If the Rockies win one of their next two against the Padres, it will be their first three game series win since they beat the Cubs in mid-April. It actually hurt a little bit to type that. We can sit here and dissect every stat available and engage in pointless arguments over which average player should be playing where, but all that really matters is that losing via a woeful offense is becoming an identity for this team. Frankly, I’m tired of writing about how awful they are offensively. Therefore, today, I’m writing about pitching.
Right now the Rockies need to cement the back end of their rotation. The five slot has been unstable all season and De La Rosa’s injury opened up the need for another starter. They have three guys fighting for two spots — Nicasio, Mortensen, and Cook. Knowing the Rockies, they’ll give Cook the benefit of the doubt for at least a month. For now, they have a decision to make on whether they want Nicasio or Mortensen in the rotation. Both guys have made strong cases for themselves, but it’s probably best if Nicasio continues to start and they move Mortensen to the bullpen.
There is no disputing that Juan has a much higher ceiling than Clayton. That’s not a knock on Mortensen as much as it is a compliment to Juan’s potential. This should be apparent to anyone that has watched the two guys pitch. Nicasio has an overpowering fastball, sharp slider, and a change-up that is developing nicely. He has the chance to be a front of the rotation type guy. Meanwhile, Mortensen, while solid, will probably never be anything more than a slightly above average major league pitcher.
It wouldn’t make sense to leave Nicasio in the bigs based on his potential alone. However, he’s pitched well enough to make at least a few more starts. The truth is he’s been better than Mortensen. In his last start, he gave up three runs against the Giants, but he pitched well enough to win. In fact, he was a bit unlucky in that game. San Fran had a .409 BABIP against Juan and his FIP was a very respectable 2.44.
At first glance, Mortensen has been very good this season, but, in reality, he has been the beneficiary of luck. Yesterday, he didn’t give up a run in six innings pitched, but he benefited greatly from expansive Petco Park. After the game, Mortensen admitted that the Padres had a couple of fly ball outs that would’ve been home runs in most parks. With his current walk rate and his lack of dominant stuff, it’s difficult to foresee Mort maintaining his 3.20 ERA. For the season, his FIP is 4.78. Also, opponents have an unlucky .215 BABIP against Clayton this year. That should increase.
Admittedly, trying to predict Nicasio’s future performance based on two starts is pointless. However, it’s not like it was two decent starts from Alan Johnson or Greg Reynolds. After the way Nicasio dominated in AA, he should be given every opportunity until something indicates that he isn’t ready for the bigs. Additionally, moving him to the pen isn’t a realistic option. Nicasio has a starter’s make up and the Rockies want to keep him in that role. Mortensen, on the other hand, is a perfect option for the pen. He is capable of inducing double plays and he can serve as a long reliever if necessary. Also, he gives them right-handed depth, something that they’ve been missing this year.
The Rockies should give us more indication about their decision in the coming days. For what it’s worth, this morning, Troy Renck tweeted that he thought Nicasio would stay in the rotation and Mortensen would go to the pen.
Perhaps I’m just being a wishful thinker, but I’m really excited about Nicasio. Over the last year, he has developed into legitimate prospect. At this point, some might even rank him as the team’s number one overall. In a year when much hasn’t gone right, Nicasio might be a big time bright spot. The Rockies need to make sure he’s handled carefully, but he deserves the opportunity to earn a permanent spot in the rotation.
Thoughts? As always, comments are welcome.