DENVER -- Rockies right-handed pitcher Zach Jemiola was slowed by an oblique injury in 2017, but he has found his way back onto the prospect radar that matters.Jemiola, 23, did enough in spring to be considered a candidate for a Major League promotion. But while at Triple-A Albuquerque in May,
DENVER -- Rockies right-handed pitcher Zach Jemiola was slowed by an oblique injury in 2017, but he has found his way back onto the prospect radar that matters.
Jemiola, 23, did enough in spring to be considered a candidate for a Major League promotion. But while at Triple-A Albuquerque in May, he suffered the injury, struggled upon returning and finished the season 6-5 with a 6.48 ERA in 19 games (18 starts).
But Jemiola has put himself back on track with a solid Arizona Fall League performance -- 2-1 with a 2.74 ERA, with 19 strikeouts against nine walks in 23 innings for the Salt River Rafters. The Rockies have a solid group of young starters, but Jemiola will be among those competing to be the next wave. He also has possibilities for a bullpen opening should one arise.
"The season I had this year was not ideal -- I knew I had some adjustments to make in the Fall League," Jemiola said. "I made those adjustments. Instead of worrying about everything else, I just came to have fun in the fall, and it worked real well."
The Rockies' organization has 14 pitchers on its top 30 prospects list according to MLBPipeline.com, but not Jemiola. Among starters, Jemiola, righty Yency Almonte (No. 10) and lefty Sam Howard (No. 12) threw at Triple-A this season and are candidates in line for a spot in the rotation should one of the projected starters suffer an injury or struggle once the season begins.
A ninth-round Draft pick in 2012 out of Great Oak High School in Temecula, Calif., Jemiola can manipulate his fastball into a ground-ball pitch or a four-seamer that has reached 95-96 mph, has an above-average changeup and mixes a cutter and a curve.
Jemiola also has bullpen possibilities. The Rockies tested that route during Spring Training, and he posted a 1.00 ERA and two saves in nine innings over five games in relief. Had Jemiola stayed healthy and progressed, the postseason-bound Rockies may have called upon him.
"I always read the publications, and they never mention him," said Mark Wiley, the Rockies' director of pitching operations. "I kind of wonder why they don't. It's not like he's an 88 mph guy that gets people out, pitches really well. He has pitches. He has size. He has durability. He's a very fierce competitor.
"We've always liked him, and his velocity kept going up, with his competitiveness and the adding of his pitches. This guy will be a big league pitcher, sooner or later."
Jemiola also brings the savvy that comes from dealing with difficult times.
The oblique injury occurred in early May and kept him out until mid-July. Jemiola admittedly expected to be in midseason form when he returned, and wasn't patient with himself. The result was a 2-3 record and 7.58 ERA over his final 10 appearances.
Wiley said Jemiola "expects so much out of himself that it's hard to go, 'That wasn't a bad game I pitched.'" So the Rockies sent him to instructionals, and then the Fall League. Jemiola said talks with Doug Chadwick, who works with Rockies Minor Leaguers on mental skills, were productive.
It came together for him during a Nov. 10 game against Mesa. Lacking his changeup and fastball, Jemiola leaned on his cutter and curve until his main pitches reappeared. He worked around four hits and three walks in four innings, but didn't give up a run.
The lesson was that all doesn't have to go right for Jemiola to make things turn out right.
"I admit I lost some confidence throughout the years," he said. "That's the most disappointed I've ever been in myself: losing the confidence and not getting back that approach -- I don't care who the hitter is. I'm not happy that it happened, but I'm glad that it happened."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.