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.

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Required Rockies: Corey Dickerson

The only love Corey Dickerson is getting these days is from his mom. As great as that may be, it’s time the rest of the league takes notice. This kid is here to stay.

Dickerson is in just his second season in the majors. The 25-year old has made an impression on manager Walt Weiss these past two seasons.

Corey Dickerson has made the most of his opportunities this season in order to help the Rockies win. (Creative Commons)

Corey Dickerson has made the most of his opportunities this season in order to help the Rockies win. (Creative Commons)

Dickerson’s first season was about as average you can get. He had a .263 batting average, 17 RBI and a .459 slugging percentage that was largely in part to his five home runs and five triples. What he gained from the 69 games he played in has served as a springboard to this season.

The bright lights have shown just how effulgent Dickerson can be. The lefty has improved dramatically is just one season, upping his batting average (.324), on-base percentage (.376) and slugging percentage (.600). He already has posted seven home runs and 18 RBI in 17 fewer games than he played in last year.

Largely considered the fourth outfielder on the depth chart (Carlos Gonzalez, Michael Cuddyer, Charlie Blackmon), Dickerson has made the most of his opportunities when they have been given to him.

Screenshot of Corey Dickerson's spray chart. (FanGraphs)

Screenshot of Corey Dickerson’s spray chart. (FanGraphs)

As you can see, he has been reluctant to pick a side of the field he likes to hit to – and that’s a good thing. He’s had 15 hits (43 percent) to the opposite field, eight hits (24 percent) up the middle and 11 hits (33 percent) down the pull-side.

To the opposing pitchers out there: good luck trying to figure out how to pitch him.

Dickerson’s impact hasn’t just been felt in the batter’s box. Though he has started a majority of his games (17) this season in left field, Dickerson has notched nine starts in center field and five as a designated hitter. Any chance Weiss has had, the manager has given Dickerson the nod.

The Mississippi product has yet to make an error this season and has 128 putouts for his career. (Quick, somebody go knock on wood!) He makes the tough plays look easy.

Though he won’t see the field as much as he rightfully deserves due to the glut of outfielders this season, Dickerson will provide the Rockies with a go-to option off the bench in case of injury or if there is a need for a pinch hitter.

And at this stage of his career, that’s just fine.

Rox Linx

After giving up 11 runs in the eighth and ninth innings against the Diamondbacks, I thought that was rock bottom. This guy would beg to differ. Only one more day until Eddie Butler’s start! Positivity!

Rox Linx

It’s hard to be giddy after a 4-2 loss to the Diamondbacks, but with Eddie Butler being called up, Rockies fan have something to celebrate.

Fair or Foul?

When you rank near the bottom in a statistical category, many call for a change in strategy. This is an open-door invitation into this segment of “Fair or Foul?” This section won’t need instant replay. It will be up to you, the audience, to decide if the proposed change is fair or foul. Let’s commence, shall we?

The Rockies need to move Adam Ottavino to closer.

That’s a pretty drastic move for a guy who had an ERA or 4.51 entering this season. However, he has continued to show promise, lowering his ERA every year since his move to Denver. Thus far into the 2014 campaign, Ottavino owns an ERA of 1.46 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 8.3:1.

Ottavino has been fanning batters left and right this season. His 25 strikeouts in 24.1 innings pitched produce a team-best 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

Adam Ottavino has shown that he is ready to close games for the Rockies. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Adam Ottavino has shown that he is ready to close games for the Rockies. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Not only has Ottavino been impressive at striking batters out, but the righty has come in and shut down opposing rallies. He has stranded 85 percent of the runners he has inherited this season.

If this doesn’t scream “closer role,” I don’t know what does.

The current closer for the Rockies, LaTroy Hawkins, has 11 saves this season, but cannot pitch effectively on back-to-back days. In days where Hawkins has pitched the evening before, he has given up three runs in 1.2 innings pitched and zero strikeouts. How can those numbers validate your role as a closer?

