Rockies at developmental crossroads

Jeff Bridich

The developmental department for the Colorado Rockies sits at a major crossroads. Their fate sits solely in their ability to finally develop the pitching prospects currently in the organization.

If they continue down the path they’ve been on for the last 10 years they’ll prove they are nothing more than Dan O’Dowd’s sheep. If they miraculously take a sharp left and start sending top-level arms that can produce to the big leagues this team might have a chance to compete.

What do Casey Weathers, David Price and Madison Bumgarner all have in common (other than being drafted in the top 10 picks of 2007)? None of them has pitched a meaningful inning for the Colorado Rockies. While we’re playing this game let’s throw Chaz Roe, Greg Reynolds, Christian Friedrich, Tyler Matzek, Rex Brothers, Peter Tago, Tyler Anderson, Eddie Butler, Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland in there as well.

Besides Price and Bumgarner, that’s the list of the pitchers that the Colorado Rockies have drafted in the first round over the last 10 years. In case you’re counting that’s 11 first round pitchers selected since 2005 and only one of them is currently on the Rockies’ big league roster: Friedrich. That’s not underwhelming; it’s failure by the developmental department at a catastrophic level. It’s not even the All-Star break and already the Rockies are trudging through another year of only being relevant during home games when the weather is good, and these 11 players are the prime example why.

Jeff Bridich wants everyone to believe his tenure and team are different but don’t forget Bridich, and most everyone beneath him, has been a part of this organization for at least the last 10 years. They all hold fault in the failure to cultivate any big league arms.

Before skewering the organization for the inability to draft and/or develop pitchers of first round talent it most be pointed out that the jury is still out on Butler, Gray and Freeland. Drafted in 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively, all three players are still young (Butler 24, Gray 23, Freeland 22) and will be given every opportunity to make a difference in the next few years.

One might be inclined to include Anderson in the “jury still out” category, but that’d be foolish. Anderson is currently in extended spring training nursing an elbow injury and hasn’t pitched since August 29 of last year. Also, since being taken 20th overall in 2011 he’s never made it higher than Double-A. All of this relegates Anderson to the Weathers, Reynolds, Matzek, etc. category of busts.

Now, time to skewer the Rockies organization for the inability to draft and/or develop pitchers of 1st round talent.

Common sense would lead you to believe that over the last 10 years the Rockies would have at the very least stumbled into one, maybe two, stud pitchers in the first round, but common sense doesn’t apply when talking about the Colorado Rockies. It’s actually comical how bad the Rockies have been at developing pitchers.

Any way you twist it development is the issue here. The draft in every major sport is a bit of a crapshoot. Teams can’t control every factor that goes into the success of a prospect (attitude, work ethic, injuries, etc.) but the Rockies developmental staff hasn’t done any of their top pitching prospects any favors. The proof of that is in the pudding.

Pitching prospects come to the Rockies organization to die and it’s not the exception, it’s the rule. You could explain away one or two flame outs but eight (if you give them the benefit of doubt with Butler, Gray and Freeland)? It’s mindboggling.

Baseball fans in this town have watched first round pick after first round pick miserably fail within this organization.

Weathers blew out his arm so maybe they get a pass on him but Reynolds was a complete bust. Friedrich can’t cut it as a starter so he’s been relegated to bullpen gas can.

Matzek’s game is so far gone they recently just sent him home rather than help him work on his mechanics. (Side note, why are the Rockies not getting more grief for just throwing their hands in the air with Matzek and sending him home?)

Brothers couldn’t make the big league club out of Spring Training. The aforementioned Anderson can’t even sniff Triple-A and no one’s ever even seen Roe and Tago. The list goes on and on. And, it doesn’t stop with just first round talent that the Rockies have drafted. Remember Drew Pomeranz and Alex White?

Pomeranz and White were the centerpieces of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. Both were highly touted first round arms that did absolutely nothing with the Rockies. It’s true that neither has set the world on fire since leaving the Rockies, but Pomeranz’s ERA is more than two points lower with Oakland compared to his time with Colorado.

Each one of these situations highlights a failure within the organization. They’ve continually failed to cultivate pitching talent at every level. It’s not bad luck or the wrong players. It’s a systemic problem within the organization’s developmental department.

If Bridich wants to prove he and his team aren’t just torchbearers for the man that they learned under and replaced it’s a problem they must fix quickly. If they can’t blaze a path they’ll fall victim to the failures of Dan O’Dowd and Coors Field will continue to be known for the Party Deck, not the product on the field.