Considering the struggles of the Colorado Rockies starting rotation this season, you might not believe me if I said they have multiple candidates to serve as a true staff ace next season and beyond. However difficult it is to believe, it might also be true. Unfortunately the process of identifying that guy continues to be hindered by a rash of injuries and the volatility of youth.
Start with Jorge De La Rosa, whose importance to the team is without debate at this point. Those of us who were
stupid naive enough to believe the Rockies had a chance to win this season pointed to De La Rosa’s return from Tommy John surgery as one reason why. A handful of complications later, and we will not see him at all this season. He does remain a candidate to be a staff ace next year, pending two questions:
Is his stuff still electric? Will he be 100% healthy, and be able to stay healthy?
The answers: Yes, and I don’t know and I don’t know.
Next is Drew Pomeranz. From the moment he was officially a professional pitcher the expectations for him have never been anything less than big-time-left-handed staff ace. Stud. Star. And so on. The Rockies, in what seemed to be an urgent attempt to justify the controversial trade that landed Pomeranz, have forced him to develop in the big show, for the entire fan base to see. As such, the excitement about him as a franchise cornerstone peaks and wanes in short windows of time. This has included multiple trips to the minor leagues, multiple bad outings for the big league club, serious issues holding runners on base, and a few dominant outings sprinkled in. There is still a whole lot to be excited about with him. The key is patience; he remains a main candidate to be a staff ace next year and for years to come, pending these two questions:
How much will his youth and inexperience continue to show? Can he stay healthy?
The answers: enough that he will not be the ace yet, and I don’t know. His durability is something to monitor in the short term, especially considering the news that he might have to miss his start Wednesday (enter…Guillermo Moscoso!).
Finally there is Jhoulys Chacin, who is scheduled to make his return to the Rockies sometime next week after a final rehab start on Thursday for the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. It is reasonable to assume that the expectations heaped on him to start the season were a bit too much. I think we too easily forget that Chacin was put in a similar position to the one Pomeranz finds himself in now; he had to learn on the job. And not just learn how to pitch in the Major Leagues. He had to learn how to be an ace. That is a lot to ask.
With Chacin, the questions moving forward are slightly different. He can potentially be a staff ace for the Colorado Rockies, pending these two questions:
Is he durable enough? Is he actually a staff ace?
The answer to the first question: I don’t know. The answer to the second one is a bit more complicated. Yes, Chacin has shown flashes of dominance that project him as an ace. But he was also pegged the ace of the future, at least in part, for lack of any other option after the departure of Ubaldo Jimenez. It would have been better to have him come into the role more naturally, but such is the predicament of an organization that is scrambling for pitching depth. As Chacin returns, he just needs to show that he is back on track. He does not need to dominate. Not yet.
Whether or not the Rockies are as doomed as they seem to be will depend largely on their starting rotation. The success of their starting rotation will depend largely on one of these three men being able to emerge as a stud. Hopefully at least one of them can overcome their respective list of question marks in between now and next April when the Rockies will have a chance to matter again.