As we have griped about the Colorado Rockies and their inability to contend from one season to the next, the lack of homegrown pitching has always ranked at the top of their list of problems. In that vein, each top pitching prospect has that much more pressure on him when he makes his debut.
That’s been true of any number of names, from familiar names like Jeff Francis and Jhoulys Chacin to guys like Greg Reynolds and Juan Nicasio to guys acquired in trades like Alex White and Drew Pomeranz (and that’s nowhere near a complete list). And so this was also the case for 2nd round draft pick Chad Bettis when he had arrived in the big leagues last season.
Toting a 9.71 K/9 mark in AA, the Rockies looked to Bettis to breath life into the dreaded 5th spot of their rotation. Even at the time some people wondered if Bettis’s stuff (hard fastball and slider) profiled better for a role in the bullpen. After inefficiency marred his stint in the rotation, Bettis was switched to the bullpen. And while his work there was not overwhelmingly successful, it did lay the groundwork for a bullpen role for him in 2014.
Bettis’s stuff gives us hope that he can be effective in such a role. His average fastball velocity in 2013 was 93.3 MPH (per FanGraphs). Give him a full season out of the bullpen and that number will likely tick upward. His pedigree and his ability to strike out hitters make him an intriguing option as the Rockies figure out how to distribute the work in a bullpen that was run down by the end of last season.
Think of it this way: if the Rockies are onto something with Bettis and he breaks through next season, it will be adding a blue-chipper to a bullpen that has already been bolstered by the additions of LaTroy Hawkins and Boone Logan. So as you piece this bullpen together and hope for improvement…don’t forget about Chad Bettis.