Kyle Freeland‘s shoulder injury threatens to prematurely derail one of the most promising starting rotations the Rockies have ever put forward. His initial absence will give other pitchers in the system the opportunity to prove themselves. Unfortunately, after their starting five, the Rockies’ pitching depth is very weak.
Probably the most likely to step in to the rotation is Chi Chi Gonzalez, who has pitched in 20 games for Colorado over the past two seasons, posting a 5.66 ERA and walking almost five batters per nine innings. Gonzalez’s Spring Training has been surprisingly adequate (two wins and a 3.72 ERA over four games with only two walks) though the sample size has been small.
Former San Francisco Giant and son of baseball legend Ivan Rodriguez, Dereck Rodriguez, is another option, though his spring has been rough. Rodriguez has surrendered 11 runs in 11 innings for a 9.00 ERA while posting a 1.82 WHIP. To his credit, he has only walked two of the 51 batters he has faced over those 11 innings, but he has also been tagged for five home runs.
Rodriguez hasn’t been the victim of one bad outing inflating his numbers, either, as he’s given up about a run an inning in each of his appearances, though it’s worth noting he pitched two scoreless innings in his most recent appearance against the Milwaukee Brewers on March 24. Though he’s struggled mightily since, Rodriguez had a great rookie season with the Giants in 2018, posting a 2.81 ERA and 135 ERA+ in 21 games, so he has seen major league success before.
Other options prospect Ryan Rolison who threw four scoreless innings over two games before allowing four runs on four hits, two walks, and 2 homers in 1.2 innings in his last appearance.
In the bullpen, lefty Ben Bowden (the team’s No. 15 prospect) has a good chance to fight his way onto the Opening Day roster for three reasons. First, ge has had a really good spring (1.17 ERA, 11 K, 0.65 WHIP, .115 AVG. against in nine games). Second, the Rockies bullpen is really bad. Third, the team currently doesn’t have a single left-hander in the ‘pen. If he’s ready, he deserves this chance, if he’s not ready, he might get it anyway.
2021 will be a strange season and some of these position battles might be ongoing even into the summer but, as a team with low expectations, it will be good for the Rockies to give some of their younger players a chance to see some playing time and prove they belong.