MiLB RH Starting Pitching – DanO could be right?

August 20, 2011 | 1:35 pm | 19  

With the recent Ubaldo trade I got to thinking what ever happened to all that Rockies pitching depth in the MiLB that everyone was so high on just a couple of years back.  If my memory is correct the Rockies have traded away a hand full of right handed starting pitchers that at the time seemed like good bets to at least become serviceable pitchers at the MLB level.  In other words I cringed when DanO traded these players at the time the trades were made.

1. Anuery Rodriguez – If you want to count the Houston Astros as a MLB team, then yes he has made it to the MLB although the 4.66 ERA is really not all that impressive.  Still here was a guy that dominated at AA Tulsa for the Rockies and has yet to see that success translate in a similar way to higher levels.  Esmil Rogers might be a very comparable type pitcher, although Rogers could still have a higher ceiling just based on talent.

2. Bruce Billings – Doing just ok with Oakland and has apparently been moved from the rotation to being merely a bullpen arm.  The 4.47 ERA at AAA is just alright, and with that he certainly fills the pitching “depth” description for Oakland.  He was always projected to be a bullpen piece for the Rockies at some point anyway, and it seems that is where his ceiling will ultimately end up – except in Oakland.

3. Samuel Deduno – A personal favorite of mine, even though he was a bit old to really be a prospect and walked a few too many batters to be considered a reliable MLB starting pitcher.  Again Deduno dominated the hitters at Tulsa and I really thought he had an outside chance at a bullpen spot with the Rockies.  After being traded he did have some injuries however he is currently finding it hard to break into MLB with the Padres – still that 3.38 ERA at AAA looks pretty solid.

4. Chris Balcom-Miller – CBM was a huge minor league Rockie favorite of mine because his strikeout vs walk ratio was fantastic (just like C Bettis) at the levels below AA.  Control will always be a valuable asset when a pitcher expects to end up pitching in Coors Field.  The 2011 season however has been somewhat of a struggle for CBM as illustrated by his combined 4.34 ERA for Boston at the A+/AA levels.  In short he dominates at the A levels but gets shelled when he jumps up to AA.  And for the record this was one trade that I absolutely hated at the time.

5. Connor Graham – Like CBM, Graham had decent numbers at the A and under minor league levels.  He was a strong arm fastball pitcher with some control issues as I remember.  He now has struggled a bunch over the last two seasons and was recently released by the Cleveland organization.  DanO pretty sure you were right on the money with this one!

The Rockies left handed MiLB starting pitchers like Frierich, Matzek and Hollingsworth – well that is another story for another day. 

Only Rodriguez and Deduno would appear to have even marginal value for the Rockies MLB roster at this point.  Even at that – the value would likely fall at the bottom part of the bullpen, or to say that another way a right handed bullpen pitcher similar to E Escalana.  That’s not terrible at all, but it is not the same value as a pitcher that can hold down a spot in the MLB starting rotation.  So even though I hated to see the Rockies trade these MiLB Rockie starting pitchers that I thought had significant value for the future – looks like I was wrong.

Good job DanO – now how about finding that RH power corner IF/OF bat?



  • Agbayani | August 20, 2011 | 4:03 pm

    Thanks, Rich. Nice update. I hadn’t checked stats lately on these guys.

    Balcom-Miller: yes, lots of scouts suggested that his righty control pitcher stuff wouldn’t translate to higher levels, and O’Dowd guessed that they were right. Looks like a good guess right now. But still an awful trade since Delcarmen was totally useless.

    Rodriguez: I didn’t like that one when O’Dowd made it since I’d rather stockpile the young arms. Wasn’t he the thrown-in in Barmes for Paulino? Paulino has turned out pretty good for KC: 105 ERA+ as a starter. So in retrospect another net loss, since O’Dowd gave up on Paulino too soon.

    So O’Dowd seems to have made the right call in not overvaluing these lower-level minor leagure pitchers. Let’s see if he’s right about higher level guys like Pomeranz, White, and Gardner.

  • Joe | August 20, 2011 | 4:15 pm

    Would you mind linking me to the transaction note on Connor Graham’s release? Last I heard he was close to pitching again, so this is a real shocker.

    He had a respectable season in ’10, so I’m assuming his injuries are also included in the “struggling” perspective?

  • Doctor_Christopher | August 20, 2011 | 4:34 pm

    Great work Rich. It is a good reminder that we have overvalued some of our younger arms that are no longer here. It also affirms why Ubaldo had to be traded, to restock the minors with real talent. White and Pomeranz do add to the value, but we are going to need Nicasio to get healthy, Rodgers to take another step, and some of those other arms like Friedrich or Matzek to blossom.

  • Rich M | August 20, 2011 | 4:37 pm

    Might have been a bit too strong to say that Connor Graham has struggled the last couple years. He did ok mostly at the AA level while being converted to the bullpen.

    However based on his AA stats it would appear that there must have been an injury involved with that Cleveland release, although I haven’t confirmed that. On the MiLB site you’ll find the information that indicates he has been released by Cleveland.

  • TooTimeJohnny | August 20, 2011 | 5:10 pm

    U can’t compare Bettis and Balcom MIller, one guy throws 100 and the other couldn’t break a paint of glass. The recent trade was outstanding. Yep that right handed power bat would be nice. The way Arrendondo is going, give him a year at AA and call up in sept in 2012.

  • Alex Colfax | August 20, 2011 | 5:15 pm

    Agbayani—Rodriguez was traded for Jason Hammel the day before the 2009 season started. Despite Hammel’s troubles this year, that deal was a steal for the Rockies. (Barmes was traded straight-up for Paulino.)

    There is one righty arm whom O’Dowd may have undervalued…reliever Al Albuquerque, who was let go in November and had been having a sensational season for Detroit until being hit in the head by a line drive ten days ago.

