Inbox: Which starters could help bullpen?

November 23rd, 2019

DENVER -- Let’s say the front of the Rockies’ rotation -- , and -- are healthy and productive in 2020. Can some of the answers for the rotation and the bullpen be a combination of the same guys?

We tackle that in this week’s Inbox.

Throughout history, many "failed" starting pitchers have found their footing in the bullpen -- Goose Gossage, Dennis Eckersley, Mariano Rivera, even now Archie Bradley, Andrew Miller, Adam Ottavino. The Rockies have plenty of "failed" starting pitchers for 2020. Why not just invest in one or two solid starting pitchers this offseason and push others to the bullpen?

With proven pitching expensive and the Rockies’ payroll rising because of the number of arbitration-eligible players, it’s difficult to imagine a big expenditure on starting pitchers. However, the end of last season allowed several righty starters -- , , , and -- to make enough progress that they are competitors for the rotation in 2020.

With González, Senzatela and Hoffman out of Minor League options, whoever doesn’t make the rotation could slide into a bullpen role. Should Lambert, a younger prospect forced into rotation duty by struggles at the big league level, not crack the rotation, expect him to continue his development at Triple-A Albuquerque.

With Yasmani Grandal signed by the White Sox and off the table, whom do the Rockies target for a catcher upgrade? Or do they go after a starting pitcher?
-- @Cjameson93

They have already stated they are going after a catcher with experience. As I mention above, it’s likely they’re not making a huge pitching expenditure.

How would you grade the Rockies’ Draft history since Jeff Bridich took over as general manager in 2014?
--KMulldowney

The GM’s role is big in asserting what the team wants at the Major League level. But scouting vice president Bill Schmidt has been in charge of the team’s Drafts since 2000.

But to stay in your parameters, a look at Drafts since 2015 (the first one with the team under Bridich) shows some notable finds -- infielder (third round, 2016), Lambert (second round, 2015) and outfielder (15th round, 2015). Add infielder as the first-round pick (third overall) in 2015, and you have no immediate stars but players who have tasted the Majors.

The big concern is injuries, especially to pitching prospects.

Lefty reliever Ben Bowden (second round, ’16) appears past the string of injuries that cost him 2017. He reached Triple-A in ’19 and could be a bullpen factor in ’20. However, righty starters Riley Pint (first round, ’16) and Mike Nikorak (first round, ’15), and righty reliever Robert Tyler (first round, ’15) have missed significant time with injuries and have yet to reach Double-A.

The Rockies need a wave of prospects blossoming at once to give the big league squad immediate help. Theoretically, the aforementioned who have been in the Majors (Hampson, Lambert, Rodgers and Hilliard) and those on the verge (Bowden), along with lefty starter Ryan Rolison (first round, ’18) and corner infielder/outfielder Tyler Nevin (first round, ’15), represent a potential wave that could provide much-needed help as early as 2020.