The Coors Effect

February 15, 2010 10:33 AM

Spring training preview: NRI pitchers

With pitchers and catchers reporting on Wednesday, the time is here to preview the 2010 season.  In addition to the players on the 40-man roster, the Rockies have 22 players in camp as non-roster invitees.  Most of them aren't likely to make the team; some are prospects who aren't ready (and who didn't need to be protected on the 40-man roster this year), while others are veterans who are likely to hang around at Colorado Springs in case somebody goes down.  Today, we'll take a look at the nine pitchers in that group.

Craig Baker
Last season: 4-2, 2.30 ERA, 33 saves, 75/21 K/BB in 62.2 innings at Modesto
Baker (age 25 on Opening Day) is a future reliever.  He's struck out more than a batter an inning each of the past two seasons, but those seasons were spent in A-ball.  Most likely, he'll open 2010 in Tulsa as the closer there, and is unlikely to see MLB action this year.

Christian Friedrich
Last season: 6-5, 2.41 ERA, 159/43 K/BB in 119.2 innings at Asheville and Modesto
Friedrich (age 22) is likely to be in the Rockies rotation fairly soon, if not this season, then almost certainly in 2011, as he's blown through the minor leagues so far.  But unless a whole lot of people get hurt in the spring, he won't be on the Opening Day roster.

Jimmy Gobble
Last season: 0-1, 5.25 ERA, 1 save, 19/4 K/BB in 12 innings at Charlotte (AAA); 0-0, 7.50 ERA, 10/7 K/BB in 12 innings at Chicago (AL)
Gobble (age 28) appears to be strictly an insurance policy, able to provide some relief innings if absolutely needed.  But he's much more likely to be in the Sky Sox bullpen.  Even if he has a good spring, the Rockies ought to look at his numbers in the majors the last two years (an 8.81 ERA in Kansas City in 2008) and think better of putting him on the roster.

Andy Graham
Last season: 4-4, 4.38 ERA, 73/31 K/BB in 84.1 innings at Tulsa
Graham (age 25) bounced between the rotation and the bullpen in Tulsa, and it's not clear where his future lies, or if he really has one.  With numerous starting options likely to be in Colorado Springs, Graham will most likely pitch out of the bullpen there, or perhaps as a swingman.

Andrew Johnston
Last season: 2-4, 3.69 ERA, 31 saves, 38/20 K/BB in 53.2 innings at Tulsa
Johnston (age 25) is another guy who doesn't have a clear future with the organization.  He was Tulsa's closer in 2009 and could reprise that role in Colorado Springs, but he doesn't appear to be a top-shelf relief pitcher.  He does get ground balls with a nice sinkerball, but that's really something I'd want out of a starter rather than a reliever.

Tim Redding
Last season: 0-0, 2.77 ERA, 9/2 K/BB in 13 innings at Buffalo (AAA); 3-6, 5.10 ERA, 76/50 K/BB in 120 innings at New York (NL)
Redding (age 32) is basically the definition of a AAAA pitcher: he often pitches well enough in AAA to earn a callup when somebody in a major league rotation gets hurt, but isn't really good enough to stick in the majors -- which is why the Rockies were able to bring him in on a minor league contract.  But if a starter gets hurt, the Rockies have better options on hand to take starts than Redding.  He made 17 starts for the Mets last year, largely because the Mets had a ton of injuries and really didn't have any better options to soak up innings.

Matt Reynolds
Last season: 6-5, 2.29 ERA, 4 saves, 87/17 K/BB in 74.2 innings at Modesto and Tulsa
Reynolds (age 25) is a big lefty who could have a future as a LOOGY, or maybe something more than that.  But he's probably not ready this year; like Johnston and Graham, he'll be in the bullpen in Colorado Springs.

Juan Rincon
Last season: 1-0, 1.56 ERA, 3 saves, 22/7 K/BB in 17.1 innings at Colorado Springs; 4-2, 6.87 ERA, 35/26 K/BB in 36.2 innings in the majors
Rincon (age 31) was once a good relief pitcher.  Those days are long gone.  Again, he's an insurance policy: if the Rockies need a relief pitcher to throw some innings (and don't feel like throwing somebody like Samuel Deduno out there), they can go with Rincon, but the Rockies can't consider themselves a serious playoff contender and be giving innings to somebody like Rincon unless the score is already something like 14-1.

Justin Speier
Last season: 4-2, 5.18 ERA, 39/15 K/BB in 40 innings at Los Angeles (AL)
Speier (age 36) has generally been a competent to good relief pitcher throughout his career, but he's posted an ERA over 5 in both 2008 and 2009 and could be done.  Then again, his K rate last season suggests that he was more unlucky than bad.  Speier actually has a real chance to make the team, but with a bullpen that's already pretty well set, he might need somebody to get hurt in order for that to happen.

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