Checking in with Juan Nicasio


Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sport

This past week Dave Krieger of 850 KOA spoke with Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd about a variety of topics, providing fodder for writers and fans alike. O’Dowd’s most noteworthy comments had to do with center fielder Dexter Fowler, who is apparently available via trade this off-season. But he also touched on the starting rotation, which brought up Juan Nicasio‘s name.

When Krieger asked about the rotation, O’Dowd said the following:

"As we sit here today, we have four starters, knock on wood health, which are (Jhoulys) Chacin, (Jorge) De La Rosa, (Tyler) Chatwood and (Juan) Nicasio. We still would love to add more depth to that."

I have never really conducted this type of interview, but if it was me, I would have followed up with a question like this: “By depth, do you mean actual Major League pitchers or another round of guys like Roy Oswalt and Jeff Francis?” It’s at that point that I would expect O’Dowd to yell, “YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT JEFF LIKE THAT” and jump across the table at me. But I digress.

Krieger’s follow-up question was to confirm that the organization still sees Nicasio as a starter. O’Dowd responded as follows:

"We do. He hadn’t pitched for two years. Got physically tired the second half of the year, especially his knee that he had surgery on. Didn’t get a chance to train much last winter because of the knee surgery. He throws a lot of innings for us. No doubt he has to get better, but going out on the market, we’re understanding the value of what he brings to our club."

It should also be added that Nicasio was rushed to the Major Leagues in the first place before he had his development interrupted twice by injuries. You could argue that his 2013 season, which was rocky at times and spectacular at others, was still part of the development process for a young starting pitcher. In total he logged 157.2 innings in 31 starts, going 9-9 with a 5.14 ERA and 4.25 FIP.

Nicasio needs to improve his command. A successful version of Nicasio probably looks like a more intimidating Aaron Cook: primarily hard sinkers with the occasional off-speed pitch incorporated. The obsession over the years has been with Nicasio’s inability to develop his slider and change-up as the second and third pitches that would make him a legitimate starter. We know now that is not nearly as important to his existence as a viable starter as is his ability to pound sinkers and get a bunch of ground-balls. He throws 95 and so we assume he should be striking hitters out, but that is not his recipe for success.

The Rockies have gone through a lot with Juan Nicasio. With some of those events being unusual, it might be that 2013 was the first year where they just focused on developing Nicasio on the Major League level. If they see him as a starting pitcher in 2014, that likely pegs him as their fourth starter. That means they are hoping to reap the benefits of their patience with his maddening ups and downs in 2013. Let’s hope that’s the right decision.