While reading Troy Renck’s article on the next Rockies player to receive a long term deal, I noticed the mention of the decision to not install a humidor in Security Service Field, home of the Rockies Triple-A affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. In October of this past season it seemed like it was decided that they would in fact install a humidor in Colorado Springs to mimic the conditions of pitching in Denver. I am not sure what happened between October and today to change the minds of Dan O’Dowd and company, but I seriously hope they reconsider.
Without a humidor Colorado Springs becomes almost useless in player development for the Rockies. The example Renck uses is Clayton Mortensen, who was recently shipped to Boston for Marco Scutaro . In 64 innings at Colorado Springs Mortensen had an ERA of 9.42, while in 58 1/3 innings in the majors his ERA was 3.86. I know ERA is an imperfect stat for evaluating pitchers, but the difference here is staggering. The best ERA for a starter last year with the Sky Sox was Edgar Gonzalez with a 5.29 ERA, while team finished with a 6.41 ERA. Not exactly the kind of environment you want young pitcher to develop their skills in.
The other side of the pitching numbers are the inflated offensive numbers, making it almost impossible to judge position players at that level. Just this past season former Rockies center fielder Willy Taveras hit 10 home runs with the Sky Sox. In 2,412 career major league at bats Taveras has hit 8 home runs, and his previous high at any level was 4 playing in Single A in 2002. Chris Nelson has a career .321 average in Triple A, while batting .268 at all other levels combined. Josh Fields is a career .282 hitter in the minors, he hit .365 in Colorado Springs. Eric Young, Jr. is a career .246 hitter in the majors, he hit .363 with the Sky Sox last year. And that is just 2011, the same thing has been happening for years with players like Matt Miller, Edwin Bellorin and Sean Barker putting up big numbers in the PCL that mean nothing to the rest of baseball.
I understand the advantages of having your Triple A team just down the road from the big club, and that there are more problems with Security Service Field and the PCL in general than the altitude at Colorado Springs, but a humidor is the easiest fix. Without it Colorado Springs will continue to be a place where the Rockies store depth players like Mike Jacobs, Eric Stults and John Maine, and the player development will all happen at Double A Tulsa. It’s already happening with the Rockies having several players on the current roster who made their MLB debut without playing in Triple A, including Troy Tulowitzki, Jhoulys Chacin, Dexter Fowler and Juan Nicasio