Hawkins is just nine years away from his AARP card and doesn’t have a strikeout pitch. Through 19 innings, he has eight strikeouts and has given up 23 hits. What’s more alarming is that hitters are batting .300 when they put the ball in play.

If I were Walt Weiss and my closer is giving up more than a hit per inning and can’t strike batters out, it would time to rethink my strategy.

I am not calling for LaTroy Hawkins’ head. I still think he is crucial to the Rockies run for a postseason berth, but his role should change to the seventh or eighth inning. Adam Ottavino has been the best relief pitcher to don the purple uniform since Huston Street compiled 84 saves in his tenure in Denver.

If this decision were up to me, you know where I would go. However, that’s not how this segment works. It is up to YOU!

Video: LeMahieu and Ottavino are required Rockies

It doesn’t matter if they are the main features of the full painting or just a few “happy trees.” DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino are what make this team tick – and both are required for a run at a NL pennant.

By required, I’m not stating that these two are the best players on this team. I’m simply expressing that this duo would be the hardest to replace from now until the end of the season if they were to get hurt, suspended or drop everything and pursue a career in modeling. This in part means that their value to the team is at its peak and the depth behind them at their respective positions is really shallow.

LeMahieu is as consistent as they come. Need a bunt laid down in the fifth? He’s your guy. Need somebody to block a ball so it can’t reach the outfield, preventing an extra base hit? Nothing would suit him more.

The former shortstop at LSU has proven to be a valuable commodity up the middle. Teaming up with Troy Tulowitzki, these two have turned into the “Double-play dyad.” Having the arm strength of a shortstop is uncommon in second basemen, but LeMahieu has been a part of 123 double plays since taking over the starting role. He also committed only six errors in 956 chances. That’s a fielding average of .994 in his three seasons in Denver. I challenge you to find a better fielding second basemen in the major leagues.

He makes it look so easy, doesn’t he?

Not only has his fielding been key, but his career batting average of .282 has made him a solid contributor in the Rockies lineup. Sure, he isn’t a huge power threat with only four home runs, but he does have the ability to take the ball the other way.

DJ LeMahieu has shown patience in letting the ball get deep in the zone and slapping it into right field. (FanGraphs)

DJ LeMahieu has shown patience in letting the ball get deep in the zone and slapping it into right field. (FanGraphs)

With most of his hits going the opposite way, one could dub him “DJ Spray” – spinning the hits of today in the right-center gap! That’s not going to stick? Shoot.

As for pitching, Ottavino has given the Rockies a bullpen arm that nobody wants to face.

Since arriving at Coors Field, Ottavino has seen his ERA, WHIP and opponent batting average improve every season.

2012: 4.56 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, .253 opponent batting average
2013: 2.64 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, .250 opponent batting average
2014: 1.69 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, .200 opponent batting average

If he keeps improving, he could draw some comparisons to Rollie Fingers. I doubt Ottavino will be able to match Fingers in the moustache game, but they do pitch in a similar way. They both possess a decent fastball, being able to reach 97 miles per hour with precision. What really draws the comparisons is the put-away slider that is virtually untouchable.

Ottavino has used the slider as his finishing pitch, striking out 142 batters throughout his career. Batters are hitting .181 against it and have looked foolish going up against it.

Adam Ottavino uses his slider to freeze up a Rangers hitter. (MLB)

Adam Ottavino uses his slider to freeze up a Dodgers hitter. (MLB)

That just hurts my back looking at it freeze the Dodgers hitter. Side note: notice the score? Always a good day to dominate the boys in blue.

With these terrific numbers and a devastating slider, I see a move into the closer’s role soon for Ottavino. But, manager Walt Weiss says that he is no rush to change the seventh and eighth inning role that Ottavino has mastered this season. If LaTroy Hawkins goes through a slump at any point season, Ottavino should see his chance finally come.

Both LeMahieu and Ottavino have proven to be invaluable members of the club. These two are certainly under-appreciated for all that they do, but without them the Rockies would be looking to sell at the deadline and already prepare for next year.

 

 

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.

Michael Cuddyer should not be in Denver on Aug. 1

Though the July 31 trade deadline is 74 days away, it is never too early to talk about improving the squad.

