The Colorado Rockies’ track record with developing young pitchers is less than stellar. No pitcher they have drafted has really flourished in the majors.
Jeff Francis, who was drafted ninth overall by the Rockies in 2002, had to most success with the club. He won 17 games in 2007 when Colorado advanced to the World Series. His record with the Rockies ended at 64-62. A good record but not something you expect out of a top-10 pick.
Aaron Cook was a second round pick for the Rockies and had some good years including being an All-Star in 2008 when he went 16-9. He is the career leader in wins for the team with 72 but again has a record just above .500.
The Rockies’ best pitcher in franchise history is Ubaldo Jimenez but he was signed as a free agent at a young age. Jimemez was traded in 2011 to the Cleveland Indians.
There have been several other flops in the Rockies organization with high draft picks. Names like Greg Reynolds, Jamey Wright, John Burke and Chaz Roe all can make fans cringe. It just has never worked out for the Rockies with drafting pitchers in the first round.
This season seems to be a bit different as some high-profile draft picks are coming into there own in the minors. The Rockies starters have struggled from time to time early in the season. Jordan Lyles, who was scheduled to be in the minors this season, has been their best starter. Colorado is still searching for quality starts out of Jorge De La Rosa and Brett Anderson.
The Rockies are probably not going to compete for a title this season so they should give some of these young kids a chance. Anderson and De La Rosa will probably come around and Tyler Chatwood and Jhoulys Chacin are on their way back from injury but it can’t hurt to bring some of the youngsters up.
Here are some of the pitchers the Rockies should take a look at:
Eddie Butler, RHP
The right-hander was all the talk during the spring training. According to manager Walt Weiss, Butler was given a chance to make the roster but was ultimately sent to Double-A to pitch for the Tulsa Drillers. He has made two starts with a ERA of 2.25 so far this season. The righty has struck out 12 in 12 innings pitched.
Butler has three plus pitches according to Fangraphs.com. He has a fastball that sits around 94 miles per hour but can top up at about 97. His change-up and slider are also stellar.
Butler, who was a supplemental first-round pick in 2012, will see the majors this season, it is just a matter of when.
Jon Gray, RHP
The third overall pick in last year’s draft can throw some heat. The right-hander from Oklahoma has rocketed through the Rockies system and is pitching with Butler at Double-A. In his first start of the season he gave up four runs, three earned and struck out five.
Gray is a flat-out power pitcher. His fastball has been clocked triple digits sometimes. A slider is his secondary pitch while he is working on a change-up this season.
Gray, like Butler, could be up in the majors this season. If the Rockies fall out of contention, both should get their shot.
Tyler Matzek, LHP
Matzek was a big-time prospect when the Rockies drafted him out of high school with the 11th pick in 2009. The lefty has started the year at Triple-A Colorado Springs and had an electric first start. He struck out 11 in five innings.
The problem with Matzek has also been his control. He has walked too many batters during his minor-league career. He walked 76 in 142 1/3 innings last season. The Rockies has seen Matzek’s good stuff but he has to keep it under control.
This will be a make-or-break season for the lefty. If he cuts down on the walks, he could get the call to the big leagues.
Christian Friedrich, LHP
Friedrich has seen some time in the majors and had his ups and downs. He made 16 starts in 2012 and compiled a 6-8 record with an ERA at 6.17. He was hampered by a back injury and finally feels 100 percent this season.
The lefty is starting the season with Colorado Springs and had one good start and one bad start. Friedrich won’t blow hits away with his fastball that sits in the low 90s but has good secondary stuff. He has shown the ability to get major-league hitters out in the past.
If another injury hits the Rockies rotation, Friedrich may be the best replacement as he has big league experience.
Tyler Anderson, LHP
Anderson has slowly moved through the minors since being drafted in the first round in 2011. He is in the mold of a Francis where he can be called a crafty lefty.
He is with Tulsa this season and has made just one start. It was a six strikeout performance.
Anderson is the least likely to get the call to the majors but he starts pitching well in Double-A he could get the September call-up to see how he does.
For an organization that is pitching starved, the Rockies have some options in their system. It is very early in the season but some of the team’s top prospects are performing on the mound. It will be a matter of time before they are seeing time at Coors Field.
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