Baseball season is rapidly approaching, and the Colorado Rockies are gearing up for what is expected to be a bumpy ride during the 2021 campaign.
Following an offseason where we saw the Rockies trade away arguably the best player in franchise history in Nolan Arenado and sign 0 players during free agency, the team is now preparing for when the games start to count come April 1.
Many Rockies fans are still down and out following the trade of Arenado, but one thing that should yield optimism amongst the fan base is the performance of Austin Gomber during Spring Training, the crown jewel Colorado got in the deal.
The 27-year-old does not fit the mold of the type of starting pitcher General Manager Jeff Bridich has acquired via trade during his tenure after numerous failed attempts at drafting or trading for elite-level prospects.
Gomber represents a new type of pitcher the Rockies will work to integrate into their rotation, and they’ll be banking on his production come springtime when trying to compete in the fierce National League West Divison.
Perhaps spicing things up is the right way to go for Colorado. Let’s turn back the clock a little bit. After failing to develop Jeff Hoffman into a serviceable pitcher, the Rockies were left empty-handed from the trade that sent former franchise cornerstone Troy Tulowitzki north of the border. While neither team really “won” that trade, it’s rather unsettling that Colorado failed to recoup a viable big league asset in return for Tulo, who at the time was regarded as one of the best shortstops in the sport.
The Rockies have swung and missed on numerous big-time pitching prospects that have either failed at the big league level or never reached their full potential. Guys like Hoffman, Tyler Anderson, Riley Pint, Jordan Lyles, Jeremey Guthrie and even Jon Gray to an extent come to mind.
Where the Rockies have found some success is in developmental pitchers or guys who are considered to be good but not great. Look at German Marquez. The rotations frontman, Marquez, was the secondary piece in the deal that brought relief pitcher Jake McGee to Colorado from Tampa.
Colorado managed to poach Marquez from an elite Tampa Bay farm system and wound up developing him into an essential figure of the rotation. In hindsight, Marquez wound up being the prize from that trade as McGee flammed out following a couple of productive seasons.
There’s a little bit of a similar trail here with Gomber.
Instead of shooting for the stars with the Arenado deal, Colorado opted to acquire a variety of different prospects from one of the premier farm systems in all of baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals are the epitome of consistency in Major League Baseball, having won at least 82 games in each season since the turn of the century with the exception of the 2007 tour.
The Cardinals’ success is not by accident. The franchise does a tremendous job of drafting and developing talent, which has led to decades of sustained success for the franchise. There’s no way to make a Rockies fan feel better about trading Nolan, but at the very least, they flipped him in return for a slew of prospect from the creme de la creme of farm systems.
Gomber has been in and out of the big league since 2018, most recently posting a 1.86 earned run average in 14 appearances for the Cardinals during the 60-game shortened season. At 27-years-old he is not your typical headliner in a trade involving a player of Arenado’s stature, but he’s still a solid option for Colorado nonetheless.
He’s already impressing in Rockies camp, with The Athletic’s Nick Groke going as far to say he will battle for a rotation spot, which isn’t much considering the Rockies’ pitching situation, but it’s certainly telling considering he was viewed by many as a spot-starter or relief pitcher.
Gomber has allowed just five hits and punched out eight batters through his first seven innings of work this spring. Already we’ve seen steady command of the fastball and a 12-6 curveball that has been better than advertised.
Five (5) Ks for Austin Gomber. That'll play! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/seKH6GGvcW
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) March 10, 2021
Gomber’s camp performance has even garnered positivity from the Twitter feed of former Mile High Sports radio host and Denver sports media icon, Les Shapiro. Shapiro has been in and around the Rockies since their inception, and his take on Gomber is pretty revealing of the potential he has for Colorado.
Better than that. It’s a heavy fastball. Really pops the glove. He goes after hitters. Not afraid to throw strikes, at least against these inexperienced spring training lineups. Let’s see if he does that against major leaguers at Coors Field. Has looked decent. #rockies
— Les Shapiro (@LesShapiro) March 6, 2021
Listen, the Rockies will never be declared the winner in a trade that involves sending your best player and millions of dollars to the opposition, but hitting has never been a problem for the Rockies, whereas the franchise has been looking to piece together a sound rotation for decades now.
Perhaps this is a step in the right direction for Colorado, all things considered. The Rockies’ rotation is far from sound. With the departures of DJ LeMahieu, Arenado and the looming future of Trevor Story, Colorado’s Gold Glove infield has shriveled over the last few years. Still, the pitching has always been the Rockies’ Achilles heel.
Oh, did I mention Gomber is a southpaw?
He’s also very well-spoken and sounds like he is up for the challenge of pitching at altitude. The fact that he’s 27 also adds some juice to this narrative. Gomber has battled for a spot in the big leagues for years, and now he will have a chance in Colorado. Also, the fact that he is viewed primarily as “the guy who the Rockies got for Areando” could serve as a little extra motivation for the young veteran.
“I’m coming in here trying to compete and win a spot,” Gomber told MLB Network Radio. “I want to come out here and show these guys what I’m about. These guys haven’t really seen me throw before outside of maybe some video. So try and come in and win my spot on the team is how I took it.”
Let’s see what the guy can do.