A few years back, the Colorado Rockies were led to believe that the saviors to their rotation were on the horizon. A year apart, the Rockies drafted two “can’t-miss” pitching prospects when they snagged Eddie Butler 46th overall in 2012 and Jon Gray third overall in 2013.
Gray and Butler both headed into 2014 considered consensus Top-25 prospects across all off baseball, and while Butler slipped a bit heading into 2015, they were the Rockies top-two prospects and still Top-100 overall. They both made it to Colorado last season and neither fared all that well.
Butler’s peripheral stats were frightening. You can use the old “blame it on Colorado” excuse that his ERA was 5.90, but when you look at everything else, it wouldn’t have mattered if he pitched in Petco Park, as he actually allowed more home runs on the road than in Coors Park.
His 79.1 innings of work saw Butler allow 102 hits (that’s 11.6 per nine), while walking 42 and striking out 44. When your strikeout-per-nine and walk-per-nine are nearly identical, you will eventually suffer. While he is still a young 25 years old, early 2016 results in the Pacific Coast League have some feeling that he is more likely a bullpen, swingman-type pitcher.
Gray was supposed to be the Rockies next ace; however, he has struggled mightily as well. The big concern surrounding Gray was the noticeable drop in his velocity entering the 2015 season. This was a young fireballer known for a 70-grade fastball, operating in the mid-90s and touching triple-digits, yet he was consistently in the low-90s. Many chalked it up to the Rockies asking him to focus on his secondary pitches, like his power slider and developing change, yet the concern was still there.
Many thought Gray would leave 2015 spring training on the Opening Day roster, but he headed back to the Isotopes and struggled. Midseason saw his velocity return and after allowing two earned runs in his last three Albuquerque starts, Gray headed to the bigs.
Gray — a fly ball pitcher — struggled in his debut in the thin air of Denver, but looking at his road splits (2.70 ERA, 25 strikeouts to eight walks and a mere one home run over 20 away innings) there is still tons of potential.
Gray is also too young to give up on, and at 24, the big righty is still getting his chance to shine in Colorado, already making one start this season after a brief DL stint. He got rocked with two home runs in his first inning back, but really settled in and struck out ten the rest of the way.
It may be time to temper the expectations, however. Despite having electric stuff, for some reason his game has yet to completely translate to the big league level. Can Gray still become that quality rotation arm? There is no question. An ace, however, is another question that still needs to be answered with a strong 2016 campaign.
If Gray can get back to that elite status, Colorado has two electric pitching prospects rising in their farm system that could still make the Rockies rotation scary in the not-so-distant future.
Hoffman, despite looming Tommy John surgery, was still selected ninth overall by the Blue Jays in the 2014 draft. He was just that good. The 23-year-old righty had a strong return, and become the centerpiece in the Troy Tulowitzki trade.
There has been no decline in his velocity in his second full season off Tommy John, as his fastball sits in the mid-90s. His curve has a tremendous break and many feel it is as equally dangerous as his fastball. His changeup is a work in progress, but all signs hint that it will be a major-league-ready pitch.
There’s more! To see video, scouting reports, more on Hoffman and Freeland as well as projections, continue over to Today’s Knuckleball for the full article by clicking on the link below: