Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Not much time has been spent looking at the race for the Colorado Rockies’ #5 starting pitching position, and that’s probably for the best for a couple of reasons. The first is that the competition is pretty bad.
There’s Franklin Morales, a 28 year old pitcher who has pitched 195 games in the Majors but only started 25 of them. There’s Jordan Lyles, a pitcher who the Rockies inexplicably traded centerfielder Dexter Fowler for. Lyles hasn’t posted an ERA below 5 in any of his three seasons in the Majors, and that was in the spacious Minute Maid Park, not Coors Field.There’s Juan Nicasio, who was pretty decent in his first season (2011), but regressed the following two seasons and had a 5.14 ERA in a full season last year while barely averaging five innings per start. There’s Chad Bettis, who showed some glimpses last year but ended with a 5.64 ERA in 44.2 innings last season. Those are the four major competitors for the #5 spot to start the season, and none are very exciting.
Another reason that the race for the 5th starter role hasn’t been getting much press is that, frankly, it won’t matter in a couple of months, because, in June or July, Eddie Butler and/or Jonathan Gray will likely be ready to step in. So it probably doesn’t matter who wins the job, because they’ll only hold it for a few months (unless they are good, which somehow feels unlikely), but I’m weird and for some reason I care about who wins it. And I want the famous Yohan Flande to win the job.
Honestly, I don’t know much about Yohan Flande. Flande started off in the Phillies’ system before moving to the Braves and eventually signing with the Rockies before this season. He’s 28 years old. The reason I’m endorsing Flande is simple: he has been good in the minor leagues, and hasn’t gotten his shot in the MLB. Yohan Flande has pitched 922 career innings, including 416 in AAA. He has a 3.70 career ERA, and a 4.13 ERA in AAA. That might not be enough to instill a ton of confidence, but I’d say that Flande has been unlucky to not get even one chance to impress at the highest level. Had he been in the Rockies system, I’m pretty sure he would have gotten a shot already, but instead he was on the Phillies back when they were good and the Braves, who have a ton of pitching depth. Neither organization Flande was with before Colorado had any need for Flande or any reason to take a risk.
But the Rockies do have a need for starting pitchers (see the list above: it’s not great), and they have to take risks to contend, unlike the talented teams Flande was on before Colorado. Why not take a risk on someone who hasn’t gotten a shot yet? Flande probably doesn’t have great stuff (6.5 career K/9), but he does have good command (2.7 BB/9), and has been about average in AAA. On most teams, that wouldn’t be good enough to be given a job in the starting rotation, although Flande was unlucky not to get a spot start or two. On the Rockies, it should be enough.
Again, whoever the #5 starter is probably won’t be there for long, unless they can impress. And don’t you think it’s more likely for someone like Yohan Flande, with no career MLB innings, to impress than, say, Jordan Lyles, with 377 mostly terrible innings? Starting Yohan Flande, at least a couple of times, would be something I’d consider as “low risk, high reward.” If worst comes to worst, Flande will be demoted back to AAA, and Franklin Morales can then make his starts of five innings and three runs allowed. But in a race where most of the contestants have already failed, why not give the guy who hasn’t failed yet a chance? Jump on the Yohan Flande bandwagon now, because it’s going to fill fast (just kidding… we’ve got plenty of room for you).