Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Home offense and Rockies' Q & A on pitching prospects

Chris Nelson building resume in 2012
Back-home cooking is good to the Rockies as they outscore the Giants 6-5.

The offense was back and while the team surrendered some runs it got a sufficiently-strong start from Alex White and enough juice from the lineup to go to bed a winner.

Chris Nelson, the Rockies' no. 1 pick in 2004, has seemed to have nine lives, as in his play hardly warranted the club's faith in him but he has finally started to show his development wasn't stunted or dead. While he has struggled with defense this season there is at least some bat production now.

Nelson now has a career-high 265 at-bats and he's doing something with them, with 26 extra-base hits (15 doubles, 3 triples and 8 homers) and 43 RBI. That "punch" has been missing until 2012.

The Rockies have waited a long time on him.

Last night, playing third base for Colorado, he tripled home a run.

Rookie Josh Rutledge remains productive, doubling in a run. He now has 26 extra-base hits in only 184 at-bats. His slugging percentage is a take-notice .560.

Tyler Colvin added another double in his best pro season and White had quite the night, homering and allowing only one run in four acceptable innings. He allowed six hits and a homer to whom else - Buster Posey - who really likes Colorado pitching (a career .365 hitter).

Rockies' Pitching Prospects Q & A with Ben Badler, Baseball America

In Tyler Anderson (no. 1 pick in 2011) and Eddie Butler (selected no. 47 overall in 2012) the Rockies have have two starting pitchers performing at a high level this season. Rockies' Analyst Magazine spoke to Ben Badler of Baseball America to get greater depth of insight on these two prospects.

Tyler Anderson
The 22-year old Anderson, a lefthander from the University of Oregon has posted a 2.47 ERA in 20 starts, while Butler posted a 7-1 mark with a 2.13 ERA, giving up but one homer.

RAM: Anderson and Butler have both excelled in 2012. What is your initial impression of these two in their debut seasons. 

Badler: They’ve both pitched well. I wouldn’t call them similar pitchers, but they both throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground with heavy fastballs. If you have a lively fastball and you fill up the strike zone, you’re usually going to have success at the lower levels of the minors, and that’s exactly what Anderson and Butler have done.

RAM: Both have finished strong with Anderson going 6-1 with a 1.61 ERA in his last 10 starts and Butler going 6-1 with a 1.69 ERA in his last 10 starts. Neither one of these two are considered having elite "stuff" yet are showing the ability to pitch, get batters out and minimize traffic from scoring. How are they getting it done? 

Badler: The fastball has been key for both of them. With Anderson, you’ve got a guy who can sink and run the ball at 87-93 mph and he spots it very well for a pitcher in Low-A.

Eddie Butler
Butler will show you more velocity, but again, he’s another guy who is throwing strikes with the pitch. When you’re sitting 92-94 mph with heavy life and getting it up to 97, as long as you’re throwing strikes, that’s usually enough to be effective against Pioneer League hitters.

RAM: Both are in the low levels of the minors. Neither overwhelms batters with strikeouts. How do you see Anderson and Butler holding up as they move up the minor league food chain, as in levels of play?

Badler: Neither guy misses a lot of bats. That’s going to create problems when they get to higher levels, especially starting at Double-A. They throw strikes and they can sink their fastballs, but neither guy has a true out pitch. Anderson’s changeup is an effective pitch against hitters at the lower levels, but he really doesn’t have the arsenal to rack up many strikeouts, even against South Atlantic League hitters. Butler might be able to bring along the slider, but he too is going to have to rely more on sink and groundballs rather than missing bats, which is a tough profile.

RAM: Have a professional or gut feeling on not only how to profile these two Ben but also on which pitcher might be the better prospect in scouts or your estimation?

Badler: There are some scouts who see Anderson having No. 3 starter upside, but there are plenty of others who think the ceiling is more of a back-end starter. I think there’s a chance he’s a back-end starter, but there’s just not a lot of margin for error with him, so a lot of things will have to go right for him to hit that top-end projection. He has a better chance to stick as a starter than Butler, but overall, I’d still take Butler.

I’m not convinced Butler has a deep enough repertoire to start, but if you put him in the bullpen, the fastball is going to sit consistently in the mid-90s, and there’s a chance the slider plays up a tick if he can throw it more power and continue to refine the pitch.

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