A Rotation Option For The Colorado Rockies Not Named Jon Gray


Mar 1, 2014; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher J. Lannan (32) throws against the Miami Marlins in the spring training game at Tradition Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Gray is the buzz name, and has been for a while, but there is one new rotation replacement option the Colorado Rockies should consider if they decide to make a move. 

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Forgive me if, in the interim between this being posted (on Thursday evening) and you reading it, a move is made or a Saturday starter is announced, but as of right now the Rockies’ probable pitchers page doesn’t list one for the Fourth of July game in Arizona.

The turn, of course, would be David Hale‘s to have, so it’s bizarre that the Rockies haven’t announced it — it’s not like there’s an injury or other issue (besides effectiveness, of course…) that’s preventing Hale from starting.

Either the Rockies know something and they aren’t telling anybody (yet) about a roster move, or it’s just an MLB.com update lag and Hale will start as normal Saturday.

Option two is fine — most Rockies fans would probably argue it’s more important to replace Kyle Kendrick in the rotation now, or promote Jon Gray, than it is to get rid of David Hale. But option one — the Rockies haven’t listed Hale as Saturday’s starter for a reason — intrigues me if only for a potential replacement not named Jon Gray.

Currently, Gray is on the same throwing schedule as Chris Rusin; each will throw tonight in their respective games, and it’s commonly thought (at least in the insular world that is Twitter) that when Gray is promoted, he’ll take Rusin’s spot in the rotation. That makes sense in giving Gray his normal schedule, though of course there’s no rule that requires this to be the case. Gray could replace Hale, or Kendrick, or anyone else.

But acknowledging the Gray-Rusin links, there’s another link that interests me with Hale’s Saturday spot possibly up in the air: John Lannan. Lannan, on the same schedule as Hale, has been consistent in the pitcher’s hell that is Albuquerque, with a 4.10 ERA and 3-3 record across 83.1 innings. He’s allowed 107 hits (yikes) but also only 18 walks, and boasts a nearly 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio.

He’s thrown even better in his last ten starts, registering a 3.56 ERA and just ten walks in 65.2 innings. There’s bad news, of course — he allowed 16 hits (!) in an eight inning complete game loss to Salt Lake in his last start, and earlier allowed 13 hits in 5.2 innings in a loss to Tacoma.

Lannan is not the only Rockies’ starting option who gives up a lot of hits, though. Hale himself has allowed 52 — with just 7 walks — in 42.1 innings in Denver, including eleven (!) home runs.

Both guys have been filling up the strike zone and exchanging hittable offerings for fewer free passes, which is not the worst strategy to take at altitude, whether Denver or Albuquerque.

I’ve argued before that the Rockies ought to wait a few more weeks on Jon Gray as he develops in AAA; Lannan’s hypothetical promotion would reinforce that.

With 148 big league starts to his name, Lannan represents a veteran presence that can spell Hale (or anyone else) struggling in the Rockies’ rotation in the short term. In other words, exactly what Rusin has been upon his promotion.

Perhaps Rusin is the best parallel for Lannan; neither one is a prospect, arguably neither will be with the Rockies next season, each were brought in as depth pieces in AAA to prepare for rotation problems, and one (Rusin) has since staked his claim on a rotation spot.

Nobody expected much of Rusin, and he’s been a nice surprise. The same could hold for Lannan. Gray, of course, is certainly the future, and Hale was acquired this winter for a reason and factors in the future, too. If the Rockies feel Hale needs a breather and Gray still isn’t quite ready, Lannan should join Rusin and bridge the rotation gap until Gray now, too.

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