cost a pretty penny. Chris Sale of the White Sox would be the best option. The hard-throwing, deceptive southpaw is only 25 and has a career ERA of 2.93 in the AL. He has also lowered his WHIP the past three seasons to an astounding .841 which is fourth in the AL and 10th in the MLB.

Chris Sale would look really good in a Rockies uniform by the end of the season. (Creative Commons)

Chris Sale would look really good in a Rockies uniform by the end of the season. (Creative Commons)

He is stuck in an unfortunate situation as his team is a few years from competing. In order to get him the Rockies would need to unload at least two of their top five prospects. That can include any combination of Gray, Butler or shortstop Rosell Herrera who has shown flashes of brilliance.

Ron from Norfolk, Neb. writes: It’s early in the season, but do you think CarGo has a legit shot to be the NL MVP?

Cody Voga: Wouldn’t that be nice, Ron? If he can get back to 2010 form, I don’t see any doubt at all. His biggest competition may be his own teammate, Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon has emerged since the Dexter Fowler trade, hitting .426 with 10 RBI already on the season from the leadoff spot. Are you kidding me?! This guy needs some love!

Getting back to CarGo, he has had some tough luck as of late. He had multiple hits taken away from him by some outstanding defense from the Padres and Giants on the last six-day road trip. CarGo still owns a .286 batting average, which should improve after a few more games inside the friendly confines of Coors Field. He is coming off of back-to-back seasons in which he won a Gold Glove and was voted an All-Star, so I think the voting is out there. Just waiting for him to break out.

Kelsey from Arvada, Colo. writes: When Jonathan Gray gets the call-up, who from the rotation will get bounced?

Cody Voga: That is a tough one, Kelsey. Due to the Chacin injury, there have been two spots that have been at stake so far this season. When it is all said and done, I believe the rotation will be Chacin, Anderson, Chatwood, Lyles and Gray.

Gray will have to get it figured out as he has struggled mightily in Double-A ball for the Tulsa Drillers. The No. 12 overall prospect according to Baseball America is 1-1 with an ERA of 6.57. He has a devastating slider and can heat it up to 100 miles per hour, but has struggled with his command. Once he gets it all together, the rest of baseball had better watch out.

The odd men out would be Franklin Morales, Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio. Morales would serve as a great long relief pitcher out of the ‘pen, while de la Rosa and Nicasio would most likely be used as trade chips. It’s hard to imagine either of them being bullpen specialties, but it would give the Rockies the best chance to win.