It’s clear the Rockies are waiving the white flag in what’s arguably been the most disappointing season in franchise history.
In dead last in the division and with only a Rocktober’s hope of nabbing a wild card for a third straight season, Colorado now wants to see what the future holds. That’s been clear for several weeks now, and became crystallized when the Rockies designated veteran catcher Chris Iannetta for assignment on Tuesday. In his place, they called up Dom Nunez from Triple-A Albuquerque, the club’s highest-rated catching prospect.
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If the Rockies are serious about seeing what young talent they have in the fold for 2020, then Nunez — hitting .244 with a career-high 17 homers for the Isotopes this season — should be the first of several prospects who get the call down the stretch this season.
Addressing Nunez’s potential as a viable backup for projected 2020 starting catcher Tony Wolters is a good place to start, as the two-year deal for Iannetta (hitting .222 with six homers) was up at the end of the season anyway. But the catching position is pretty far down the list of this team’s problems. Colorado needs to address the disastrous bullpen (Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee all enter the final years of highly-paid contracts). They need to see what feasible help they can get there, as well as elsewhere, from promising prospects.
Atop Colorado’s list for call-ups when rosters expand from 25 players to 40 on Sept. 1 should be southpaw Ben Bowden, who started the season by converting all 20 of his save opportunities for Double-A Hartford while posting a minuscule 1.05 ERA. His stats since being promoted to Albuquerque on June 20 are less glamorous (6.62 ERA in 16 games), but he warrants a look at Coors Field. He could be the Rockies’ closer of the future, and should be in the running to make the team of out spring training next year.
Meanwhile, Colorado needs to see what it has in other recently acquired bullpen arms, including southpaw Phillip Diehl (debuted June 11), southpaw James Pazos and right-hander Joe Harvey. Plus, will Chris Rusin be able to contribute again after a back injury derailed his season, and he was ultimately DFA’d? Might as well bring up the 32-year-old left-hander and find out.
Additionally, Colorado should give a start or two to some of the guys in the Isotopes’ rotation and see what happens. The Rockies’ rotation, which sports a major-league worst 5.78 ERA, has nothing to lose at this point.
That means looking past the deceivingly high Pacific Coast League ERAs of right-hander Tim Melville (5.56 ERA), right-hander Rico Garcia (7.49), southpaw Pat Dean and even right-hander Jeff Hoffman (7.91). Both Melville and Dean have prior big-league experience and were signed out of an independent league earlier in the season, while Hoffman previously submitted a 6.57 ERA in eight starts for Colorado in 2019.
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The Rockies need to bring up two position players as well. First baseman Roberto Ramos, an all-star for the Isotopes this year while batting .316 with 23 homers and 86 RBIs, is deserving. As Colorado continues to struggle with a viable long-term answer at first base (the poor-fielding Daniel Murphy is signed through next season), now would be a good time to start to see if Ramos could potentially be the man for the job.