Presumably Outman will come out of the bullpen in 2013. Image: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Evaluating The Talent: Josh Outman

Neither of the pitchers acquired from the Oakland A’s in exchange for Seth Smith last year were successful in their first season with the Colorado Rockies. Each was considered a suspect addition to a team that plays half its games at altitude. Even if we sand down the edges of the hyperbole that has been the dismay about Coors Field in recent seasons, it will never make sense for the Rockies to invest in pitchers with fly ball tendencies and it did not make sense in that trade.

Some felt the Rockies should have gotten more value for Smith. Others, myself included, thought Smith was overrated. No matter what your opinion in that regard, it did not make sense to add two pitchers who relied more on fly balls than ground balls.

At the time of the deal, both pitchers acknowledged the challenge that was ahead of them. Moscoso, for his part, was confident in his ability to adapt and find success at altitude. He cited his development of a cutter as support for his argument. Moscoso has since been claimed off of waivers by the Kansas City Royals. He was, unequivocally, a failure in Colorado.

Outman, on the other hand, knew that he was not a good fit for the Rockies from the start. He openly acknowledged the fact that he relied on fly balls to get outs and that he would have to adjust in order to find any measure of success in Colorado. Let’s just say that he is still trying to adjust, although fly balls were not the problem as much as walks in 2012. His BB/9 held at a discouraging 4.43 mark, a far cry from his 3.55 number for the A’s in 2011.

Outman pitched tremendously well as a starter for the Tulsa Drillers last season. That included a no-hit bid in which he was one out away from inking his name in the Rockies’ depressingly thin history books. There’s just one problem: the Rockies never used him as a true starter at the big league level. He pitched out of the bullpen and as one of the starting pitchers who was forced to give way to a “piggybacker” after 75 pitches. It is hard to get a read on what the Rockies want from Outman; they sent him to the minor leagues as a true starting pitcher, yet it seems more and more like they view him as a reliever moving forward.

One can envision why Outman’s skills translate well to bullpen use. His success against left-handed hitters (held them to a .194 BA in 2012) makes him a good option as a match-up guy. His previous stints as a starter provide a versatility that means he can also make extended appearances as needed.

If the Rockies commit to Outman as a relief pitcher and develop him as such, he makes sense as part of the plans in 2013. But if they continue with the indecision that loomed over his 2012 campaign, as he was switched from the bullpen to starting and back again, they will continue to hinder any hopes that remain that they will able to reap value from their decision to trade Smith last year.

I also like the personality Outman brings out of the bullpen. His finely tuned red chinstrap beard combined with his super-awesome socks equals the type of eccentricity one wants from a solid relief pitcher.

Where should Outman be in 2013? In the Rockies’ bullpen, serving multiple roles.

Where will Outman be in 2013? In the Rockies’ bullpen, where they will use him as a both a match-up and long relief guy.

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