The refrain of the last number of Colorado Rockies seasons will ring true once again this year: the fastest way to fix the starting rotation is for a hot prospect or two to get over the proverbial hump. Last year and perhaps the year before, this placed an inordinate amount of pressure on Jhoulys Chacin. This year that pressure will fall squarely on the shoulders of the young lefty Drew Pomeranz.
Let’s start by remembering one thing about Pomeranz: he is an absolute pup. Kiddo. Young blood. He just turned 24 years old, and when the Rockies added him as part of the infamous Ubaldo Jimenez trade, he was little more than one year removed from the amateur draft in which he was selected 5th overall. So while the pressure on Pomeranz will be tremendous and the expectations will be high, let’s still give him time to grow up. As we have seen with the aforementioned Chacin, when a young pitcher gets rushed to the big leagues, he is forced to go through some growing pains while he is part of the big league roster. Before we overreact to Pomeranz’s bad 2012 season (and make no mistake, it was bad), we should remember that simple thing. He is still growing up.
What was the problem for Pomeranz in 2012? In a nutshell, just about everything went wrong. He got hit hard, he walked too many hitters and did not strike out enough hitters. He was forced to rely on his fastball far too much and even had to go to Colorado Springs to fix his delivery (he was working underneath the ball too much). The stats? 2-9 record, 14 home runs allowed, and a depressing 4.93 ERA (helped very little by his 4.81 FIP). He struck out 83 to 46 walks. And yes, he was forced to participate in project 5,183 or whatever the hell it was called (I’m not even indulging it with a hyperlink).
Pomeranz almost has the opposite problem of Chacin; he needs to improve his secondary pitches to better complement his fastball (as opposed to Chacin, who just needs to throw enough decent fastballs for strikes to set up his off-speed stuff). Bradley Woodrum of FanGraphs.com wrote an excellent breakdown of Pomeranz’s struggles with his secondary pitches last September. It comes down to this: his curveball and change-up got hit hard in the strike zone and did not fool enough hitters out of the zone. The biggest resulting problem was the fact that right handed hitters mashed him, and that would have been true in Coors Field or Petco Park or the frickin’ Polo Grounds.
Pomeranz still profiles as the ace that he did when he was drafted; one year of struggles should not change that, especially given the tumult surrounding the team last season. If he continues to polish his delivery so that he stays on the top of the ball his curve and change should improve. That should also clean up his command so that he walks fewer hitters.
Finally and most importantly, a measure of stability and consistency from a new coaching staff should help the young Pomeranz, as well as a season completely evacuated of any system that includes the words “paired pitching,” “piggyback,” or even “project.” Just put him in the rotation spot he earns and let him work, and hopefully he will re-gain his swagger, get over the hump, and start to look like the ace the Rockies need him to be.
Where should Pomeranz be in 2013? The #3 starter in the Rockies rotation.
Where will Pomeranz be in 2013? In the rotation, pending his performance in the rotation competition in Spring Training.