The Rockies finished their home schedule with a sweep of the Cubs, only to be swept in LA by the sinking Dodgers. The final three games in Arizona will determine if this club becomes the first Rockies team to lose 100 games. One of the bright spots in an otherwise dismal year has been the play of Dexter Fowler. Although he started slowly, Fowler leads the team in WAR (2.6 from baseball-reference.com) and is fulfilling the potential that he started to show during the second half of 2011. The Rockies’ poor season has provided many young players with a chance to gain valuable experience and show what they can do during an extended try out. Wilin Rosario and Jordan Pacheco have been solid contributors all year, but the second half emergence of Chris Nelson has been surprising. Since the All-Star game, Nelson has a triple slash line of .352/.392/.519 for an OPS of .911 (OPS+ 151), making him a prime “this year’s Fowler” candidate. Here, we discuss if Nelson can be the next Dex, look at Drew Pomeranz, and weigh in on the September call-ups.
True or false: Chris Nelson’s second half is the real deal and will continue into 2013.
Brendan: False. I want to believe that this is real, but the facts are too inconvenient. Here is the problem: his 2nd half BAbip is a whopping .434 compared to .308 for the 1st half. That is in no way sustainable and indicates that he has been getting very lucky. For comparison purposes, Fowler’s 2011 BAbip broke down as follows: .345 in the 1st half; .361 in the 2nd half – indicating luck was not as big of an issue. I hope I am wrong. I have completely changed my opinion on Nelson and I want to see him blossom into the first rounder the Rockies envisioned when he was drafted, but the Fowler comparisons do not add up. Nelson has more power and is a better defender than Pacheco, and this recent version of Nelson even looks like a major league infielder (a Rockies third baseman as NL player of the week?!). Allowing for some regression, Nelson is likely still the best option for 2013 at third, but I have a hard time believing that he is a long term answer analogous to Fowler.
Kevin: There is no way Nelson continues his torrid streak into next year, so this is false. But, it is possible that Nelson has emerged as a decent MLB infielder who can replicate this season’s output next year. He is at least a good utility man who can play three positions in the infield, and he is the best option at the start of next year for third base, seeing as he is both a better defender and hitter than Jordan Pacheco, who is tricking people into thinking he is a very good player by having a shiny batting average. Once you look past Pacheco’s batting average, you quickly realize that there isn’t anything else there –– minimal power, poor defense, few walks, no speed. The troubling thing is that third base will probably be a weak position with either of these two playing there.
Ned: Nelson was a first round draft choice (9th overall) of the Rockies in 2004. He turned 27 on September 3. This year has been a real break-out season for Nelson. He has played in over 110 games this year with excellent results. The one thing baseball observers know is that performance is best measured over several years, with consistency being the key. This being said, Nelson’s trajectory is nicely upward. He has hit for a solid average this year with some power. Stats aside, he has a very good-looking swing. He has consistently hit the ball hard in the second half, driving it to all fields. At 27, it is important for him to finally make an impact at the major league level, and he has done so this year. Defensively, he plays a very nice third base—good range, quickness, arm strength and accuracy. He does look like the real deal, and may just be the team’s answer at third base.
Are you satisfied with Drew Pomeranz’s season?
Brendan: Yes. He did not meet my lofty ROY expectations, but I suppose his season has been satisfactory. The paired pitching strategy has made many of his statistics (esp. win-loss) difficult to interpret, so I am pretty much going by feel. His velocity is up (topping out at 94 during his last start) and he seems to be more comfortable on the mound. Command is still a problem and has led to high pitch counts and too many walks, but that is common for young pitchers. After his run in with the law off season, I was a little worried about his character. However, he handled his demotion to AAA with class and returned to the big leagues as a better pitcher. I don’t think he is going to be the “ace” that he was touted to be, but he is a solid middle of the rotation pitcher. Although his 2012 was disappointing, I am satisfied with how he has developed and am looking for him to take a big step forward in 2013.
Kevin: No satisfaction. I thought (more like foolishly hoped) he would be a rookie of the year candidate, but Pomeranz is far from that. He has shown flashes of brilliance at times (remember when he broke 10 Padre bats in 6 innings?), and his velocity has ticked back up to the low 90s, so with time he still can become a good starter. To make that leap he needs to develop his secondary pitches and become more effective at locating pitches. Even though he disappointed this year, he will only be 24 next year and there is still hope that he can lead the rotation.
Ned: No. Drew Pomeranz has been a major disappointment this year. He has lacked consistency, giving-up earned four or five earned runs for several games in a row, and then pitching shut-out ball for five innings. He is still young—23 years old this season. The physical ability is clearly there, but he does not seem to have developed the mental side of his pitching. Potential is great, but there comes a point when “having potential” is no longer an acceptable excuse for not performing. Next season, Pomeranz will be 24—it will be time for him to transform his potential into performance.
How do you evaluate the September call-ups (McBride, Blackmon, Brown, etc.)?
Brendan: I have not been impressed. These guys, not surprisingly, all look like replacement level players. Mcbride has little value with Helton returning, and Cuddyer, Colvin, and Pacheco are all feasible options at first. Blackmon and Brown have been average, but I would not give away Colvin or EY2’s spot to either one. Nothing against McBride, but the most troubling thing about the players called up is the Rockies abject failure to develop a first baseman to take over for Helton. Helton’s health and production have both been on the decline for years, so it is not like this should be coming as a surprise to the organization. How is there not a first baseman ready in the wings? I am happy that these guys got to “the show”, and it is always fun to cheer for the underdog, but it looks like more of the same from the Rockies’ development pipeline: a whole bunch of backups and fringe major leaguers.
Kevin: There is nothing to see here. None of these guys, with the exception of maybe Blackmon, have any future with the club. I would have preferred to give Nolan Arenado and Corey Dickerson a taste of major league baseball, seeing as those two actually might have a future with the club. The Rockies claim that they didn’t bring up top prospects because they don’t want to start arbitration clocks, and this might actually make some sense. However, the Rockies also claim that they didn’t call up prospects because the prospects would have to be added to the 40-man roster and consequently some gem like Johnny Herrera or Andrew Brown would have to be dropped from the roster. God forbid this club give up its death grip on one of its numerous AAAA players.
Ned: The August-September call-ups have been one of the few exciting things about this otherwise dismal season. Blackmon has recovered from the persistent foot injury, and has recently returned to the offensive form we saw briefly last year. Andrew Brown’s 460 foot shot on September 22 to the left field concourse and then into player’s parking lot on a bounce is legendary. Brown may never do another notable thing for the Rockies, but will always be remembered for that shot. (By the way, we are still awaiting word on whether the ball hit Tulo’s Ferrari.) While a mid-season call-up rather than late call-up, DJ LeMahieu has shown that he should make the opening day roster in 2013. In summary, it has been a promising showing for a number of young players which should make the house-cleaning job easier for whoever the Rockies’ GM is after this train-wreck of a season.
Have a different take? Let us know in the comments below.
Got an idea for a future 3U3D discussion? Email us at BlakeStBulletin@gmail.com