Are Rockies Starters Really Fantasy Relevant?

Before sympathizing with me for being tasked with discussing the Rockies rotation, understand that I actually chose this motley group to analyze. What can I say, I like a challenge. Although we typically have blindly avoided Rockies starting pitchers in the past, their rotation actually included a trio of starters who threw over 100 innings and posted an ERA below 3.50. Somewhat hilariously though, the remaining collection of hurlers that took the mound all posted ERAs of over 5.00. Now that’s more like it!

This past season, Jhoulys Chacin followed up a disappointing injury-riddled 2012 with a return to prior performance levels. But although those performances levels look respectable on the surface, his underlying skills have typically been soft. His strikeout rate is in free fall as his ability to induce swinging strikes has evaporated. Though, he has compensated by throwing more strikes.

He sports a below league average BABIP over his career, which is surprising given his home park and batted ball profile. And along with unusually low BABIP marks, every year it’s another metric that drives his SIERA outperformance; this year it was an unsustainable 6.2% HR/FB rate. He might now be considered the ace of the Rockies staff, but he’s nearly a lock to be overvalued in fantasy drafts this year.

Behind Chacin is Jorge de la Rosa, who finally posted his first sub-4.00 ERA over a full season. I have no idea what they did to the ball in Coors Field, but de la Rosa was yet another Rockies starter who enjoyed a suppressed HR/FB rate. I have been a fan since 2008, but naturally his ERA finally dives below 4.00 the time his intriguing skills disappear. What happened to the strikeouts Jorge? The problem stemmed from his changeup inducing fewer swings and misses, a pitch that used to be a serious weapon for him. If he gets that back, his strikeout rate should rebound and then he might have a chance to post another sub-4.00 ERA actually supported by his peripherals.

In 2011 and 2012, Juan Nicasio posted some very interesting skills. He threw hard and possessed good control. But his fastball velocity dropped significantly this year, and with it went his strikeout rate. His F-Strike% fell as well, which combined to wreck his season. Unfortunately, his individual pitch SwStk% rates are all mediocre or below average, suggesting he doesn’t even possess one plus pitch. That’s not good. He may not last much longer in the rotation.

Tyler Chatwood is an enigma. He seemingly has good stuff when you watch him pitch, with a fastball that peaks at 97 mph and an assortment of breaking/off-speed offerings. But oddly, batters have no problem making contact. For the first time this year, his slider and curve induced a SwStk% above 10%. That’s nothing special, but it’s progress. Part of the problem lies in the fact that he throws his fastball over 70% of the time. That makes sense given that he generates nearly 60% ground balls on the pitch. So it appears that it’s another decision between the strikeout or the ground ball. In real baseball, the ground ball version ain’t so bad. But in fantasy, you simply have to pass.

Chatwood was also a member of the strange low HR/FB rate club and vastly outperformed his SIERA. It’s also worth mentioning that his season ended with elbow stiffness, so add another check mark into the risks column.

Finally, we get to the very man who convinced me it was worth writing about the Rockies rotation. Brett Anderson’s acquisition by Colorado may finally be what I need to resign as a member of his fan club and stop calling him a Pod’s Pick. He was so exciting because he truly possessed that perfect combination of ground balls, strong control and good enough strikeout ability. Too bad he’s made of glass (sorry glass, I don’t mean to insult you, I’m sure you have other redeeming qualities). It’s cool that Anderson now gets to ply his trade in the National League, but that won’t fix his health issues. At the moment, you have to assume that he’ll be a part of the rotation for as long as he stays off the DL. In NL-Only leagues, you should errr, ummmm, I guess, maybe take a shot. For $1.

If Jordan Lyles was ever on your sleeper list, you may now cross him off of it. Sure, he’s posted ERAs north of 5.00 for three straight seasons, but his skills weren’t that terrible and offered some glimmers of hope. Unfortunately, there’s little left to be optimistic about here.¬†Anderson and Lyles will supposedly battle it out for the final spot in the rotation, but I cannot imagine Anderson not winning it if he’s healthy.





Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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