    How sensational? Check these numbers: 5-1, 2.19, 37 innings, 18 hits, 57 strikeouts, .141 BAA. He has walked 27 as well, but that’s the only negative. He was unimpressive in two seasons at Tulsa but is thriving in Motown.

  • Rich M | August 20, 2011 | 5:55 pm

    TooTimeJohnny-was only comparing (CBM & Bettis) their respective ability to strikeout hitters while limiting walks – in that respect they are similar while both being at the time under the AA level. Still we could only dream that Bettis throws at 100, the scouting report I have says he tops out at 94.

  • Vhris | August 20, 2011 | 6:15 pm

    What the heck is a “paint of glass?”

  • Trip | August 20, 2011 | 9:02 pm

    probably meant pane of glass

  • Agbayani | August 20, 2011 | 10:39 pm

    Alex, thanks for the correction. Obtaining Hammel (even if he has gone south on us) was well worth giving up Aneury Rodriguez.

    And you’re also right about Alburquerque, which was a weird decision even if O’Dowd didn’t expect him to suddenly get better. There didn’t seem to be any compelling reason to dump him other than 40 man roster stuff — the same 40-man that has until very recently included guys like Cory Riordan.

  • Mike Raysfan | August 21, 2011 | 8:26 am

    Agbayani you kind of threw me off there for a minute because I know your posts over the last few season have been in favor of Jason Hammel.

    Much like Anuery, Jason had some pretty good momements in AA and inspite of the Rays giving up on him and his latest issues here, hard to argue who got the best of that deal. The Rockies were looking for a BP guy and willing to take a chance and the Rays were willing to take a chance.

  • Jon S | August 21, 2011 | 9:27 am

    Of course, to play devil’s advocate you could also say it was partially DoD’s fault for drafting all those not-so-talented pitchers in the first place.


  • terence | August 21, 2011 | 12:10 pm

    Jon S — DOD has nothing to do with the draft. that’s all up to player development – Gleivett (sp?).

  • Rich M | August 22, 2011 | 9:08 am

    Jon S, while the scouting separtment does provide most of the information, recommendations, etc regarding the draft – the draft buck and all the other bucks still end up on DanO’s plate.

  • sabrchip | August 22, 2011 | 12:20 pm

    Sometimes I think we put too much value into K-BB ratios in the minors. Especially below AAA. A AAA pitcher in AA can strike out a lot of those kids with pitches that move out of the zone. The kinds that major leaguers don’t get fooled with.

    What I mean by AAA pitcher is those guys who get rushed to the bigs without spending a day in the level below. Why have a AAA level if your not gonna try out your AA guys for a least a couple starts there?

    Granted with the Sky Sox as the farm, the movement won’t be there but there’s more guys coming thru there with big league hitting experience.

    Yes and I do understand the need when an injury hits and nobody on your high farm is very good, but….a strong farm should be successful all the way thru the various classifications, especially AAA.

  • SteveinAurora | August 22, 2011 | 1:23 pm

    I agree with sabr…AAA needs to be there for a reason. Juan Nicasio was rushed to the bigs due to injuries and other problems with the Rox, and yet, it was widely admitted that his breaking pitches needed more refinement. Further, there are more and better hitters at AAA (many fomer major leaguers trying to get back, those on rehab assignments, etc. and the young pitchers have to benefit from facing those hitters without the big lights, bigger crowds, anxiety, etc. adding distractions. Plus, it has to be easier to work through the struggles at a lower level.

    All that being said and from what I’ve heard, pitching at the Springs has got to be tough on youngsters. Maybe that will make them stronger in the long run (or, perhaps drive them out of the game?). Maybe the Rox do need to find an alternative for their AAA farm club?? However, I still think that it has to be a stop for most of our pitching candidates.

  • egossage | August 22, 2011 | 3:48 pm


    You justed described why there is a AAA in your own post. “many fomer major leaguers trying to get back, those on rehab assignments”. Your big time prospects are in AA. That’s how it is in every organization.

  • Anonymous | August 22, 2011 | 7:22 pm

    ego is right on here! So much of pitching is mental confidence, as such the last thing I want is for White or Pomeranz (even Friedrich or Bettis) to lose that edge and swagger getting shelled in AAA.

    A couple years ago I wrote a post about how the Rockies should send F Morales back to AA to re-establish his control and gain confidence that he could get hitters out with the stuff he already had.

    What ever they did, Frankie Mo never regained that confidence that he had back 2007 (AA and MLB). Chacin and Rogers both pitched somewhat limited innings in the Springs, and there are a lot of reasons that was the case.

    Can you name one successful starting pitcher that spent a full season at the Springs and was then a success at the MLB level? I can’t remember any right off the top of my head.

  • Bill | August 23, 2011 | 4:34 pm

    I understand the negativity toward DoD when some of our draft choices turn out poorly but all drafts in all sports are somewhat crap shoots and the baseball draft is the biggest of them all.

    How in the world can you project an 18 high schooler to be a major league all star. Most of it is pure luck. Especially with pitchers. The kid the Nationals took last year, Harper is suppose to be a lock-cinch major league star. But he’s already shown some maturity problems. Of course he would, he’s what 18 or 19. And if I remember correctly Stephen Strasburg the Nationals #1 pick a few years ago wasn’t much of a prospect coming out of high school.

    Every major league team passed on Mike Piazza 60+ times before the Dodgers took him as a favor to someone.

    You can do a lot of scouting and talking to friends, parents, teachers, coaches, scouts etc., but it’s no where near an exact science about how a guy will mature both physically or mentally. The best athlete in our class growing up was super in grade school and junior high. As a sophomore in HS he was starting QB, starting point guard and starting shortstop. By the time he was a senior he barely played.