2012 Rockies Position Preview: Starting Rotation, Part 1


I’m already tired. Due to the number of candidates and the extra attention being paid to the Rockies rotation, we’re going to break this up into three posts. Let’s start at the back of the rotation, which is also the most unclear. This post is dedicated to projecting the answeres to these questions: who will be the 5th starter, and where does that leave the other candidates for that spot?

Note: for many, this battle has been boiled down to the young Tyler Chatwood and the old Jamie Moyer. But let’s go ahead and recap the other guys who were in the conversation at one point or another and where they stand now.

Keeping their fingers crossed for a humidor in Colorado Springs, or, guys who will be in the minors to start the season

The aforementioned Tyler Chatwood seemed to have one foot in the door for much of the spring. Before his trade to the Rockies, he had one called-up-too-soon 6-11 season with the Anaheim Los Angeles Angels. He looks really young, almost to the point it is comical (it’s all about the ears!). He is known for his electric stuff, especially his fastball. He has also enjoyed high praise from veteran teammates, including Michael Cuddyer and Todd Helton. Even if he does not snag a rotation spot to start the year, we have not heard the last from him. Ultimately it is a flat and sometimes wild fastball that nudges him out of the #5 spot. For now he needs more seasoning, which means he is not an ideal candidate for any role in the bullpen in the meantime. He will not be the 5th starter.

What’s the bright side? The impression he made early should give him numerous opportunities to figure it out and be a part of the team’s plans down the road. The wear and tear of the season all but guarantees we will see him make multiple starts for the big club this season.

Josh Outman, one of two parts of the Seth Smith trade, touts a .500 record from three non-descript seasons with the Oakland Athletics. These were mostly games started, but included some time coming out of the bullpen. Outman also missed one season, 2010, missed because of Tommy John surgery. As far as distinguishing characteristics, he is left handed and has a really cool pitcher’s name. If he was brought in to compete for a spot in the rotation, he has not done very well: 5 ER in 7.2 IP. And really, isn’t he always the odd man out in these conversations? Like the person you’re talking to goes: “Oh yea, I forgot about him…” He will not be the 5th starter.

What’s the bright side? He’s left handed. That combined with his previous experience in the bullpen surely means we will see him at some point in the purple pinstripes, even if it isn’t to start the season.

How do you feel about pitching from the stretch? Guys simultaneously pitching for a bullpen and rotation spot

Guillermo Moscoso, the other half of the Seth Smith trade, brings the second-most major league crediblity to this conversation, starting 21 games for the Oakland Athletics in 2011. His 3.38 ERA from that season is encouraging, but it is also nuanced because he pitched half of those games (ish) in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum. Prior to that, he logged some bullpen innings while pitching for the Texas Rangers. Moscoso is hoping to distinguish himself this spring with a new cut fastball that will neutralize some of his previous flyball tendencies. While we wait for that to happen, his performances have been underwhelming. Starting the spring he probably had the best chance to decidedly seize the job and not look back. He didn’t. He will not be the 5th starter.

What’s the bright side? It seems like Moscoso will still be on the big league roster, as he makes for a nice long relief option and could then step in for spot starts.

Alex White, the lesser of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade return, pitched well for the Indians in a brief stint last season. He followed that up by pitching horribly for the Rockies in a more extended stint in the rotation. He distinguishes himself with a hard sinker and split finger pitch, a combination that still makes him profile as a guy who can sustain success in Coors Field. Even with some troubling off the field behavior, I believe his future with the club is bright. White’s spring has been characterized by struggles on the field as well, with the exception of a nice outing out of the bullpen yesterday. Unfortunately, it’s not good for anything more than a hearty “atta boy!” He will not be the 5th starter.

What’s the bright side? The future. White will fit into the team’s plans, but frankly I do not see any reason to force him onto the big club this year. Rather than fit him for a spot in the bullpen, he should remain in the minor leagues working as a starter. It makes sense to develop him as the starting pitcher they traded for last July.

Let us mention Esmil Rogers here, even though he waved bye-bye to any hope for the rotation long ago. His previous experience with the club includes starts and appearances out of the bullpen. He is a decidedly better reliever, which means he will have a good chance to at least start the year as a long man out of the pen. I don’t see it lasting, though. To a fan’s eye it looks like he gets in his own way with a fickle psyche. To a hitter’s eye he is a welcome sight, because he reaches so far back that he shows them the ball twice (this just always bugs me). In June I think we will talk about Rogers as a former Rockie, and as a disappointment. And oh yea…he will definitely not be the 5th starter.

What’s the bright side? There is a best case scenario where Rogers manages to parlay his previous bullpen success into a stable role as a long reliever. And that is certainly a welcome possibility, as the Rockies would hate to see that talent go to waste.

And finally….drum roll please….

Jamie Moyer is 49 years old. He has pitched for the following teams: the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Seattle Mariners, and the Philadelphia Phillies. His attempted comeback this year after Tommy John surgery has garnered attention as a nice story, a feel good story. But Moyer’s performance has far exceeded those descriptors. He will be the 5th starter.

And it’s not because the team wants the attention or by default or because of the change in clubhouse culture. It’s because he’s been the best pitcher out of this group. Period. As long as his body can hold up, the soft tossing Moyer is in line to be a major contributor for the 2012 Colorado Rockies.

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