DENVER -- What does one do while sitting in a coffee shop, looking out at a snowy, 13-degree day? Think about Rockies lefty pitching prospect Ryan Rolison and wait for spring.
Here’s this week’s Inbox:
How do the Rockies plan to deal with the lack of pitching depth in the organization?
Two concerns go hand in hand -- quality and depth.
Rolison, the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, may have the answer to both.
The Rockies tend to be careful with their pitchers, but I’d like to see Rolison – selected out of Ole Miss in the first round in 2018 -- on a schedule that sees him in the Majors this year, sooner rather than later.
Think of the development of righty Jon Gray. Drafted out of Oklahoma in 2013, Gray threw 124 1/3 innings at Double-A Tulsa in 2014, his first full pro season. The next year, the Rockies capped him at 155 innings – including 40 2/3 in the Majors.
Last year, Rolison pitched a solid 131 innings at two Class A stops. Let’s say there are 160 innings to play with in 2020. If Rolison continues to develop his power mix -- fastball, curve and rapidly developing changeup – could he help the Rockies’ rotation with a significant number of innings?
Are there any interesting free agents who the Rockies might bring in? A guy off a bad year or something. Will have to be cheap, but interesting?
I’ll have more ideas as the offseason progresses, but two relievers come to mind, one coming off injury:
• The Rockies once had a shortstop named Troy Tulowitzki. Remember him? Behind him in the organization was a shortstop with an even stronger arm -- Pedro Strop, who went on to success as a reliever, especially with the Cubs. He’s coming off 2-5 season with a 4.97 ERA and 10 saves in 50 games. He missed some time with neck stiffness but finished the year healthy.
• Lefty Tony Cingrani pitched down the stretch for the Dodgers in 2017 and in the '18 postseason but recently has dealt with injury. He did not appear in the Majors this year and had season-ending left shoulder surgery in June. If healthy, he may be worth a flier.
There sure aren't a lot of catchers out there. Are we thinking we'll trot Tony Wolters out there for 90 games again and let Dom Nuñez take the other 72? Look for a trade? Sign Blake Swihart on the gamble that he isn't actually bad?
The Rockies had a chance to acquire Swihart from the Red Sox a few years back but felt Wolters would develop, and they were rewarded with Wolters’ solid 2019.
While Nuñez showed some talent late in his 2019 debut, I would expect the Rockies to seek a catcher with a little more experience should they want Nuñez to spend some time in Triple-A. Drew Butera is a possibility, as a known quantity.
Swihart, a free agent, has some attributes -- he saw time in the National League West with the D-backs late last season, and switch-hitting is a strategic plus.
Why doesn’t manager Bud Black make it mandatory for all players, or at least all pitchers, to put in a certain number of hours practicing their bunting? The Atlanta Braves of the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz era considered it a point of pride, that and fielding their position.
Bunting is not only is part of everyone’s batting practice, but it’s a bigger part of pitchers’ batting practice. At the Rockies’ Spring Training facility, there are a couple of fields beyond the batting cages designed specifically for bunting.
I brought this up at a Rocky Mountain Society for American Baseball Research meeting, and I doubt there is an actual answer: If bunting is a lost art, where was it lost? I’ve been hearing this since I entered elementary school. People of generations that were criticized turn around and criticize the next.
In all seriousness, I’d love for someone to collect the data of every bunt attempt. We can group them by position player/pitcher, and by bunt for hit/sacrifice. We can say that every bunt should be in play and should accomplish its goal, but how many actually do and what’s a reasonable percentage?
If anyone has those answers, tweet me.
What’s the possibility they'll get a look at Jeff Hoffman in a reliever role?
You want to exhaust every avenue for an arm like Hoffman’s to make an impact in the rotation. But with Hoffman out of Minor League options, if he doesn’t crack the five in 2020, he’ll have to contribute from the bullpen.
Hoffman had 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings in the Majors and 10.3 K/9 at Triple-A last season. It would seem a bullpen could use a strikeout threat like that. Then again, so could the rotation. But the same lack of consistency that has hurt him as a starter is a problem in relief.