I firmly believe that if the Rockies want to remain a contender, trading Michael Cuddyer is their best option.

The 2013 National League batting champion set career-highs in batting average (.331), on-base percentage (.389) slugging percentage (.530) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.919) last year.

With those kind of numbers, why should the Rockies move him?

After winning the NL batting title, Cuddyer might be looking for a new home on July 31. (Creative Commons)

After winning the NL batting title, Cuddyer might be looking for a new home on July 31. (Creative Commons)

There are a few reasons, but the main argument is the glut of outfielders that the Rockies have.

Charlie Blackmon has emerged as one of the top leadoff men in baseball, ranking in the top-20 for batting average (.333), home runs (9), RBI (30) and on-base percentage (.364). He has also shown his versatility, starting in all three outfield spots this season. Blackmon has put an emphasis on defense, having only committed two errors with a .974 fielding percentage.

Corey Dickerson is in his second season with the club and has shown that he is here to stay. The lefty has pieced together an impressive start to the 2014 season, owning a .344 batting average, four roundtrippers and 11 RBI in just 26 games. Dickerson has yet to commit an error in 114 chances in the huge outfield of Coors Field.

Drew Stubbs and Brandon Barnes have been nice options off the bench for manager Walt Weiss this year, after both being acquired in the offseason. Stubbs is having a career year at the dish, hitting .326, slugging .500 and getting on base 36.2 percent of the time. He is also a certifiable thief, having swiped over 130 bases during his six-year career. Barnes has been a great two-way player for the Rockies this year, hitting a career-high .325 and starting in every outfield position with only one error.

Finally, Carlos Gonzalez is, well, Carlos Gonzalez. One of the few five-tool players in the league, “CarGo” has gotten off to a slow start in 2014, hitting .270, slugging .485 and getting on base 31 percent of the time. You would have to go back to his rookie year in 2008 with the Oakland A’s to find numbers that low. Since joining the Rockies, he has won a batting title (2010), three Gold Gloves (2010, 2012, 2013), made two All-Star Game appearances (2012, 2013) and has proven to be the second-best asset (Troy Tulowitzki) on this team.

With these five outfielders, and the solid play of Justin Morneau, there seems to be a surplus of talent in Denver at all four spots where Cuddyer can play.

The next set of reasons would be Cuddyer’s contract and age. The 35-year-old outfielder is in the final year of his contract and is set to make $10.5 million off of a three-year, $31.5 million he signed back in 2012. Cuddyer is on the downhill run of his prime, but can net a substantial return if dealt to a contender in need of a bat.

The Atlanta Braves are currently in a tie for the NL East crown at 22-19 and are ranked near the bottom in the major batting categories. They sit in 25th in slugging percentage (.368), 28th in batting average (.231), 29th in on-base percentage (.289) and 30th in runs (129). Though they have lost pitchers Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlan to Tommy John surgeries, they still have six quality starters battling for only five spots. Gavin Floyd, Aaron Harang, Ervin Santana, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor and Alex Wood all have at least two quality starts (6 IP, 3 ER or less) and ERAs below 4.25 this season.

Of that list above, Ervin Santana seems to be the best fit for what Colorado needs – a top of the rotation, shutdown pitcher. Santana is 4-1 on the season with 46 strikeouts, an ERA of 2.76 and a WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.14. Santana makes the most sense to trade for Cuddyer because of his abilities and contract situation.

Santana signed a one-year, $14.1 million deal with the Braves earlier in the offseason. Adding another prospect or two with Cuddyer’s $10.5 million can balance out the salaries and needs for both teams. Plus, if both Santana and Cuddyer do not prove worthy of another deal, their contract is up at the end of the season and both teams would lose nothing.

The Braves should be all over this deal as they need to find a way to keep B.J. Upton out of the lineup.

When July 31 comes rolling around, I wouldn’t expect Cuddyer to stay in Denver – and neither should he.

Rox Linx

TGIF, am I right? Just get through today and then enjoy some Rockies baseball!