Aug 6, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies catcher Michael McKenry (8) and relief pitcher Brooks Brown (51) celebrate the win over the Chicago Cubs at Coors Field. The Rockies defeated the Cubs 13-4. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Having just written a piece on the competition for the final spot (or two) in the Rockies bullpen this spring where I asked you guys to play general manager and choose which pitcher you’d most like to see in the bullpen, I thought it only fair to weigh in with my own opinion.
Brooks Brown deserves to make the Opening Day roster. He’s done enough with the Rockies, between last summer and this spring, to build trust in his ability as a quality reliever.
Call to the Pen
Taking nothing away from the other two men competing for the job (Rafael Betancourt and Scott Oberg), or some of the other guys in AAA who will undoubtedly see big league time this season (Tommy Kahnle and Jairo Diaz, to name a few), Brooks Brown has earned this opportunity.
Brown spent nine seasons in the minor leagues after being drafted in the 1st Round in 2006 by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He primarily started in the minors until being converted into a relief role in 2013 in the Pirates organization.
When Brown was first called up last July, I thought (as I’m sure you did) great, a 29-year old rookie who’s been in the minors nearly a decade, and the Rockies bring him to the big leagues? How good could he possibly be? There’s nobody better down there?
When you watch a lot of baseball, you see tendencies among player histories; 29-year old rookies typically don’t quite have the same cache as a young phenom (no offense to you, Hector Olivera).
Nevertheless, all Brown did when he came to Denver was get outs. And prevent base runners. And strand inherited runners. You know, things that are kind of important for relief pitchers.
Brown threw 26 innings across 28 games, allowing a measly 20 hits and five walks, good enough for a 3.71 FIP, a 156 ERA+, and a 0.96 WHIP. Any reliever who allows less than a walk and hit per inning pitched is a reliever you want in your bullpen. He’s done much of the same across eight spring appearances, too.
Jul 22, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies reliever Brooks Brown (51) prepares to deliver a pitch in the seventh inning against the Washington Nationals at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
According to FanGraphs, Brown threw his fastball an average of 94.4 mph last summer to go along with an 87.2 mph slider. That’s a strong arm and a great one-two punch, especially for a middle reliever.
No, Brown will never be the closer of the future, or the lockdown eighth inning set-up man. He won’t throw quite as hard as Diaz, or bring as much veteran leadership and knowledge as Betancourt. He doesn’t have as high of an upside as Kahnle or Oberg. But right now, today, for the start of this season, Brooks Brown is the guy who should be breaking camp and heading to Milwaukee in a few days.
There’s obviously value in bullpen back-end guys who can lock down the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings of games. But increasingly, there’s also value on the bridge guys – the relievers who can get a starter out of a fifth or sixth inning jam (especially in a pitching-challenged ballpark like Coors Field).
Let Brown be that bridge guy to get us to Betancourt, LaTroy Hawkins, Rex Brothers, Adam Ottavino, or whomever else is going to throw at the end of games. And let Brown work in long relief eating innings and throwing strikes to protect the arms of our late inning guys on days where games get out of hand early. That’s where the Rockies can find his value.
Again, this takes nothing away from Betancourt or Oberg, the other two fighting for bullpen jobs. Both those guys have value in their own right. But based on the recent past, Brooks Brown has done enough and earned his way to a job in the Rockies bullpen, and he deserves to be with the team on Opening Day in Milwaukee.
Addendum: you can follow Brooks Brown on Twitter @BrooksB34.
And speaking of Brown’s Twitter account, we’ve compiled a Twitter list of Rockies players, former players, and prospects. Here is that list; if you use Twitter, please, let us know who we can add to it, as it’ll be growing throughout the year.