Pair of Rockies pitching prospects dominate High-A, Double-A in same night

April 20th, 2024

As inclement weather postponed the Rockies’ series opener with the Mariners on Friday, two of the club’s top prospective pitchers battled no elements en route to tearing up the Minor Leagues.

No. 2 prospect Chase Dollander and No. 15 prospect Carson Palmquist combined for double-digit strikeouts in their respective starts, putting an emphasis on the organization’s strong night off the rubber.

With just two professional outings under his belt, Dollander set out to break his own personal records Friday for High-A Spokane. MLB’s No. 47 prospect surpassed his career high in innings and strikeouts, punching out 12 batters in 5 1/3 frames in a 5-4 win over the Everett AquaSox.

"I was really able to use my curveball to my advantage and protect my fastball the way I wanted it to," said Dollander, who added that his slider is not back to where he wants it to be. "I stole some strikes and was able to play that off my fastball really well. And I feel like tonight I had a really good mix of just about everything and that enabled me to what I did tonight."

But what threw a wrench in his strong performance came after he left the mound. The ninth overall pick in 2023 got the hook after striking out his 12th batter of the night in the top of the sixth inning at Avista Stadium.

Dollander plunked and walked his lone batters of the game just before recording his final out. His two bequeathed runners came around to score in the frame, closing his line with four earned runs on three hits, one walk and one hit batter -- his first two runners scored on an RBI double in the first and solo home run in the third, respectively.

"At the end of the day, you have to look at it for what it is and just kind of move of from it," Dollander said. "The way I do that is just take a deep breath and just attack the next hitter. I focus pitch-by-pitch and executing one pitch at a time, and that's just kind of what works for me."

Even with a late blemish to his line, the Tennessee product dominated. Dollander continued to mix his pitches at a higher rate, generating 24 swings-and-misses -- 15 more than the next closest pitcher in the game -- while raising his strikeout total on the season to 27 in 15 1/3 innings.

Entering the night with 0.90 ERA in his first 10 innings, Dollander saw his mark climb to 2.93 on the season. Yet he came away with an extra out in his third start after tossing 85 and 84 pitches, respectively, in his first two outings. Dollander pushed it to 93 total offerings Friday as he eclipsed the fifth inning for the first time this year, building up his pitch count after not making his Major League debut last summer.

"I would say for myself I wanted to go a little deeper," Dollander said. "I don't really know what the coaches have planned to be honest with you, but I'm happy they let me go out there for the sixth, although the sixth didn't really go the way I wanted it to. ... I'm just happy that I was able to go up and down six times."

Southpaw dominance in Somerset
It was a classic, two-hour and three-minute pitcher’s duel on Friday as Palmquist and Double-A Hartford faced Somerset (Yankees). While Trystan Vrieling (NYY No. 23) held Hartford hitless through 7 2/3 innings, setting the home team up for a 1-0 walk-off win, Palmquist racked up double-digit strikeouts over six scoreless innings. It was the fifth double-digit strikeout game of his career and his first at the Double-A level.

The Rockies’ third-ranked pitching prospect finished the game with four hits and one walk allowed along with 10 strikeouts, turning in his best start in what has already been a dominant season. Palmquist has yet to allow a run over his three starts and is one of two qualified Eastern League pitchers to still have a 0.00 ERA (Zach Penrod, Portland). To boot, he leads the league in strikeouts with 25.

Palmquist's success primarily stems from his funky delivery, which combines a low arm slot with a unique pitching motion. His ability to deceive batters bodes well for the club's third-round pick from the 2022 Draft as it could translate into future success in the notoriously difficult-to-solve Coors Field.