Colorado Rockies Bullpen: Depth Chart Discussions

Colorado isn’t synonymous with good pitching and while their rotation could certainly use some help, the bullpen ain’t too shabby.

The Closer:
Rafael Betancourt

Rafael Betancourt’s fly ball tendencies (career 49.9% fly-ball rate) may not profile as a great fit in Colorado but his aversion to walks (1.4 BB/9 since 2010) and strikeout ability (10.8 K/9 since 2010) certainly help the cause. In 207.2 total innings pitched on the Rockies Betancourt has a 2.95 ERA and in 108.1 innings pitched at Coors Field Betancourt has a more than respectable 3.32 ERA. 2012 was Betancourt’s first year as a full time closer and he didn’t disappoint, saving 31 games with a 2.81 ERA and 3.09 FIP.

However, before we start congratulating Betancourt too much and moving him high up our closer rankings, it’s important to note that his strikeout rate decreased and his walk rate increased in 2012. From 2011-12 Betancourt’s strikeout rates were above 30% and his walk rates below 4%, in 2012 Betancourt’s K% was 24.2% and his BB% 5.1%. Now, both of those are still very solid numbers, but with a GB% of only 36% and a decreasing strikeout rate playing in Coors Field it’s hard to envision Betancourt carrying a sub-three ERA with gaudy strikeout totals. Betancourt’s hold on the position is strong and he should remain a solid option for saves but don’t get too carried away with his recent past as it’s not likely to continue into 2013.

The Setup Guys:
Matt Belisle
Wilton Lopez

Matt Belisle has been a solid setup man now for a few years and the Rockies profile as a non-playoff team in 2013, so naturally they would go out and trade for a reliever. In this case the Rockies traded for Astros reliever Wilton Lopez for former top pitching prospect Alex White. Smarter people than me can tell you why it was a questionable trade for the organization to make so I will just stick to talking about what these relievers have to offer your fantasy team. Although he doesn’t come with the swing and miss stuff you’d like out of your relief ace, Wilton Lopez has been a pretty darn good reliever over the last three years. Since 2010 he has a 2.64 ERA, 1.126 WHIP and a 5.16 K/BB. Moving from Houston to Colorado certainly doesn’t help any pitcher but Lopez’ sinker loves to kill worms (55% ground-ball rate) and his great control (1.09 BB/9 in 2012) will help alleviate any stress that Coors Field can bring. While Matt Belisle has been in Colorado longer, if something were to happen to Betancourt, expect the Rockies to go with Lopez and his “closer experience” as a replacement.

Like Lopez, Belisle has both solid control (2.03 BB/9) and kills worms (50.3% ground-ball rate) at a nice clip en route to being a solid, if hardly mentioned setup man in Colorado, Now, although Belisle has been good for some time out of the pen, 2012 wasn’t his finest year, at least in terms of projecting his 2013 season. Belisle’s 2.97 FIP is plenty good and in line with what he’s done recently in Colorado but his fastball velocity dropped from over 92 mph to 90.7 mph in 2012. Since 2010, only Sean Marshall has appeared in more games and only Tyler Clippard has thrown more innings out of the pen – there is a chance that Belisle is simply wearing down. He was still able to use his tools to have an effective year, but with Lopez in town (i.e. next in line for saves) and decreasing velocity, Belisle has certainly lost some of his luster.

Middle Relief:
Rex Brothers (L)
Josh Outman (L)
Adam Ottavino

Rex Brothers has a few things going for him — he’s left-handed, he throws hard (95 mph), he strikes batters out (11.14 K/9 in his career) and his career 46.7% ground-ball rate is pretty darn good for a hard throwing lefty. However, control has eluded him a bit thus far in his career with a 4.92 BB/9 in 2012. Rex Brothers can be more than a serviceable reliever if he doesn’t improve his control, but if he’s able to cut down his walks even just a little bit, he has a chance to possibly be the best reliever on the team. He’s not someone that I would necessarily target in a fantasy draft, but I would certainly keep an eye on him in 2013.

With a fantastic name given his job description to get batters out, it might help Josh Outman’s career if he got a few more…wait for it…outs! All horrible jokes aside, Outman posted a couple decent ERA’s in and out of the pen and rotation in Oakland but it is no surprise that his ERA ballooned once he went to Colorado. However, even though his ERA was over eight last year, his peripheral numbers were actually better than they ever were on Oakland. I’m not sure even I would necessarily want to be in a league so deep that makes Josh Outman ownable but his 8.85 K/9, 47% ground-ball rate and 93.5 average fastball velocity last year are all improvements from before and if he’s used as a reliever fulltime in 2013, he could have his best year yet.

Like most relievers, Adam Ottavino was a former starter who eventually made his way to the pen and like most relievers, the results improved after the switch. In 676.1 career innings in the minor leagues, with the majority of them in the rotation, Ottavino posted a 7.9 K/9 and last year against stiffer competition in the majors, Ottavino had a 9.23 K/9 in 79 innings. That’s pretty good. Ottavino let a few too many fly balls leave the park last year (16.1% HR/FB%) but whether that was a product or bad luck, skill or the thin air I’m not sure. Either way, Ottavino has a strong arm out of the pen, posted a 3.41 xFIP last year and apparently went to high school only a few blocks away from me in Park Slope. So that’s pretty cool.

Miguel Batista is still trying to kick it and if the Rockies want someone’s arm to abuse without feeling bad, he’s a good guy to fill that role. Their rotation isn’t set yet so some other names that could be found in relief by the time Spring is over are Drew Pomeranz, Tyler Chatwood and Christian Friedrich.

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When he's not focusing on every team's bullpen situation, Ben can be found blogging at Ben's Baseball Bias and on Twitter @BensBias

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